Ringo Starr has been doing some mighty heavy house cleaning lately, and a HUGE collection of personal effects, decorative objects, and of course Beatles memorabilia belonging to him and his wife Barbara Bach is being auctioned on the first weekend in December. The auction takes up 55 pages of Juliens’ web site, and while it features a lot of kinda humdrum rich-people housewares and jewelry, and a stash of religious tchotchkes ranging from Eastern to Catholic, there’s also a rather nice art collection represented here, and some rather marvelously goofy Beatles stuff, certainly fit for the most marvelously goofy Beatle: a “Sgt. Pepper” upholstered leather chair, an extremely cool “Yellow Submarine” Rock-Ola jukebox, a script from the movie “Help!,” a certain highly recognizable drum kit, and the single most charming lot in the entire collection (yeah, I went through it all, I’m a professional dork), the “Ringo Starr Press Archive Compiled By His Mother!”
Thanks, Ringo’s Mom.
There’s also this. Click to spawn a readable enlargement in a new browser tab.
But the most jaw-dropping item here is something I’d dare say could be THE ultimate trophy for a record collector: the very first numbered copy of The Beatles. That album is widely known as “The White Album” because of its minimalist packaging—a plain white sleeve, each stamped with a unique number. It’s long been accepted lore that copies 1-4 were in the possession of the Beatles themselves, but it’s been assumed just as long, and obviously incorrectly, that rather than being Ringo’s copy, No. 0000001 was claimed by John Lennon. This misapprehension was shared even by Sir Paul McCartney himself, who “confirmed” the rumor in Barry Miles’ 1998 bio Many Years From Now:
[LP cover designer] Richard [Hamilton] had the idea for the numbers. He said, ‘Can we do it?’ So I had to go and try and sell this to EMI. They said, ‘Can’t do it.’ I said, ‘Look, records must go through something to put the shrink wrap on or to staple them. Couldn’t you just have a little thing at the end of that process that hits the paper and prints a number on it? Then everyone would have a numbered copy.’
I think EMI only did this on a few thousand, then just immediately gave up. They have very very strict instructions that every single album that came out, even to this day, should still be numbered. That’s the whole idea: ‘I’ve got number 1,000,000!’ What a great number to have! We got the first four. I don’t know where mine is, of course. Everything got lost. It’s all coming up in Sotheby’s I imagine. John got 00001 because he shouted loudest. He said, ‘Baggsy number one!’ He knew the game, you’ve gotta baggsy it.
Now, you might be thinking, ‘HEY, wasn’t White Album #1 just sold a couple of years ago?” You are a VERY astute student of popcult ephemera—or a regular Dangerous Minds reader (which is the same damn thing, of course, he said with a wink). DM’s own Paul Gallagher reported on the sale of White Album A0000001 in July of 2013. So here’s the deal: every plant that pressed the record had its own numbering system, and there could be as many as 12 different #1s. The “A” on the serial number indicates that that one was one of several U.S. pressings. This is complicated and highly messy shit, and the online White Album Registry is an excellent resource for sorting it all out. (In case such information interests you, my White Album is A1557636, which, combined with the fact that the poster is long lost, means it’s utterly worthless to collectors. Still sounds great, though!)
Obviously, the fact that this has been in Ringo Starr’s possession (well, in his bank vault, anyway) since day 1 gives it an unassailable provenance—this is clearly THE White Album #1 from the first UK pressing. Starting bid is $20,000, and the final sale estimate is set at $60,000. Good luck. Proceeds from the auction will benefit Ringo and Barbara’s own Lotus Foundation, a charity that, according to its about page, is devoted to “advancing social welfare in diverse areas.” It’s worth mentioning that Starr is also raising money for the Lotus Foundation with proceeds from the new book Photograph, a collection of his personal photos annotated with his reminiscences.
Here’s Ringo performing “It Don’t Come Easy” at the Concert For Bangladesh in 1971, with George Harrison on guitar. He keeps flubbing the words! Some online sources claim that this was the first ever public performance of the song, and the lyrics are taped to one of his floor toms, which is why you’ll see him looking down to the right quite a bit. Whether or not that’s correct, it’s a pretty great song, and Harrison’s guitar solo is short but killer.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
For Sale: Beatles ‘White Album’ signed by members of the Manson Family, including Charlie
Blank slate: Hundreds of ‘White Albums’ take up residence in LIverpool art gallery
Elvis Presley drug paraphernalia up for auction