Review: The Current Presents “Those Were the Days: The History of Apple Records”

It has been a few days since The Current aired the special “Those Were the Days: The History of Apple Records” so I thought it was high time for a review.  For anyone who is interested the show has been archived on The Current’s website.

Now, I must preface my remarks by admitting that I am something of a Beatles buff. Shocked, aren’t you? Well I am.  I read my first 10 books on the Beatles when I was 13 years old and have only moderately slowed down since then.  So the story of Apple records is fairly well-known to me.  I was still impressed.

The show started with a quote by Paul McCartney that Apple Corps was intended to be “like a sort of Western communism.”  After Brian Epstein’s death in the summer of 1967 The Beatles found themselves without any guidance on business affairs.  Their plan was to create a utopian business model whereby music, clothing, electronics, art and films for unknown artists could be financed and marketed under the umbrella of Apple Corps.  And as this was to be a new kind of company The Beatles placed close friends and associates for in key management roles within the various departments.  A move that would not contribute to Apple Corps’ future success.

A clothing boutique was opened and stocked with designs from counterculture designers “The Fool” (it would be closed after eight months).  Zapple Records was created to feature avant garde electronic (though only two albums were ever released on it, George Harrison’s Electronic Sound moog synthesizer album and John and Yoko’s Unfinished Music #2: Life With The Lions). And an electronics division was established under the questionable stewardship of Alexis “Magic Alex” Mardas.

Apple Records was to be the more pop oriented label that would feature not only The Beatles, but the up and coming artists that The Beatles hoped to discover.  As The Current Presents showed, even with a business model that was doomed to fail Apple Records managed to pull together an impressive roster of talented artists who would either find fame with Apple (as Badfinger, Mary Hopkin, and Billy Preston did) or would find fame after leaving it (as James Taylor and Hot Chocolate did).

The Current Presents did an excellent job of keeping the focus away from The Beatles music, prominently featuring these other acts instead.  Even as a Beatles enthusiast I was surprised by some of the tracks that they were able to find -some I had never heard before, and a few I had never heard OF before.  Take, for instance, the legendary Modern Jazz Quartet who, to my surprise recorded two albums for Apple.

Other examples of Apple music I had never heard before listening to this program are “Give Peace a Chance” recorded in reggae style by Hot Chocolate (who would achieve their fame in the 70s and early 80s), Ronnie Spector’s version of George Harrison’s “Try Some, Buy Some,” which I had heard about, but had never heard the actual song, and “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” recorded by the group Trash within months of The Beatles releasing it on Abbey Road.

Quite possibly the most interesting material came from an interview with Badfinger guitarist Joey Molland (now the lone surviving member of the lineup that made it big with “Come and Get It,” “No Matter What,” “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue.”).  Molland provided some entertaining, yet frank comments about working for Apple.  The Beatles, he said, were very supportive of the lesser known artists.  One look at the liner notes of any early Apple LP will show that in addition to providing songs and producing many of the albums, The Beatles would either play on some of the tracks themselves or they would be able to use their star power to attract the highest quality musicians to the sessions.  Here is a track written and produced by George Harrison (why George decided to give this fantastic song away instead of recording it with The Beatles on The White Album is a discussion for another day), featuring Paul McCartney on bass, Ringo Starr on drums, George on rhythm guitar, Eric Clapton on lead guitar, and session man extraordinaire Nicky Hopkins on piano.

The music is just a set up to the inevitable fall of this grand experiment in music.  Poor management and disinterest by the then-solo Beatles caused the label to fold in approximately 1975.  The program is quick to note, however, that despite the label’s short life it had a profound impact on the recording industry.  Apple was the first record label that was run with the artists as a top priority.  Up until that time major labels like Decca, Columbia and EMI viewed pop music as a necessary evil and their attitudes towards their talent reflected it.  Apple broke ground in the way that it eliminated the layers that traditionally existed between artists and corporate headquarters and created a direct link between label and artist.  The 1970s music scene which saw the emergence of  a number of new artist-friendly record labels may well have been heavily influenced by Apple.

But if you have an hour to spare I highly recommend listening to “Those Were the Days: The History of Apple Records” on The Current Presents.  Whether you’re a buff like me or someone new to The Beatles, the show will teach you something.  And if you are neither of those things, just listen to the music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyB85am3qOgIt has been a few days since The Current aired the special “Those Were the Days: The History of Apple Records” so I thought it was high time for a review.  For anyone who is interested the show has been archived on The Current’s website.

Now, I must preface my remarks by admitting that I am something of a Beatles buff. Shocked, aren’t you? Well I am.  I read my first 10 books on the Beatles when I was 13 years old and have only moderately slowed down since then.  So the story of Apple records is fairly well-known to me.  I was still impressed.

The show started with a quote by Paul McCartney that Apple Corps was intended to be “like a sort of Western communism.”  After Brian Epstein’s death in the summer of 1967 The Beatles found themselves without any guidance on business affairs.  Their plan was to create a utopian business model whereby music, clothing, electronics, art and films for unknown artists could be financed and marketed under the umbrella of Apple Corps.  And as this was to be a new kind of company The Beatles placed close friends and associates for in key management roles within the various departments.  A move that would not contribute to Apple Corps’ future success.

A clothing boutique was opened and stocked with designs from counterculture designers “The Fool” (it would be closed after eight months).  Zapple Records was created to feature avant garde electronic (though only two albums were ever released on it, George Harrison’s Electronic Sound moog synthesizer album and John and Yoko’s Unfinished Music #2: Life With The Lions). And an electronics division was established under the questionable stewardship of Alexis “Magic Alex” Mardas.

Apple Records was to be the more pop oriented label that would feature not only The Beatles, but the up and coming artists that The Beatles hoped to discover.  As The Current Presents showed, even with a business model that was doomed to fail Apple Records managed to pull together an impressive roster of talented artists who would either find fame with Apple (as Badfinger, Mary Hopkin, and Billy Preston did) or would find fame after leaving it (as James Taylor and Hot Chocolate did).

The Current Presents did an excellent job of keeping the focus away from The Beatles music, prominently featuring these other acts instead.  Even as a Beatles enthusiast I was surprised by some of the tracks that they were able to find -some I had never heard before, and a few I had never heard OF before.  Take, for instance, the legendary Modern Jazz Quartet who, to my surprise recorded two albums for Apple.

 

Other examples of Apple music I had never heard before listening to this program are “Give Peace a Chance” recorded in reggae style by Hot Chocolate (who would achieve their fame in the 70s and early 80s), Ronnie Spector’s version of George Harrison’s “Try Some, Buy Some,” which I had heard about, but had never heard the actual song, and “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” recorded by the group Trash within months of The Beatles releasing it on Abbey Road.

Quite possibly the most interesting material came from an interview with Badfinger guitarist Joey Molland (now the lone surviving member of the lineup that made it big with “Come and Get It,” “No Matter What,” “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue.”).  Molland provided some entertaining, yet frank comments about working for Apple.  The Beatles, he said, were very supportive of the lesser known artists.  One look at the liner notes of any early Apple LP will show that in addition to providing songs and producing many of the albums, The Beatles would either play on some of the tracks themselves or they would be able to use their star power to attract the highest quality musicians to the sessions.  Here is a track written and produced by George Harrison (why George decided to give this fantastic song away instead of recording it with The Beatles on The White Album is a discussion for another day), featuring Paul McCartney on bass, Ringo Starr on drums, George on rhythm guitar, Eric Clapton on lead guitar, and session man extraordinaire Nicky Hopkins on piano.

The music is just a set up to the inevitable fall of this grand experiment in music.  Poor management and disinterest by the then-solo Beatles caused the label to fold in approximately 1975.  The program is quick to note, however, that despite the label’s short life it had a profound impact on the recording industry.  Apple was the first record label that was run with the artists as a top priority.  Up until that time major labels like Decca, Columbia and EMI viewed pop music as a necessary evil and their attitudes towards their talent reflected it.  Apple broke ground in the way that it eliminated the layers that traditionally existed between artists and corporate headquarters and created a direct link between label and artist.  The 1970s music scene which saw the emergence of  a number of new artist-friendly record labels may well have been heavily influenced by Apple.

But if you have an hour to spare I highly recommend listening to “Those Were the Days: The History of Apple Records” on The Current Presents.  Whether you’re a buff like me or someone new to The Beatles, the show will teach you something.  And if you are neither of those things, just listen to the music.

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