It’s the ultimate rock’n’roll souvenir. Ringo Starr is to auction off the first ever copy of the band’s1968 album, The Beatles, more commonly known as the White Album.
Each unit of the record, which acquired its name due to its minimalist packaging, came with its own serial number stamped on the cover. White Album No 0000001 will be sold at Julien’s, the Beverly Hills auction house that specialises in celebrity memorabilia, on 3 to 5 December.
Ob-La-Di hell: White Album sells for £19,201
The first four pressings of the LP were all in possession of the Beatles. It was assumed that No 0000001 belonged to John Lennon, who Paul McCartney once said “shouted loudest” for it. But it turns out the drummer has had the record all along, and kept it locked away in a London bank vault for more than 35 years.
Bidding on the record starts at $20,000 (£13,276), but it is estimated to fetch up to $60,000. Copy No 0000005 of the album sold at an auction in 2008 for around $30,000.
Starr is also auctioning off many items of jewellery, as well as art, clothes and instruments, including George Harrison’s Gretsch Tennessean guitar, which is expected to fetch up to $200,000.
Other items, which together take up 55 pages of the auction house’s website, include a Roy Lichtenstein painting, expected to fetch up to $25,000, and the suit Starr wore in the 1964 film A Hard Day’s Night, expected to fetch up to $20,000.
All proceeds of the auction will go to the Lotus Foundation, founded by Starr and his wife, Barbara Bach, to “fund, support, participate in and promote charitable projects aimed at advancing social welfare in diverse areas”.
The auction will be the second time in two months that Beatles memorabilia has been sold at Julien’s. Earlier this month, a guitar once stolen from Lennon in the 1960s sold for $2.4m at the auction house, and a Beatles drum head went for $2.1m, fetching some of the highest prices ever for rock’n’roll memorabilia.
The price for Lennon’s guitar far surpassed the $965,000 paid at a 2013 Christie’s auction for Bob Dylan’s Sunburst Fender Stratocaster, which Dylan played at the 1965 Newport folk festival, where he shocked folk traditionalists with a set of rock songs.
According to Guinness World Records, a Fender Stratocaster sold for a record $2.7m at a 2005 charity event in Qatar. The instrument had been signed by Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney.
Recorded:30 May - 17 October 1968
Producers: George Martin, Chris Thomas, John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Peter Bown, Ken Scott, Barry Sheffield, Ken Townsend
Released: 22 November 1968 (UK), 25 November 1968 (US)
John Lennon: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, piano, organ, Hammond organ, harmonium, harmonica, tenor saxophone, drums, timpani, percussion, tape loops, effects, samples, handclaps
Paul McCartney: vocals, bass guitar, six-string bass guitar, piano, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, organ, Hammond organ, electric piano, flügelhorn, recorder, drums, tambourine, bongos, percussion, handclaps
George Harrison: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, Hammond organ, drums, percussion, samples, handclaps
Ringo Starr: vocals, drums, tambourine, bongos, castanets, sleigh bell, maracas, percussion, effects, handclaps
George Martin: piano, celesta, harmonium
Eric Clapton: lead guitar
Chris Thomas: piano, Mellotron, harpsichord, organ, electric piano
Yoko Ono: vocals, effects, samples, handclaps
Mal Evans: backing vocals, trumpet, handclaps
Pattie Harrison, Jackie Lomax, John McCartney: backing vocals, handclaps
Maureen Starkey, Francie Schwartz, Ingrid Thomas, Pat Whitmore, Val Stockwell, Irene King, Ross Gilmour, Mike Redway, Ken Barrie, Fred Lucas, various others: backing vocals
Jack Fallon, Henry Datyner, Eric Bowie, Norman Lederman, Ronald Thomas, Bernard Miller, Dennis McConnell, Lou Sofier, Les Maddox: violin
John Underwood, Keith Cummings, Leo Birnbaum, Henry Myerscough: viola
Eldon Fox, Reginald Kilbey, Frederick Alexander: cello
Leon Calvert, Stanley Reynolds, Ronnie Hughes, Derek Watkins, Freddy Clayton: trumpet
Leon Calvert: flügelhorn
Tony Tunstall: French horn
Ted Barker, Don Lang, Rex Morris, J Power, Bill Povey: trombone
Alf Reece: tuba
Dennis Walton, Ronald Chamberlain, Jim Chester, Rex Morris, Harry Klein: saxophone
Art Ellefson, Danny Moss, Derek Collins: tenor saxophone
Ronnie Ross, Harry Klein, Bernard George: baritone saxophone
Raymond Newman, David Smith: clarinet
Uncredited: 12 violins, three violas, three cellos, three flutes, clarinet, three saxophones, two trumpets, two trombones, horn, vibraphone, double bass, harp
The Beatles' ninth original UK album, and their 15th in the United States, was their first double-length release. Commonly known as the White Album, the self-titled collection of 30 songs stands as a majestic cornucopia of styles, born from one of the group's most creative periods.
Although financially secure, critically and commercially acclaimed, and assured as figureheads of popular music, by the summer of 1968 The Beatles were in a degree of turmoil. The previous year they'd achieved possibly their crowning glory in Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and suffered their first major artistic failure in the Magical Mystery Tour television film.
By 1968 The Beatles' world had changed immeasurably from their early days. Having stopped touring in 1966, they were set free to explore the possibilities from inside the studio, and began enjoying the time that their fortunes allowed. Their musical output may have slowed from the mid-1960s, but their creativity was as strong as ever.After Sgt Pepper changed the world, the world keenly awaited The Beatles' next step. They had released just the six-track Magical Mystery Tour EP and the Lady Madonna single since then, and there was widespread speculation in the press that they were a spent force.
While recording the album, the group was in the process of launching the multimedia business Apple Corps, while coping with various upheavals including drug busts, changing relationships and substance abuse.
The Beatles were old hands at dealing with such pressure. They turned away from the elaborate excesses of Sgt Pepper, recording instead a simple collection of 30 songs under an even simpler name: The Beatles.
George Martin later claimed he had wanted the group to omit the album's weaker songs and focused instead on producing a solid single-disc release.
I thought we should probably have made a very, very good single album rather than a double. But they insisted. I think it could have been made fantastically good if it had been compressed a bit and condensed. A lot of people I know think it's still the best album they made. I later learnt that by recording all those songs they were getting rid of their contract with EMI more quickly.
Ringo Starr agreed with the sentiment.
There was a lot of information on the double album, but I agree that we should have put it out as two separate albums: the 'White' and the 'Whiter' albums.
Despite its faults as a collection, Paul McCartney stood by the album, saying that the wide variety of songs was a major part of its appeal.
I think it was a very good album. It stood up, but it wasn't a pleasant one to make. Then again, sometimes those things work for your art. The fact that it's got so much on it is one of the things that's cool about it. The songs are very varied. I think it's a fine album.
I don't remember the reaction. Now I release records and I watch to see who likes it and how it does. But with The Beatles, I can't ever remember scouring the charts to see what number it had come in at. I assume we hoped that people would like it. We just put it out and got on with life. A lot of our friends liked it and that was mainly what we were concerned with. If your mates liked it, the boutiques played it and it was played wherever you went - that was a sign of success for us.