From the Stacks

From The Stacks: The Beatles, ‘White Album’ (White Vinyl)

First let’s get the vinyl geeks out of the way: This is the 1978 white vinyl UK reissue of The Beatles, aka The White Album.

We know this by the catalog numbers (PCS7067-7068) and the matrix numbers etched into the runouts on the vinyl (YEX709-712). It still contains all four color portraits and the poster. Sweet!

Are they gone? Okay, let me tell you what this one is doing in my stacks.

My oldest sister went away to college when I was thirteen years old. On many weekends she’d drive home and pick me up, and we’d spend a couple of days getting into trouble. Often “trouble” meant playing Ms. Pac-Man in the campus arcade, trips to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or all night games of Dungeons & Dragons with her boyfriend and his peers. Among these was a bearded dude named Richard whose voice was as loud as his gut was big.

Everything about Richard was super-sized: his personality, his beard, his temper, even his health. The guy somehow managed to go into a diabetic shock that led him to battle three police officers, or so he claimed.  Yes, and his dorm room was full of valuable treasures that somehow all managed to be worth $300. He owned a Vox Phantom guitar with the action set so high that G.I. Joe couldn’t even play it with his Kung Fu grip. Not that it mattered because, “Don’t touch it! It’s worth $300!”

Richard may not have wanted anyone touching his stuff, but he liked to show it off. One Saturday while we were waiting for him to find his dice or his dungeon master’s screen or whatever D&D-related nonsense was happening, he told me to put on a record.

“What do you want me to put on?”

“Anything you want, man.” He pointed to shelf holding maybe 25 records. “That’s just a small part of my collection. The rare stuff is back home. It’s too valuable to bring to school. Somebody would steal it.”

I thumbed through the albums: Styx, REO Speedwagon, Kansas, Boston. “What’s this?” I asked, and I held up a plain, white sleeve.

“Don’t touch it! It’s worth $300!” Richard barked.

“What is it?” I asked again.

“You don’t know the Beatles’ White Album?

“Oh yeah, huh,” I lied.

“That copy is super rare. It’s on white vinyl. There’s only, like, 100 copies in the whole world.”

I stuck it back on the shelf and pulled Led Zeppelin II instead, but Richard had lit a fire. The Beatles were a constant presence in my house courtesy of my aunt’s hand me down albums, but her collection petered out at Rubber Soul. That’s not to say that I wasn’t familiar with the band’s output from Revolver onward–it was impossible to be a kid in the ’70s and not know a huge chunk of the Beatles’ catalog–but in terms of knowing their albums in sequence, my knowledge petered out around 1965. I wanted to know The White Album inside out.

Southern preachers piled more mystique on top of Richard’s super-rare album. The White Album was evil, satanic. Just look what it did to Manson, and if that wasn’t evidence enough the Fabs used the Devil’s favorite recording tool, backward masking, in the creation “Revolution 9.” I had to get me some of that.

I bought The White Album on cassette, and then again on compact disc. I bought it on vinyl, too, but never the elusive white vinyl copy. It remains one of my two favorite Beatles albums, alternating the top spot with Rubber Soul, depending on my mood.

As I aged and started to collect my own interesting things that I could yell “Don’t touch! That’s worth $300!” about, I realized just how full of shit larger than life Richard was. His dorm room was cluttered with junk, not super rare collectibles. When I finally stumbled across the white vinyl copy you see here, I think I paid 20 dollars.

While white vinyl reprints are rarer than their black vinyl cousins, they aren’t exactly rare. Aside from the Apple version you see here, there was also a Capitol Records pressing that’s much more common in the U.S. It’s also not a very good pressing, audio-wise, so if you want to listen to your white vinyl White Album you want to find the Apple version.

Richard was right about his Vox Phantom, though. If he’s still kicking around and he still has that guitar, he’s sitting on a couple grand.

Fifty to 75 bucks is reasonable in today’s market for my 1978 Apple white vinyl pressing, but you’ll see this and other printings offered for as much as $200. Happy hunting.

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