Through the door at Apple Corps (Episode 1)

As far as I recall, The Beatles are the only artists ever to have an album in the singles chart.

With The Beatles, their second album, sold so many copies so fast it outsold all but the top ten singles that week, and reached number 11 in the singles top 20. The chart company had to change the rules after that.

This was the era when The Beatles were Kings. This was the era when Capitol Records in America released the double album The Beatles (aka The White Album) at a price almost three times the cost of a single album, and still they sold four million copies in four weeks.

This was also the time, believe it or not, when I could walk in and out of Apple Records at will.

Apple was a strange and wonderful place, constantly buzzing, but seemingly with very little purpose. There is an old music industry word, ‘ligger’, which denotes those who crash gigs and record company parties, but who have no purpose in being there. Apple seemed to be largely staffed by liggers, with some notable exceptions.

I remember being there only once on official business, to interview Allen Klein who had recently taken over management of The Beatles.

Also in the room was Peter Brown, who ran the daily management of Apple. Peter was there to tell me about a company restructure. My job was to listen, ask questions and file a feature back at Music Week.

Unfortunately, Allen Klein was an inveterate gossip, and I was a willing partner.

I would have got to the point eventually. Copy was, after all, expected back at Music Week. But I didn’t get to the point quickly enough for Peter Brown, who finally lost patience.

“I thought you were here to talk about our restructure,” he said.

“Oh come on,” said Klein, “the guy can’t help gossiping! We’ll get to that.”

That was it for Peter. He shuffled his papers together and left the room with his assistant. Which is a shame, because he was (and is) a good guy, and – contrary to Klein – was looking after The Beatles’ best interests.

(To make up for it, all these years later, I’ll point you at his brilliant book, The Love You Make. Despite being written with obvious affection, it doesn’t shirk stuff that still has the ability to shock, even 40 years later.)

So now, left alone, Klein and I gossiped away. Although he was a bit of a crook, and definitely less than straightforward in some of his dealings, he could go back to the late 50s with his rock ‘n’ roll stories. He had also managed Sam Cook. And, to his credit, he had found ££millions of unpaid royalties for the Fabs. He was currently in good favour.

Plus, though I wouldn’t call him charming, he was good company, and a top of the range gossip. This is the bit of him that attracted John Lennon in the first place.

After Peter Brown walked out, and as Klein and I continued to talk, the door opened behind me.

I didn’t look round, but I noticed Klein tip his chin and raise his eyebrows. Whoever this newcomer was, he or she was welcome, but happy to sit out of my line of sight.

Klein was telling me about a cupboard full of unreleased tapes he’d found. I thought I was about to hear confirmation of the great unreleased Beatles album (Hot As Sun; nothing but a rumour, later a bootleg).

In fact they were the tapes for what became the Let It Be album. The Beatles were so unhappy with them, they were going to leave them to rot.

A few minutes after the newcomer had arrived I heard – from behind – the familiar voice of Ringo Starr chip in. His tone conveyed annoyance.

I was getting a telling off from a Beatle!

Peter Brown had obviously asked him to come in and get me back on track. Ringo was making very pointed remarks about what my editor would be expecting from me, as opposed to the direction the conversation was taking.

Don’t ask me how it happened, but instead of falling into line and doing my job (!), I carried on as if nothing had happened. Before I knew it, I had Ringo chatting too. One of the most interesting things to emerge was that he had taken charge of all movie footage collected during The Beatles’ career. He was working, he told me, to put together a history of the band that would include untold amounts of unseen footage.

This conversation was taking place in 1969. The Beatles Anthology was finally aired in 1995. So that little task only took him 26 years.

At least I filed my copy the next day; it appeared in Music Week the following week and was forgotten within days. Events at Apple moved so quickly it was hard to keep up.

I remember vividly the day Alistair Taylor, one of Brian Epstein’s Liverpool posse, turned up at Music Week’s offices. He stood in front of my desk and said: “They’ve sacked me.” I was 20. I didn’t have a clue what to say to him.

He had come down to London with The Beatles and now ‘they’ had sacked him. He looked more forlorn than any man I had ever seen.

Karma, though, was almost instant. Klein himself was sacked within the year.

All this Apple Talk reminds me of a recording I made years ago of an iconic Beatles track. I hope my cover of the old soul shouter Twist & Shout makes you smile.

My version is voyeuristic, the lead vocal almost heavy breathing.

It’s an old demo, made – apart from my vocals – exclusively with early synthesisers, two of them now legendary: a Roland SH101 for the bass; a TR606 for the drums; and a Crumar Stratus for the ‘brass’ and ‘organ’. So forgive the quality, but enjoy the humour. If it makes you laugh, that’s fine by me. It’s meant to be amusing.

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. At the risk of sounding like a smart-arse (or someone with far too much time on his hands) Frank Sinatra broke the singles chart with LPs as well, most notably with “Songs for Swingin’ Lovers”. But that’s it, I think – he and The Beatles were the only two… Though somebody else might know better.

    Brilliant story, by the way. I read “The Longest Cocktail Party” not too long ago, did you ever have any dealings with Dilello? He portrays Apple as a chaotic and mismanaged place but still makes it sound like somewhere fantastic. Never will anyone waste money on such an experiment again, I fear – a complete one-off venture.

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  2. I knew someone would put me right on that Dave! I did meet Richard Dilello, but only briefly. His version of Apple in The Longest Cocktail Party is exactly as I saw it in my few visits. There were some fabulous people there, but that’s another story….

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