Please excuse the absence of my ramblings. Since late October, I only posted sporadically as I was working through a funk, a period of time for self reflection, a sorta house cleaning if you will. In the end I hoped to return a better person; one more insightful, one with a higher sense of morality and empathy. Seems in the recent past I let other interfere with and cloud what I thought was right and just. With this new year comes a new approach, but don’t think for one second that this is a hokey new year’s resolution, for it is not. I chose today as an anniversary date to be remember similar to my choosing Ground Hog Day as the date I quit smoking 3 years ago this February. So, “on with the show”
THE BEATLES: I really don’t know what took me this long to purchase the newly re-released vinyl “WHITE ALBUM”. Guess it was the cost. At a few cent shy of 100 smackers for the vinyl, I hesitated, despite being hounded by the band’s weekly e-mail reminder that it was “on sale now”. The turning point was getting a gift card for a local record store from my son for Christmas. That gift pushed me closer to the sale, that and the 10% off coupon found in the local newspaper. So here I am today, the start of the new year, with the prized package safely secured in my record collection. As I entered the house the first question asked by my lovely bride of 45 years was, “Don’t you already have that on vinyl and CD?”. Yes, is my answer, “yes…But I needed it”.
Here’s my story:
September of 68 I was working after school and weekends at Dubbings Electronics, a factory making cassette and 8 track tapes. Cassettes were new to the music business at this time and Dubbings had the market pretty well covered. Their major clients included Vanguard, Elektra, Capitol Records and their minor labels to name only a few. Needless to say my music collection grew substantially each and every afternoon by at least one or two cassettes. Blues, folk, rock, jazz, whatever I could fit in my boot I took home; Country Joe, Dave Van Ronk, Quicksilver, Butterfield, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin,Doc Watson, Buffy St. Marie, Ian &Sylvia, Skip James, Steve Miller and a host of others all found their way into my room.
One afternoon, Ruthie who worked in the “Mastering Lab” called me over to hear something she thought was unique, that is, something strange to her 50 year old ears. The“lab” was a climate controlled, sound proofed room, with thick glass windowed partitions. Basically it was an air tight room, with a red light occasionally blazing DO NOT ENTER over the door. One had to wear white gloves, a hat, and coveralls to enter the room. In its outer office was a bank of cassette players. Ruthie slipped a cassette into one of the machines and placed her very expensive headphones over my ears. Upon hearing the sounds, I was at first perplexed but knew instantly what it must be. “They say it’s your birthday.” It sounded like The Beatles. Then, a second test cassette was placed in the machine,“Number nine, number nine” repeated over and over, all with a cacophony of sounds, screams, horns, etc. Smiling I answered with more of a question, THE BEATLES?, I proposed. She then with her white gloves on, removed the cassette from the apparatus and put in another cassette…. HELTER SKELTER….THE BEATLES ,YES IT MUST BE THE BEATLES. She informed me it was a company hush hush job, no one was to know what we were putting together, not even her. Yet she proclaimed she had her suspicions and needed “verification” which was ME. No labels were found in the labeling department and no inserts declaring THE BEATLES were located in the inventory department, just a number 4XWL stamped on each cassettes. Over the next few days we manufactured one million cassettes (half a million packages as we found out this was a two record set) all produced and neatly secured until the November 15 shipping date. The entire factory, two shifts, was working on one project. Needless to say Ruthie slipped me a few early finished cassettes during week one, no labels just 4XWL which I suspected meant the newest product by The Beatles, later to be nicknamed “The WHITE ALBUM”. I shared my good fortune, a perk of the job if you will with some friends, friends who were skeptical at first but after a little while. agreed…yea man,it must be The Beatles.The labels and inserts arrived a few days before shipping which started the factory buzzing again as we were steaming on labels, insert cards with pictures of THE BEATLES were installed, a separate station was established for the black box enclosure as this project was a two cassette package never done by our company before, shrink wrapping with supervisors watching over the process and hand counting each item before securing it in shipments of 250 per box. Special boxes had to be ordered as Capitol products usually shipped in 500 per box but with the new configuration of the black box enclosure, well, that threw everything off. Shipping boxes were sealed by a supervisor who hand numbered each. The hand trucks were loaded by us flunkies and boxes placed in the shipping department awaiting mailing labels.Walls and walls of cardboard boxes each hand numbered sequentially safely secured. Finally, D-day arrived, huge semis took away our project and all was quiet again, except for my cassette player in the backroom where I counted 10 BUFFY ST. MARIE cassettes, 20 of another Vanguard artist, etc, until I hit the ordered number, labeled it for shipping to some obscure site in middle America.There in the confines of my inner sanctum played, THE BEATLES, over and over again.