15 August 2014

Author Hannah Lea

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New York based artist Rutherford Chang is relocating to Liverpool for a month for We Buy White Albums. He is the owner of the largest collection of The Beatles 1968 White Album, owning over 1000 first pressings of the record.

The Beatles are clearly one of the most iconic bands of the 20th century, and the White Album is widely regarded as one of their most iconic albums. So it’s fitting that this astonishing collection of albums makes its way to Liverpool, the home of the Beatles.

Chang’s entire collection will be displayed in the format of a record store with two vital differences, only one album is displayed, and records are only bought not sold. Visitors are also invited to browse and listen to copies of their choice.

The Beatles' White Album was designed by British artist Richard Hamilton, most famously known as one of the founders of British pop art after creating his unforgettable collage Just what is it that makes todays homes so different, so appealing? For This Is Tomorrow in 1956. The stark white cover discreetly embossed the band’s name on the sleeve alongside a stamped unique serial number providing a glaring contrast to the colourful chaos of the previous release Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The album covers are now weathered and often battered by 46 years of use (or neglect) and the vinyl discs are mostly scratched or warped. The character of each copy, distinctly shaped by its history, is told through the physicality of the record. Vinyl records as a phenomenon, are practically close to extinction due to the digitalisation of music, what with downloads, streaming etc. and this is made more apparent by the identical yet unique aging multiples that form Chang’s collection.

People always say ‘never judge a book by its cover’ but when it comes to something like this, something so different yet ultimately the same, why shouldn’t we judge a cover? It reveals so much about what has happened in the last what 46 years, that its impossible not to think about who has previously owned it, the heartfelt messages and doodles sprawled across it or the rips, mould and damp stains carelessly collected that help us to imagine each album’s history.

Music is such a huge part of life and each song, riff or lyric can mean a million different things to each person. The flaws and imperfections of each White Album can only add to their meaning now. Whether they’ve had songs scratched out or it’s warped through age or it’s simply a broken record, each has a unique meaning, appeal and story.

Chang is looking to add as many copies of first pressings of the White Album as possible and in any condition! So if have a first pressing of the White Album that you’d like to sell, bring it down to FACT this month and add it to Chang’s growing collection!

The We Buy White Albums collection will be displayed at FACT from 15 August – 14 September to coincide with International Beatle Week (20-26 August) when special events are programmed in and around FACT including acoustic performances in Ropewalks Square.

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We Buy White Albums tonight Friday 15 August at 6pm with live music curated by LIMF and free white cocktails! Visit the What's On page to find out more.