By Michelle Macklem
I really wasn’t into music when I was a kid. I grew up listening to such CBC Radio favourites as The Current and As It Happens, so I was really out of the loop musically when I was younger. Tired of my own musical ignorance, when I was about 15 I decided to do my research and “get in” to music. Obviously I started with the The Beatles.
I didn’t want to start with the most popular or critically acclaimed Beatles album, since I felt that would skew my future critic. After long consulting Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I determined that the Beatles’ 1968 self-titled release, colloquially known at The White Album would be where I started my musical journey.
I went to the (now defunct) A&B Sound in Kelowna, BC and bought the double disc CD of The White Album and brought it home to listen to on my recently acquired personal CD player. I don’t specifically remember my first listen, or really the first couple of listens, but I do remember that I listened to that record constantly. The Beatles became my life (at least for the next 2 years or so). I would listen to The White Album in the mornings before school, during study periods and most other times it was at least somewhat appropriate to listen to music. And for the most part, The White Album really contains it all.
The first four songs illustrate the scattered eccentricity of this record. “Back in the U.S.S.R.” offers a slightly sarcastic hooky intro with an upbeat Beach Boys-esque melody. One of my favourite songs, “Dear Prudence” follows with a more sombre tone, but has a beautiful, building structure. “Glass Onion”, possibly the most meta Beatles song of all time, features a large string arrangement. And “Ob-Li-Di Ob-La-Da” is a fun, yet annoying, tune that is predictive of what McCartney’s solo career would come to be.
Through listening to The White Album, I developed several music nerd snobbery habits that I have since tried to break. I would always listen to this record from the beginning to the end, in order. This meant two things: first, I believed that to truly ‘“listen”’ to music, one must listen to records as a whole and that singles were ridiculous. I never even skipped one of the more controversial tracks “Revolution 9″. And second, that I rarely made it through the entirety of The White Album, as its run time clocks in at just over an hour and a half.
Beyond these habits, listening to the Beatles got me into a lot of other artists from that era like Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground and Jimi Hendrix. I also became a specialist on counterculture at a young age, reading Tom Wolfe and Ken Kesey in an attempt to understand the drug-induced culture most of my favourite records came out of. I think what I loved about The Beatles, and the other artists mentioned above, is the joining together of mythology and music in their modern-day perception.
Michelle is the Coordinator of Volunteers at CFUV 101.9FM