Rutherford Chang’s We Buy White Albums @ FACT
15th August – 16th September
Released on 22nd November 1968, The Beatles’ self-titled ninth album originally divided opinion between music critics and staunch fans. Above the clutch of classic hits contained in its sprawling thirty song tracklist, there was something far more striking about the record that would seal its fate as a cult favourite and make it one of the most sought-after albums of all-time. Richard Hamilton was credited with its ‘design’, and this minimal approach would prove to be an act of genius: the band’s name embossed on a white background, with all original copies stamped and numbered. And so the White Album was born, an icon of not just the 1960s but of rock music history.
RUTHERFORD CHANG owns 969 first-pressings of the White Album. This may mark the American artist out to be an overly obsessive superfan, but his hoarding is all part of an ongoing project he’s been working on for a number of years. Chang’s collection forms the exhibition WE BUY WHITE ALBUMS, which will take place at FACT between 15th August and 16th September as part of the Liverpool International Music Festival calendar.
The feature of this exhibition is in the minute differences between hundreds of near-identical copies: each cover in Chang’s collection is unique, thanks to its original owner’s scribbles, and the dog-eared corners and dirt accumulated over almost fifty years. Chang’s installation showcases the joy of vinyl viewed across several generations, and highlights the subtle way we turn the mass-produced into the intensely personal. Using a canvas as recognisable as the White Album serves to make each nick and doodle that bit more noticeable, and invokes individual memories related to the product.
Ahead of this exhibition, we asked local vinyl junkies WORTH THE WAXXX to put some questions to Rutherford Chang and find out a few more specifics about the exhibition.
Worth The Waxxx: You must have developed a personal connection to the music on the record by now, so what would you say is your favourite song from it?
Rutherford Chang: Everyone always asks me this, but I actually don’t have a favourite song. At this point I see the album more as a cultural phenomenon. I listened to all kinds of music growing up and was obviously familiar with The Beatles, but I didn’t really listen to the White Album until I started collecting them.
WTW: At what point did you realise that a collection of these records in these states would work? Did you start out with an aim to achieve anything by it?
RC: When I bought my second copy, I saw the minute ways it differed from the first, and realised that every copy has become unique. I wasn’t sure exactly how far I would go with the collection, but I knew that it would be interesting to have as many copies as possible. In the digital era, physicality is what makes collecting vinyl appealing, which is especially apparent in this collection of identical yet unique multiples.
WTW: Are you drawn to the White Album’s cover by its minimalism, the owner’s reaction against it, or the sheer inability to retain that blank slate over the course of time?
RC: The “blankness” of the cover, I think: it allows each copy to age uniquely, creating artefacts that collectively tell a story of the past half-century.
WTW: As each of the decaying copies serves as a memento mori for mass-produced objects (yet also captures the life or personality of its owner in many instances), do you ever feel like you’re sat in a graveyard?
RC: I think the physicality and inevitable ageing of vinyl records – which gives each copy a distinct personality – is particularly what makes them interesting to collect, especially the White Album obviously. I am quite interested in how objects in my personal life have aged, too: though perhaps the White Albums are more interesting because they have been collectively aged by generations from around the world.
WTW: One night last year, we realised that we own eleven copies of Born In The USA and laughed about doing an exhibition called Yawn In The USA. What would you genuinely like to follow on from your work? And what do you hope to tackle next?
RC: Well, there are still a lot more White Albums out there. It would be great if there could be a way for the collection to continue growing, even without my participation, so that it could really take on a life of its own.
WTW: OK, here are some quick-fire ones about the collection… What is the lowest number White Album you have in the collection?
WTW: What is the most expensive White Album you have bought for the collection, bearing in mind it is often the most sought-after Beatles album?
WTW: What was the last record you bought that wasn’t the White Album?
RC: I recently picked up a Japanese Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love) 7” while shopping for White Albums in Tokyo.
WTW: Of all the creative graffiti on the covers, is there one that you value or remember the most?
RC: I like “Bob’s copy”.
WTW: Where are you looking forward to exploring whilst you’re in Liverpool?
RC: People’s record collections for more copies of the White Album.
Bido Lito! and Getintothis stage @ LIMF Summer Jams, Sefton Park
We’re delighted to say that we’ll be back hosting a stage as part of LIMF’s Summer Jams in Sefton Park this year, alongside our comrades from Getintothis. Last year was a blast so we thought we’d do it all over again, and we’ve put together a bill of some of our favourite artists from the area on the It’s Liverpool stage, which will run from 12 noon to 6pm.
We’re holding out hope that we’ll get a taster of some new electrokraut strains from BALTIC FLEET ahead of their upcoming second album. We’re also pretty intent on hearing how the new Bunnymen-meets-Depeche Mode sound of BY THE SEA (pictured) manifests itself live. Soul-star-in-waiting TAYLOR FOWLIS, strident vocalist/pianist SOPHIA BEN-YOUSEF, and übersmooth RnB dude SUB BLUE represent the strength of the next wave of Merseyside musicians, who’ll go on to headline bigger stages than this in years to come.
And it doesn’t stop there. MIND MOUNTAIN’s tremulous blasts of proggy, trippy noise will be sure to stop you from nodding off in the afternoon sun, while VEYU’s soothing waves of dreamy indietronica will have your mind’s eye wandering through gorgeous, sun-kissed cityscapes. SOHO RIOTS are the Flake in the Mr Whippy ice cream, on hand to provide us with oodles of hooky, bracing guitar pop gems. Once again the whole spectacle will be compèred by our very own musical oracle BERNIE CONNOR.
Minor Characters @ The Kazimier
The overlooked MINOR CHARACTERS who grind the wheels of literature, film and theatre are to be celebrated in this special commission for LIMF 2014, interpreted by some of the most inventive musical operators in the field of ambient electronica. They include: self-styled “sound gardener” EAST INDIA YOUTH; the skewed, disconcerting sound collages of THE LONE TAXIDERMIST; ENGLISH HERETIC, an artist who guides the listener on a subversive trip through the occult; the vaguely sinister projections of TEN MOUTH ELECTRON; and our very own sonic spectre FOREST SWORDS. These audio interpreters will bring to life some hitherto untold stories of the bit parts, the small cogs in the machine which are nonetheless essential to its working. Each unique piece of work will also be released digitally through The Quietus record label.
The project’s centrepiece will focus on an event at The Kazimier on 29th August, featuring a live analogue synth performance by LUKE ABBOTT (pictured), and his musical rendering of the minor character of Organ Morgan from Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood. Part of the increasingly impressive Border Community stable, Luke Abbot’s richly pastoral and challenging music is worthy of comparison with one of the greats of electronic music, Brian Eno. Every inconsequential player has within them an entire life-story waiting to be heard.
SevenStreets’ You Are Here @ Sefton Park Palm House
Marking a century since the outbreak of the Great War, SevenStreets present a musical collaboration that is designed to question our notion of ‘home’ in the 21st century. The First World War was the most brutal conflict the world has ever seen, accounting for the loss of nine million lives and scarring the landscape irreparably. YOU ARE HERE will bring together musicians from the Triple Entente– the United Kingdom, France and Russia – to explore what we mean by home in a world that is better connected than ever before, where trenches are filled with fibre optic cables, yet, stubbornly, the battles remain.
Our own musical wunderkind BILL RYDER-JONES will appear as one of the featured collaborators at the event, which takes place in the gorgeous surrounds of Sefton Park’s Palm House. Joining Ryder-Jones are a trio of continental whizzkids: inventive Gallic pop collective MOONGAI (pictured), hailing from Nantes, specialise in a collision of the sensitive and the brutal, the orchestral and the tribal; Moscow’s NOONWRAITH invokes “the sound of the war drums” in her breathtakingly menacing concoction of beats and ghostly vocals, and will appear alongside long-time production collaborator ARCNGL. Liverpool’s soulful and heartfelt storytellers KOF and JOSIE JENKINS complete this stirring line-up.
Steve Levine’s Assembly Point Sessions @ St. George’s Hall
Central to LIMF’s theme of ‘World Firsts By Collaboration’, we have the ASSEMBLY POINT SESSIONS, which will be artistically directed by Grammy-winning producer STEVE LEVINE (pictured). The project will see a number of top British artists collaborate for an exclusive performance at St. George’s Hall. Levine is famed for his work producing Culture Club’s early albums, and this commission sees him reuniting with Culture Club’s bandleader BOY GEORGE, which will be followed by a full live set. Charlatan TIM BURGESS and former Suede guitarist BERNARD BUTLER will also be among those high-profile musicians taking part in the project, including two artists representing Liverpool’s past and present: PETE WYLIE and NATALIE McCOOL. The event will also feature input from singer-songwriter MARY EPWORTH, Level 42 singer and bassist MARK KING, and “tropical pop” artist HOLLIE COOK (who is the daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook and Culture Club backing singer Jeni Cook).
The intimate audience for this one-off event will be able to witness the live recording and production of part of the performance, with an emphasis on utilising a mix of traditional and cutting-edge technology during the process. The Assembly Point Sessions will also serve as the first UK live showcase of WholeWorldBand – a new piece of technology created by musician and video director Kevin Godley which will allow artists in different countries to join in with the artists on stage at St. George’s Hall.