Apple – Part Two: The People & Music

Most of the staff that the Beatles recruited for the new company were friends of the Beatles or former employees of NEMS Enterprises – Brian Epstein’s company.

Peter Asher was the A&R man. He had been a member of the successful singing duo Peter and Gordon who had hits with many Lennon / McCartney songs. He was also the brother of Jane Asher, Paul’s girlfriend.

Neil Aspinal, the Beatles ex-roadie was Managing Director and Mal Evans the other ex-roadie was his assistant.

Alexis Mardas, a Greek electronics wizard and ace Beatles parasite was head of Electronics and Dennis O’Dell head of Apple Films.

The most important and finally the most successful part of Apple was Apple Records. Even though most of the tapes arrived after Paul McCartney’s Ad were rubbish, against all odds some decent tapes were sent and many new acts were signed to Apple. Among the first was Mary Hopkin a 17 year old Welsh singer who had won ‘Opportunity Knocks’ three times. She was spotted by Twiggy who told Paul about her, she was signed to Apple in spite of fierce competition. Another early signing was Jackie Lomax, a solo singer from Liverpool who had been with a Merseybeat group called the Undertakers who had gone to America. Brian Epstein brought him back from the States just before he died and George signed him to Apple.

The first four singles on Apple were simultaneously released on 30th August 1968. They were ‘Hey Jude’ by the Beatles, ‘Those Were The Days’ by May Hopkin, ‘Sour Milk Sea’ by Jackie Lomax and ‘Thingumybob’ by the Black Dyke Mills Band. This was a brass band who recorded a Paul McCartney tune which was the theme for a TV programme of the same name.

The success of the singles was very mixed as was common during the history of Apple. ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Those Were The Days’ were massive worldwide hits and both made number one in the UK. However, ‘Thingumybob’ and ‘Sour Milk Sea’ sunk without trace.

Among the most popular and consistent groups on Apple were Badfinger. They were signed by Mal Evans when called the Iveys and released their first single on Apple in that name. It wasn’t a success but after changing their name their second record, ‘Come And Get It’, written by Paul McCartney was a big hit. All Badfingers other singles were set-written and it proved them to be talented songwriters. ‘No Matter What’ and ‘Day After Day’ continued their success and the later was Apple’s first non-Beatles American number one. They also wrote ‘Without You’ for long time Beatles friend Harry Nilsson. This song is rightly regarded as an all time classic and was number one all over the world. Tragically – after Badfinger split in 1976 their two songwriters Pete Ham and Tom Evans both committed suicide.

Mary Hopkins’ follow up to ‘Those Were The Days’ was Paul’s song ‘Goodbye’ which was also a monster hit. She continued to be successful and appeared in the Eurovision Song Contest for Great Britain.

Apart from these two, however, of the many other artists who were given the initial opportunity for Apple but developed under the wing of other record companies James Taylor and The Hot Chocolate Band were among them. The oddest hit on Apple was the ‘Hare Krsna Mantra’ by the Rhada Krsna Temple a religious sect which George became involved in for several years.

The other branches of Apple were rather less successful. ‘Magic’ Alex and Apple Electronics spent thousands of pounds and didn’t manage to market one saleable item during Apple’s history. Undaunted by this Alex started to build a recording studio in the basement of Saville Row. According to Alex it was going to be one of the best in the country. However, it never lived up to expectations and was never really finished.

Meanwhile, back in Baker Street the Apple boutique was still experiencing problems and was in danger of going bankrupt. The Beatles, therefore, decided to close it down and John and Joko had the idea of giving all the stock away as a ‘happening’. The ‘happening’ caused cuch chaos that when hundreds turned up for some free clothes Baker Street was brought to a grinding halt.

Many former Apple employees retain vivid memories of their employment with the Beatles. The scenes they describe suggest that the Beatles offered eleven months paid holiday after one months work. As one employee put it, “If you wanted a drink you just went to Derek Taylor’s office. There were always two or three journalists in there, bombed out of their minds”.

Many of the strollers of the record and film industries rated the Saville Row office higher than any St James’s club, so lavish was the refreshment and entertainment. This was more like Satyricon than the road show could ever have been.

In this atmosphere it is not surprising that Apple lost money. In fact it lost as much that John Lennon said he was down to his last £50,00. Therefore, to stem the tide, and to his lasting regret, Derek Taylor suggested the Beatles bring in the biggest hatchet man in the business – Allen Klein.

By Richard Porter.

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