The White, Grey and Green Album (& the Continuing Story of Mr Draytons Record Player)

IMG_2429You remember way back, I think my 7th ever blog post I talked about the phenomena that was the Mr Draytons Record Player. The Thursday night session at Tyneside Cinema where a vinyl album is played in its entirety whilst you sit back and chill in a bubble of peacefulness and tranquility. I am happy to report its still going from strength to strength.

IMG_2431When I last wrote about it we had travelled through the first 11 albums. Now a year and a bit later, the list of classic albums continues to grow… deep breath

The Beatles – Sergeant Peppers, Smiths – The Queen Is Dead, Radiohead – OK Computer, Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue, Joni Mitchell – Blue, Patti Smith – Horses, Television – Marquee Moon, Rush – Farewell To Kings, U2 Achung Baby, Stevie Wonder – Innervisions, T Rex – Electric Warrior, Lou Reed – Transformer, Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen, Fleetwood Mac – Rumours, DJ Shadow – Entroducing, Dexys – Don’t Stand Me Down, Massive Attack – Blue Lines, Nick cave – Murder Ballads, Prince – Purple Rain, David Bowie – Aladdin Sane, Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, John Martyn – Solid Air, Neil Young – After The Goldrush, Bob Marley – Exodus, Micheal Jackson – Thriller, Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here, The Beatles – White Album… oh,  Im sure Ive missed a few.

IMG_1757As well as the now sublime Thursdays we have had a load of special events as well. Three Singles Clubs with people putting forward 45’s on a theme with the crowd voting on quality of song and story (respectively won by Isley Bros – Summer Breeze, Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax, and Mariah Carey – All I want For Christmas). A number of events in different locations Johnny Cash at the Sage, Lindisfarne – Fog on the Tyne at the Baltic and Jeff Waynes – War of the World at Spanish City Dome. We have also had a ‘Punk Off’ night dedicated to all things punk both musically and spoken word.

As always what makes the nights is not only the quality of music on vinyl and the tranquil experience but also the continued friendships that have developed with a wide range of very cool people. The core group of regular attenders seems to grow on a weekly basis. But it is great to see newcomers turn up and suddenly click into what this night is about and see their enjoyment.

IMG_2005The Competitions afterwards continue to be fun, tough and sometimes very bizarre (Hot Or Not Hot). The ones solely about music are very competitive with a number of people there with an amazing knowledge in music. I am happy to be in midtable obscurity away from the last place rubbish albums. On other occasions when its pictures or general knowledge I have a better chance and I have been lucky to win twice. IMG_2004Firstly at the Beach Boys Pet Sounds I happened to be rather good at recognizing ugly bands (future Mastermind specialist subject) and won a signed Brian Wilson Smile album. The second win was a complete shock, at Punk Off, myself, Steph and our friend Emma ran the gauntlet of some Punk general knowledge, some picture conundrums and a music round. We thought we had done well but when 3 stooges was announced I automatically shouted ‘NO WAY’ before being convinced and we were presented with a fab gold disc and other punk treasure.

So when an opportunity comes for a competition in something that I know a bit about I should throw myself completely into it… err yes. For the Beatles ‘White Album’, Mr Drayton had complained about the boring cover and suggested an Art competition to design a new sleeve. Instantly, I knew what I wanted to do, but hummed and hawed about doing it all week. I love making pop-ups (especially for random reasons) but they are usually very personal – as gifts or something to do with me. Its rarely I show them in public with only usually friends and family seeing them (as I know the mistakes and I am a bit of a perfectionist). Even on this blog I sometimes struggle to start to accept that people would like what I do and not think it a little strange.

482043_10151293684937639_224530855_nSo after much thinking I decided to start making a cover the night before mainly because I really like this album. The White album is my favourite Beatles Album and certainly in my top twenty albums of all time. It has many criticisms ‘A compilation of random tracks’, ‘A bit hit and miss’, and ‘There is too much experimentation’. But these are some of the main reasons I love it, its randomness, creativity, its experiments and its flaws make it a truly progressive album which stretched an already strained band to its limits. It’s an album bathed in the ego’s of each of the participants who were stained with their recent Mystic trip. There are some stand out songs ‘Dear Prudence’,  ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, ‘Blackbird’ and some real strange ones ‘Rocky Racoon’, ‘Revolution number 9’ and ‘Everybody’s got something to hide except for me and my monkey’. In truth I like all of it.

For me there is one stand out track ‘Helter Skelter’. Forget the Charles Manson links, this song screams power and rage rarely heard in the fab four. The constant rhythm of the distorted riff, the driving bass line and the pounding drumming (which Ringo complains about) added to the on the edge vocals. The fade in fade out elements even add something. The nagging feeling this is not going away like Motorheads Overkill. There is good reasoning to believe that this is one of the early influences on what would become heavy metal.

IMG_2425So I decided to build a pop-up Helter Skelter into the LP cover. Initially, I couldn’t find a piece of card big enough so went for a shrunken version 14.5cm square on very thick white card. The helter skelter itself was made up of a number of bits. Firstly and most importantly a pop-up Cone which held the rest of the design. This was adapted from the template in the ‘Elements of Pop-up’ bible (and found here). Done in white also, I attached off-white stripes to give a little definition. Next I tried to build the top floor, firstly in 3D, both a cube and cylinder were tried but refused to stay in place. I finally used a squashed cylinder adorned with gray door and windows and with 3 basic strips of card forming the roof. The slide itself, was a long strip of white card with the printed lyrics of the song in grey Desdemona font. This was wrapped around and held in place by adhesive cubes. The whole structure was secured firmly with a number of layers of silver card. The slide by itself was great but needed the band.

I had a lot of issues, mainly with the printer which is still refusing to print the right colours. This time Green for Grey which gave each Beatle a slight fungi tinge. They were given drawn greenish bodies and placed on the slide. It also affected the iconic lettering on the front cover – now also green.

IMG_2433The other entries were very creative – Some fun ones with Barry White and Michael Barrymore. Others hand drawn cartoons revealing some of the underlying tensions and a couple of clever montages incorporating images for each track. I cheered loudly for each, as I think its excellent that people would go out of their way to create a piece of art for an album. In the end I was lucky enough to win (ironically announced as the pop-up tried to self destruct) and received the prize of five English pounds, ‘Revolution – The Making of the Beatles White Album’ book and a Beatles plate. But most of all I was glad I made the effort.

Mr Drayton Record Player continues its path to tranquility in the next weeks with Pulp, ABC, Human League, Kraftwerk, Joy Division, Jam, Roxy Music, Velvet Underground, Doors, Zeppellin and Kate Bush (details here). And also some special 1973 album specials at the Live Theatre. I may not win another competition this year at the Record Player but all I really need is the music, the peace and some very good friends. Thats a prize worth getting on a weekly basis.

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