Come And Get It: The Best of Apple Records
Welcome to the fabulous, fantastic, folky, funky, far out world of Apple Records. The Beatles founded Apple Records in London in 1968 as a beautiful, shiny, forward-thinking, artist-oriented label that would foster talent in a creative friendly environment, and provide an alternative to the traditional record companies that had dominated the British music industry since before World War II.
Between 1968 and 1973, Apple Records issued around different 50 singles by artists other than The Beatles. Here is a judicious selection from that catalogue, each an A-side, a few US-only, and each epitomising in its own way what Apple was all about. It’s an electric, eclectic collection, spanning the musical genres and drawing upon influences from around the world.
While never run intentionally on a wholly commercial basis, Apple Records was nevertheless a highly successful record label. Let it be remembered that around a quarter of its singles charted in the UK or the US — that’s a hits-to-releases ratio that few other labels have ever achieved. This is the first ever compilation of Apple Records releases so, in the words of the great Billy Preston, let the music play.
1 Those Were The Days / Mary Hopkin / 1968
In early 1968, Mary Hopkin was a 17 year-old aspiring folk singer, steeped in the music of Pete Seeger, Bert Jansch and Joan Baez. With her natural crystal-clear voice, Mary was making a name for herself in the tough working men’s clubs around her home town of Pontardawe, near Swansea in Wales.
Encouraged by those around her, but secretly reluctant, Mary entered the TV talent show Opportunity Knocks, and found herself winning heat after heat, week after week. She came to the attention of Paul McCartney, on the look-out for new talent for Apple Records and also for the right voice to sing ‘Those Were The Days’, a Russian folk song dating back to the 1920s, that he’d heard in a night club a few years before.
Mary’s diamond-pure vocals and the irresistible nostalgia of ‘Those Were The Days’ combined to create a multi-million selling debut single for both herself and Apple Records. Her debut album Post Card followed in 1969, to which the song was added in the US. Mary went on to consolidate her folk music credentials on her beautiful 1971 Apple album Earth Song / Ocean Song.
2 Carolina In My Mind / James Taylor / 1968
James Taylor began his five-times Grammy Award-winning career at Apple Records, and ‘Carolina In My Mind’ was his debut single in the US. But not in the UK at the time, as his Apple LP, James Taylor, from which the track was taken, had originally been conceived as a self-contained body of work without the need for an accompanying 45.
‘Carolina’ is North Carolina, the US state where James Taylor was raised. The song was written while James was on holiday but homesick in the Balearic Islands, and the lyric, ‘The holy host of others standing round me’ is a reference to The Beatles.
Recorded in London with Paul McCartney on bass and George Harrison on backing vocals, ‘Carolina In My Mind’ was produced by Peter Asher, Apple Records’ first head of A&R, with an English orchestra arranged by Richard Hewson.
3 Maybe Tomorrow / The Iveys / 1968
The Iveys were three parts Welsh — Pete Ham (guitar, vocals), Ron Griffiths (bass, vocals) and Mike Gibbins (drums, vocals) — and one part Liverpudlian, Tom Evans (guitar, vocals). After moving to London and establishing themselves as a credible live act, they came to the attention of Beatles confidant and former roadie, Mal Evans (also Liverpudlian but no relation to Tom), who brought them to Apple.
‘Maybe Tomorrow’ was The Iveys’ debut single, and was written in 1967 by Tom Evans for his girlfriend left back home in Liverpool. Tom’s vocal was high in register and high on emotion, and with a lush production and string arrangement by Tony Visconti, the record pre-figured the sound that producer Richard Perry created in 1972 for Harry Nilsson’s definitive cover version of Ham and Evans’ ‘Without You’.
‘Maybe Tomorrow’ was a minor hit in the States but was a Top 20 smash in Holland. Within months of its release The Iveys had changed their line-up, their sound, and their name — to Badfinger. ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ is included on Badfinger’s first Apple LP, Magic Christian Music.
4 Thingumybob / The Black Dyke Mills Band / 1968
The Black Dyke Mills Band — the most famous brass ensemble in the world — was founded in 1855 by one John Foster, and was named for the textile mill he built in the Black Dyke area of Queensbury, a village near Bradford in West Yorkshire. A French horn player, Foster formed his band from employees who worked at the mill that his family firm, John Foster & Son Ltd., went on to own for the next 146 years.
Thingumybob was a short-lived British TV comedy drama, shown on London Weekend Television in August 1968. The central character, Bob Bridge, a pensioner up for a bit of mischief, was played by the celebrated comic actor Stanley Holloway. (Also in the cast was John Junkin, who played ‘Shake’ in A Hard Day’s Night.)
Paul McCartney was commissioned to write the theme tune for Thingumybob and hired the Black Dyke Mills Band to record it. In July 1968, together with a retinue of Apple staff and his sheepdog Martha, he travelled to Saltaire, near Shipley in Bradford, where the 30 musicians were gathered in the local Victoria Hall. The arranger and conductor was the Black Dyke Mills Band’s own Geoffrey Brand.
5 King Of Fuh / Brute Force / 1969
One Thursday in early 1969, George Harrison wrote from Apple Records HQ at 3 Savile Row, London, to a New York songwriter: “Dear Brute, you have got a great name and a lovely voice and a beautiful record on Apple called ‘King Of Fuh’…”.
Brute is Brute Force, a lyrical absurdist and a forceful entertainer. He was formerly of The Tokens, who, back before Brute joined them, had scored a big hit with ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’. The Tokens produced ‘King Of Fuh’, and Brute sent it, via New York, to Apple in London. John Lennon thought it was hilarious, as did George, who overdubbed strings with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and scheduled it for release on Apple.
‘Fuh’, of course, rhymed with ‘Uh’, and so the ‘Fuh king’ sounded a little bit rude for 1969. EMI declined the offer to manufacture such a thing and so Apple pressed a few thousand records privately. Not surprisingly, no one would give it airplay, and the single never made it to the shops. Forty or so years after the fact, therefore, this is the first time that the mighty ‘King Of Fuh’ has appeared on a full commercial Apple release. All hail…
6 Sour Milk Sea / Jackie Lomax / 1968
Jackie Lomax was a contemporary of The Beatles from the earliest days. In 1960 he once played drums for them in his hometown of Wallasey on Merseyside. After fronting the R&B band The Undertakers, he went solo and was managed by Brian Epstein before signing to Apple.
‘Sour Milk Sea’ was written by George Harrison in Rishikesh, India. The theme is meditation, sorting out your life. The title comes from the Vishvasara Tantra, an ancient Eastern spiritual text that examines the self in relation to the material world. As George described the lyrics: “If you’re in the shit, don’t go around moaning about it, do something about it”.
‘Sour Milk Sea’ is the greatest record The Beatles never made. George plays rhythm guitar, Paul plays bass, Ringo is on drums. Jackie is also on rhythm guitar and, of course, sings. The keyboards are by Nicky Hopkins and the lead guitarist is Eric Clapton. George brought it all together fabulously as the record’s producer; and the single is taken from Jackie’s excellent Apple album Is This What You Want?
7 Goodbye / Mary Hopkin / 1969
‘Goodbye’ was Mary Hopkin’s second single, issued seven months after ‘Those Were The Days’ had rocketed her to worldwide fame, and a few weeks after the release of her debut album Post Card. Apple had high hopes for the single, and issued it in around 35 different countries.
Although credited to Lennon & McCartney the song was actually a solo Paul composition. Paul also produced the track and commissioned the arrangement from Richard Hewson. The percussive patting sound heard throughout is Paul slapping his thighs.
‘Goodbye’ was a huge success for Mary Hopkin and Apple: No. 8 Billboard in the US and No. 2 in the UK. Whereas ‘Those Were The Days’ had knocked The Beatles’ own Apple debut, ‘Hey Jude’, off the UK top spot in September 1968, this time The Beatles kept ‘Goodbye’ at No. 2 — with ‘Get Back’, no less, a single which, for the first time ever, credited another musician, Billy Preston.
8 That's The Way God Planned It / Billy Preston / 1969
Prior to ‘That’s The Way God Planned It’, Los Angeles-raised Billy Preston was renowned as an instrumentalist, on his own albums and for Little Richard, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles. And, of course, for, The Beatles.
Billy always said his music was divinely-gifted, and it was fitting therefore that his Apple debut was That’s The Way God Planned It, the lead single from which hit UK No. 11 in July 1969. It was produced by George Harrison, who also played guitar, with Keith Richards on bass, Ginger Baker on drums and Eric Clapton on lead guitar.
After Apple, Billy enjoyed a long association with the Rolling Stones and had great solo success in the Seventies, particularly in America. He maintained his friendship with George, who invited him to perform at The Concert For Bangla Desh, where he played ‘That’s The Way God Planned It’. Some say he stole the show.
9 New Day / Jackie Lomax / 1969
Jackie Lomax, as well as possessing one of the best blue-eyed soul voices in Britain, was principally a songwriter. Every track on Is This What You Want? bar ‘Sour Milk Sea’ was an original: Jackie signed to Apple Publishing long before Apple Records was launched; the strength of his songs won him the deal.
Two of Jackie’s three singles for Apple were cover versions, which makes ‘New Day’ rather special, as it was very much his own composition. If there was ever an original Jackie Lomax sound then this is it: British soul meets R&B with horns.
‘New Day’ was issued as a stand alone single in May 1969. Jackie Lomax produced it himself, with a little help from Mal Evans, who’d previously produced a number of tracks for The Iveys’ album, Maybe Tomorrow.
10 Golden Slumbers-Carry That Weight / Trash / 1969
Trash came to Apple via Tony Meehan, record producer, drummer, and a founder member of The Shadows. Five men strong, Trash was a powerhouse of gig-hardened Glaswegians. Without a songwriter in the band, Trash relied on their choice of, rather than the creation of, their material. For this, their second Apple single, they were invited to select something from The Beatles’ yet-to-be released Abbey Road.
Trash signed to Apple as The Pathfinders, far too beat group for 1969, particularly so given the heaviness of their sound. So they changed their name to White Trash. Soon after, reluctantly giving in to negative feedback, the changed it again to Trash.
‘Golden Slumbers’ / ‘Carry That Weight’ was issued in October 1969, a week after the release of Abbey Road. It was the band’s last single for Apple, and almost became a UK hit, reaching No. 35.
11 Give Peace A Chance / Hot Chocolate Band / 1969
When the numerous friends and musicians heard on this British reggae version of ‘Give Peace A Chance’ came together to record it, they hadn’t formed a proper band, and they didn’t yet have a name.
The whole set-up was so spontaneous that the track Apple Records released in September 1969 was actually the demo the collective had cut in London’s Tin Pan Alley, Denmark Street.
Having re-written the lyrics to John Lennon’s current hit song, the group of friends, all from North Clapham in London, took advice and sought John’s approval. To their great surprise John raved about their recording and sanctioned its release. It was a one-off deal, and rather low-key. There was a press ad in America, but no publicity photographs.
The group found its name via the Apple Press Office when Derek Taylor’s secretary Mavis Smith, warm cocoa-based beverage in hand, suggested ‘Hot Chocolate Band’. Their two songwriters, Errol Brown and Tony Wilson, signed to Apple Publishing for a while, and showcased a couple of originals plus ‘Give Peace A Chance’ when John booked the band to open his Peace For Christmas UNICEF benefit show that December. Errol and Tony wrote ‘Think About Your Children’ for Mary Hopkin and, after Apple, the group scored UK hits in each and every year throughout the Seventies.
12 Come And Get It / Badfinger / 1969
Written to order by Paul McCartney for The Magic Christian, the 1970 film starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, ‘Come And Get It’ marks the transition of The Iveys into Badfinger: they recorded it under the former name and released under the latter. Guitarist Joey Molland joined as the single was taking off.
The Iveys had insisted on recording their own material, especially for singles, and prior to Apple had turned down The Who’s ‘Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand’. Struggling to write a viable follow-up to ‘Maybe Tomorrow’, however, and with Paul McCartney offering them his brand new song, with himself as producer to boot, they could hardly refuse.
‘Come And Get It’ was a massive global hit, reaching No. 4 in the UK and No. 7 in the US, and it established the newly named Badfinger on the world’s stage. The song became the lead-off track on their first album, Magic Christian Music.
13 Ain't That Cute / Doris Troy / 1970
Doris Troy took her stage name from the classical heroine Helen of Troy. Doris was once talent-spotted by James Brown at soul music’s most celebrated venue, the Apollo Theater in Harlem “where stars are born and legends are made”. In the early Sixties she recorded for Atlantic Records and issued ‘Just One Look’, which The Hollies covered in the UK and took to No. 2, and which prompted Doris’ move to London.
George Harrison signed Doris to Apple, when he met her at the sessions for Billy Preston’s album That’s The Way God Planned It, on which Doris sang backing vocals.
‘Ain’t that cute’ was a phrase that Doris used in everyday speech, and she and George wrote the song from scratch in the studio. It’s one of four songs that she and George collaborated on — two of them also co-credit Ringo Starr and Stephen Stills. All can be found on her marvellous Apple album of crossover gospel, soul and R&B, Doris Troy.
14 My Sweet Lord / Billy Preston / 1970
Billy Preston’s soulful performance of ‘My Sweet Lord’ was a wonderful moment at the Concert For George at the Royal Albert Hall in 2002. Billy was the ideal person to sing George’s best known solo song, as Billy had recorded the original version back in 1970.
George wrote in I Me Mine that he was unsure at first about recording a song with ‘Lord’ in the title; and so he gave it to Billy Preston before he released it himself. Billy’s deep religious beliefs ensured that his take on ‘My Sweet Lord’ uprooted the song from its rock music origins and firmly re-planted it in the world of gospel.
‘My Sweet Lord’ appears on Billy’s fabulously funky second album for Apple Records, Encouraging Words, and was issued as a single in France, the Netherlands, and the United States. Perhaps inevitably, it’s long been overshadowed by George’s own version. Now is its chance to shine.
15 Try Some, Buy Some / Ronnie Spector / 1971
Ronnie Spector, as Veronica Bennett, was a member of the influential early Sixties girl group the Ronettes. The trio’s producer was Phil Spector, whom Ronnie later married. The Ronettes toured Britain with the Rolling Stones in early 1964, where the “bad girls of rock’n’roll” met The Beatles. They met again in ’66, when the Ronettes were one of the support acts on The Beatles’ final US tour.
By 1971, Phil Spector had become the producer of choice for both John Lennon and George Harrison. Ronnie was in Britain with Phil, and it was perhaps inevitable that she should be offered the opportunity to record for Apple.
‘Try Some, Buy Some’ was written by George Harrison on, as he remembered, the organ. The production was by Phil Spector and George, and the lush orchestrations were by John Barham. The record was a minor hit for Ronnie in the States, and George liked it so much that he recorded it himself for his 1973 album Living In The Material World, using the exact same backing tape from Ronnie’s single.
16 Govinda / Radha Krishna Temple / 1970
‘Govinda’ is a hymn to Krishna, which is another name, George Harrison informed us, for God. The song was arranged by Mukunda Das Adhikary from the Radha Krishna Temple in London, and the record was produced by George, who also played bass and accordion. Also found on Apple’s Radha Krishna Temple album, ‘Govinda’ was a UK Top 30 hit in March 1970.
Govinda is the name of Krishna as a youth, the divine cowherd. The lyrics are written in the ancient holy Indian language of Sanskrit, and the first verse translates as:
“I worship Govinda the primeval Lord / Who is adept in playing on his flute / With blooming eyes like lotus petals / With head decked with peacocks’ feathers / With the figure of beauty tinged with the hue of blue clouds / And his unique loveliness charming millions of cupids.”
17 We're On Our Way / Chris Hodge / 1972
Chris Hodge revived the spirit of 1968 in 1972 when he phoned Apple and said he had some good rockin’ songs about UFOs. Mmm, sounds far out, said Apple, and they invited him over.
Chris left a demo tape. Apple gave it to Ringo Starr and he liked what he heard. Ringo was a fan of the new generation of pop idols, and was working with Marc Bolan of T. Rex on Born To Boogie for Apple Films. Chris Hodge’s music was not a million light-years away from Marc’s, and Ringo signed Chris to Apple Records.
Chris Hodge was one of only a few Apple artists to record in the £1.5m state-of-the-art Apple Studios in the basement of 3 Savile Row. Tony Cox produced the sessions and everyone concerned was delighted to see ‘We’re On Our Way’ became a hit in America in the summer of 1972.
18 Saturday Nite Special / The Sundown Playboys / 1972
The Sundown Playboys were not professional musicians, as Apple revealed in 1972: “During weekdays, Lesa and Larry work for an oil refinery, Darrel is a vending route candy-man, Wallace operates a grocery, and Pat and Danny attend school”.
The Sundown Playboys are a Cajun band based in Lake Charles in southern Louisiana. Founded in 1945 by Lionel Cormier, they are still going strong, with various Cormier family members among their alumni. Cajun music is typified by the fiddle and the accordion, and it was the band’s accordion player, the youngest member at 16, Pat Savant, who led the band to Apple. He sent over a copy of ‘Saturday Nite Special’ that had been cut for local label Swallow Records, and George Harrison loved it.
The word ‘Cajun’ comes from Acadian, referring to French colonists who settled in eastern Canada before relocating to Louisiana in the 18th century. ‘Saturday Nite Special’ is a lover’s lament, which begins, ‘Little girl I met you last night’, and tells of an unreliable partner who made promises to another and now asks his ‘jolie coeur’ (sweetheart) for forgiveness.
19 God Save Us / Bill Elliot & The Elastic Oz Band / 1971
“Every major country has a screw in its side, and in England it’s Oz.” So ran Apple’s press ad for ‘God Save Us’. “Oz,” the ad explained, “is England’s foremost underground newspaper. Oz is on trial for its life.” This was the famous Oz obscenity court case of 1971.
In May 1970 this British "magazine of dissent" (Australian in origin, hence its name), ran a ‘Schoolkids Issue’ put together by rebellious teenagers. The content was rather risqué, or as the prosecution maintained, "dealt with homosexuality, lesbianism, sadism, perverted sexual practices and drug taking".
As a fundraiser for the defence, John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote ‘God Save Us’, which was issued under the ad-hoc name of the Elastic Oz Band. The record was co-produced with Mal Evans and Phil Spector at John’s home studio at Tittenhurst Park, using the rhythm section of Klaus Voormann and Ringo Starr. For contractual reasons, John offered the lead vocals to Bill Elliot, who as one half of the group Splinter, later signed to George Harrison’s Dark Horse label.
20 Sweet Music / Lon & Derrek van Eaton / 1972
Lon and Derrek van Eaton were one of the last acts signed to Apple Records and the first to record at the newly built Apple Studios. The brothers had previously been in a band called Jacobs Creek, who issued one self-titled US album on Columbia Records in 1969.
After that band split up, Lon and Derrek made a demo of ‘Sweet Music’, which they sent to Apple in New York. John Lennon heard it and was impressed. George liked it too, and it was George who called the van Eatons to ask if they would like to record for Apple.
Lon and Derrek flew to London, where George produced ‘Sweet Music’ using, as Lon van Eaton remembers, a similar arrangement to George’s own recordings at the time, including a harmonium (played by Mike Hugg) and two drummers (Jim Gordon and Ringo Starr). All other instruments, including four acoustic guitars were played by the brothers; Lon did the string arrangements and Derrek sang lead. ‘Sweet Music’ was issued as a single in the US, and was taken from the Apple album Brother, issued in the UK in early 1973.
21 Day After Day / Badfinger / 1972
Like many Badfinger songs, ‘Day After Day’ was very personal to Pete Ham. He wrote it after discovering that his ex-girlfriend had been pregnant with his child, but had lost the baby in a miscarriage; something he heard about only from a distance while the band was away on tour.
The song, along with three others on Badfinger’s 1971 highly recommended Apple album Straight Up, was produced by George Harrison, who liked ‘Day After Day’ enough that he asked to play on it — the slide guitar solo features George and Pete Ham together, playing in unison.
‘Day After Day’ was Badfinger’s third single for Apple, and their best remembered after ‘Come And Get It’. It was a UK Top 10 hit in January 1972 and peaked at No. 4 Billboard in the US, in the same week that Nilsson’s cover of Badfinger’s ‘Without You’ was US No. 1.