Mention Apple Records to anyone and chances are that the conversation will soon turn to favourite Beatles songs. Established by the Fab Four in 1968, the imprint was intended to accommodate the pursuits of the members themselves; but it quickly became home to a wide range of artists, not all of whom bore much similarity to the stable’s founding fathers.
While label politics would see Paul McCartney effectively ostracised from the running of Apple in 1970, the year he confirmed the split of The Beatles, several artists associated with Apple arrived via direct involvement from one of his bandmates. For example, Ravi Shankar was brought into the fold by George Harrison, and Elephant’s Memory by John Lennon. Neither feature on this 21-track introduction to the label, though; instead, Badfinger and Mary Hopkin feature twice each – the former purveyors of sweet power-pop, very much in a post-Beatles vein; the latter a Welsh vocalist whose McCartney-penned hit Goodbye was only kept off the UK top spot by The Beatles’ own Get Back in 1969 – and several numbers come from artists who never really made much of an impression on the pop scene.
Among these outsiders on this collection are the Black Dyke Mills Band, a brass band from West Yorkshire whose Apple-released single Thingumybob was backed by a cover of Yellow Submarine, and Brute Force, the musical moniker of Stephen Friedland. King of Fuh, Friedland’s sole entry in the Apple catalogue, was initially refused a release by parent company EMI on the grounds that it repeatedly referred to "the Fuh King". (See what he did there? Oh, my sides.) But here it is, in all its Harrison-approved ‘glory’. It’s rubbish, obviously, but no doubt raised a few laughs back in 1969.
With King of Fuh indicative of the fact that the Apple logo could never be seen as a guarantee of quality, it’s no surprise that a number of these 21 tracks are of an acquired taste. Jackie Lomax’s Sour Milk Sea was written by Harrison and features three of four Beatles on its recording, Lennon the only absentee; predictably it’s among the most immediately gratifying cuts collected on this disc. Equally worthy of praise are Ronnie Spector’s sole Apple release, Try Some, Buy Some, recorded with her then husband, and Texas-born R&B powerhouse and sometime ‘fifth Beatle’ Billy Preston’s That’s the Way God Planned It.
The best of, then? Hardly. But as a succinct example of just how bonkers (and occasionally brilliant) The Beatles could be when it came to aligning themselves with other artists, this set is suitably scatterbrained.
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