Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Double White: a psychedelic trip back in time to 1968.

One day a long time ago, when I was 12, two white objects arrived on the same day at the house where I lived.

The first white object.

The first white object was a piece of glossy white-coated cardboard folded into a perfect square. It was a record album. The title of the album - The Beatles - was embossed into the cover. My older sister brought it home. She liked things like that. She had often brought home similar objects, but the others had been brightly coloured.

We went into the white room and she folded out the cardboard square, took out the first disc and placed it on the record-player, which was a small grey box with a single speaker in its detachable lid.

The sound of a jet taking off came out of the mono speaker. Later there were onions, noise, raccoons, murder, sex in public, crying guitars, guns, pigs and playground equipment which an American madman later misunderstood to be something else.

I sat in the white room and listened to this jumble when a soft humming noise grew louder from outside the white room. It sounded like a flying saucer from a 1950s movie: a hum with an overdubbed soft whine.

The second white object.

The soft whining hum was the second white object, a 1968 Toyota Corona.

The Toyota Corona drove - yes, drove, or at least was driven - into the driveway of my house as I was listening to side 3, track four of The Beatles. It rolled to a stop outside the window of the white room, and its dazzling white exterior threw reflections onto the ceiling of the room where I sat listening. I turned off the record player and went outside into blinding sunshine.

The car had rolled to a stop halfway up the long drive. Two people got out. They were Uncle Joe and Auntie Irene, who lived in Ivanhoe. (Uncle Joe and Auntie Irene were not related to us, but my mother had adopted a vast collection of upper class friends as proxy relatives, so we called them 'auntie' and 'uncle' to validate the proxiness, if there is such a word.)

The brand new white Corona had a blue vinyl interior, a radio, carpet, two side mirrors, and an aggressive nose that slanted forward from bonnet to bumper. The motoring media called the car the 'shovel-nosed Corona'. It was a Farina design, so car snobs were finally able to buy a Japanese car without losing social cachet. 'It's Italian-styled!'

What the critics said.

Of The Beatles, The Observer's Tony Palmer wrote the album 'should surely see the last vestiges of cultural snobbery and bourgeois prejudice swept away in a deluge of joyful music making'.

Of the Corona, motoring writer George Glenroy wrote 'this car sweeps away the Euro-centric snobbery of the upwardly mobile motorist in a symphony of Farina-designed Japanese mastercraft'. (Did Tony Palmer moonlight as a motoring writer?)

Of The Beatles, NYT's Richard Goldstein considered the album 'a major success' and 'far more imaginative' than Sgt. Pepper or Magical Mystery Tour due to the band's improved songwriting and their relying less on the studio tricks of those earlier works.

Of the Corona, The News motor columnist Derek Excel wrote 'with less reliance on the Jap. gimmickry of earlier models the Corona looks to be a major success'. Was Goldstein Excel? Or indeed, was Excel Goldstein?

Derek Jewell described The Beatles in the Sunday Times as 'the best thing in pop since Sgt. Pepper ... Musically, there is beauty, horror, surprise, chaos, order. And that is the world; and that is what The Beatles are on about. Created by, creating for, their age.'

Of the Corona, The Driver and Car's L. P. R. Turnright described the Japanese mid-size car as 'the best thing to arrive on the motoring scene since the Mini ... there is balance, power, safety, driving pleasure, roominess, frugality and luxury. That is today's motoring world. Created by, and for, the age.' (Was Jewell the same person as Turnright?)

Rolling Stone called The Beatles 'the history and synthesis of Western music'.

The Practical Driver announced the Corona as 'confirmation that Japanese have synthesised the best aspects of European and American motoring'. (RS's Jann Wenner ... surely not?)

That these astonishingly similar reviews should have been published about the very same two white objects that arrived at 57 Deakin Street, West Essendon, Victoria, Australia, World, within an hour of each other in late 1968 is a mystery at which we can only marvel, a cosmic coincidence of utter incalculability. But then this:

Wenner (Rolling Stone) said that (the Beatles) were allowed to appropriate other styles and traditions into rock music because their ability and identity were 'so strong that they make it uniquely theirs, and uniquely the Beatles. They are so good that they not only expand the idiom, but they are also able to penetrate it and take it further.'

Charles Le Plastriere in Auto Moderne wrote that 'in taking the best of our own European designs and mixing these with British craftsmanship and the consumer appeal of the American marques, Toyota has perfected the mass market car. The Corona is so good, it will expand the market for a mid-size car'.


I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps

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