Apple – Part One: Beginnings

In 1967 the Beatles’ accountants told them they had to spend £2 million or it would all go to the taxman. Brian Epstein had the idea of setting up a new company where the money would be invested. However before his idea could be developed he tragically died and the control of NEMS passed on to Brian’s brother Clive.

Clive Epstein had the idea of buying up a chain of retail shops – however John Lennon did not like the idea. If the Beatles had to have shops it would be something they liked and would set up themselves.

Paul McCartney had the original idea of setting ups boutique in Baker Street. At first everything in the shop was going to be white but the idea was dropped.

Instead a group of designers from Holland called ‘The Fool’ , who had latched on to the Beatles like leaches, were entrusted with £100,000 to design a boutique. Paul came up with the name ‘Apple’ which he got from a Magritte painting. The boutique ran into trouble right from the start. The Fool’s original designs did not mass produce very well and the resultant clothes were a shabby replica of the originals. Also when The Fool hired a team of art students to design a mural on the outside wall, the neighbouring shops protested so strongly that it was eventually painted over white.

The staff of the boutique, led by Jenny Boyd [Pattie Harrisons sister] and Pete Shotton were young and inexperienced. This coupled with the layout which made adequate security impossible made the boutique a shoplifters’ paradise.

Above the boutique the Beatles set up Apple Music Publishing. The publicity was organised by Paul McCartney and the office was staffed by Mike Berry, Terry Doran, Jack Oliver and two secretaries, Dee Meehan and Carol Paddon.

Paul produced a photo of a busker playing with the caption: “This man has talent – One day he sang his songs into a tape recorder. In his neatest handwriting he wrote an explanatory note and remembering to enclose a picture of himself, sent the tape, letter and photo to Apple Music, 94 Baker Street, London. If you were thinking of doing the same do it now – This man now owns a Bentley.”

The idea was that the best undiscovered songwriters would write to the Beatles and would gain fame and fortune. However, the result was very different and could have been forecasted by anyone, except it seems, the Beatles. Over 400 tapes poured into the Baker Street Offices in two weeks and most of them were a load of dross. The staff had the thankless task of sifting through the tapes to find anything of worth. To cope with all the tapes the Beatles bought some new offices at 95 Wigmore Street, London. There Apple Records was set up and Peter Asher, Jane Asher’s brother and former member of Peter and Gordon, was appointed A&R man. Derek Taylor, onetime Beatles Press Officer who had ghosted Brian Epstein’s autobiography, rejoined the Beatles as head of Apple Publicity. Taylor had had a massive row with Eppy after the Beatles 1964 American tour and had stayed in the States. There he managed the Byrds and organised the Monterey Rock Festival with John Phillips of the Mamas and the Pappas and record producer Lou Adler. However by 1968 he had become homesick and also wanted to work with the Beatles again.

The stay at 95 Wigmore Street proved to be short-lived as the offices were far too small for the fast expanding company. Therefore, Neil Aspinal was given half a million pounds to acquire new premises. Within a few days he had found a building at 3 Saville Row, in the heart of London’s tailoring district.

In May 1968 John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Derek Taylor, Neil Aspinal and Mal Evans flew to New York for a round of press conferences and business meetings about the setting up of Apple. The first press conference was held in a Chinese Junk cruising round the Statue of Liberty.

John and Paul also appeared on the Johnny Carson Show. However, Carson was on holiday that week and the show was hosted by Joe Garagiola, who was less than sympathetic towards them and all that came across in the interview was that the Beatles had a lot of money to give away to anyone who wanted it – not exactly what the Beatles had in mind.

However, from these chaotic beginnings, the foundation was laid for one of the greatest experiments in show business history. In the next part of the story of Apple I will give profiles of the staff of Apple and the talent discovered.

By Richard Porter.

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