Apple Records is a record label founded by The Beatles in 1968, as a division of Apple Corps Ltd. It was initially intended as a creative outlet for the Beatles, both as a group and individually, plus a selection of other artistes including Mary Hopkin, James Taylor, Badfinger, and Billy Preston. In practice, by the mid-1970s, the roster had become dominated with releases from the former Beatles. Allen Klein ran the label in 1969. It was then run by Neil Aspinall on behalf of the four Beatles and their heirs. He retired in 2007 and was replaced by Jeff Jones.
Apple Records was founded in 1968 as a sub-division of the Beatles' Apple Corps project, which in practice was established as a small group of companies (Apple Retail, Apple Publishing, Apple Films and so on). At this time, the Beatles were contracted to Parlophone in the United Kingdom and Capitol Records in the United States. In a new recording deal, EMI and Capitol agreed to distribute Apple Records until 1975, although EMI retained ownership of the Beatles' recordings. Although they were issued on the Apple label, they carried Parlophone R-prefixed catalogue numbers. Apple Records owns the rights to all of the Beatles' videos and movie clips, however, and to the recordings of other artistes signed to the label.
Initially, Apple Records and Apple Publishing signed a number of acts whom the Beatles personally discovered or supported, and in most cases one or more of the Beatles would be involved in the recording sessions. Several notable artistes were signed in the first year including Mary Hopkin, Billy Preston, the Modern Jazz Quartet and The Iveys (who later became Badfinger). In 1969, the Beatles were in need of financial and managerial direction and Lennon was introduced to Allen Klein through Mick Jagger, as Klein was managing The Rolling Stones at the time.
Klein went on to manage Apple, by virtue of his three-to-one support from the Beatles, Paul McCartney the only group member opposed to his involvement. (McCartney had suggested his then new father-in-law Lee Eastman for the job.)
After Klein took control of Apple, several sub-divisions, including Apple Electronics, were shut down, and some of Apple Records' artistic roster effectively dropped. Thereafter, new signings were not so numerous, and tended to arrive through the individual actions of The (ex-)Beatles, with the formal approval of the others. (e.g., Elephant's Memory were recruited through John Lennon, Ravi Shankar through George Harrison, etc.) Paul McCartney had little input into Apple Records' roster after 1970.
During the 1974 proceedings dissolving the Beatles as an entity, a court ruling decreed that eighty percent of all profits from Beatles albums (as a group) would accrue to Apple Records, and five percent would go to each of the four members. Mostly through continued issues of old Beatles records, the label consistently made a profit until 1984, after which it lost money for several years.
Standard Apple album and single labels displayed a bright green Granny Smith apple on the A-side, while the flipside displayed the midsection of the apple cut in half. The bright green apple returned for Beatles CDs releases in the 1990s, following initial CD releases on Parlophone. However, on the U.S. issue of the Beatles' Let It Be album, the Granny Smith apple was red. The reason was that in the United States that album, being the soundtrack to the movie of the same name, was, for contractual reasons, being manufactured and distributed by United Artists Records and not Capitol Records, so the red apple was used to mark the difference. In the late 70s, Capitol's parent company EMI later purchased United Artists Records and Capitol gained the American rights to the Let It Be soundtrack album (along with the America rights to another, earlier, UA Beatles movie soundtrack LP, 1964's A Hard Day's Night).
Original U.K. versions of all standard Beatles albums were released worldwide on CD in 1987 and 1988 on the Parlophone label with no Apple logo, even including albums originally released on Apple. Previously, Abbey Road had been issued on CD by the EMI-Odeon label in Japan in the early 1980s. Although this was a legitimate release, it was not authorized by the Beatles, the main EMI company or Apple Corps. As a result, very few were made. It was not until the BBC sessions and the Anthology series that Apple labels started appearing on the CDs. Subsequent releases have been on the familiar Apple label or at least had the Apple logo.
In 2006 the label was again newsworthy, as the long-running dispute between Apple Records' parent company and Apple Inc. went to the High Court (see Apple Corps v Apple Computer). In 2007, the company settled a dispute with EMI over royalties, and announced that long term chief executive Neil Aspinall had retired and been replaced by American music industry executive Jeff Jones. These changes lead to speculation that the Apple Records catalogue — and most importantly The Beatles discography — would soon appear on Apple Inc.'s iTunes online music store, and that a remastering and reissue program of The Beatles' CDs might be forthcoming (Jones having worked on reissues at Sony). On July 1, 2010, it was reported that Capitol Records was planning a re-release strategy for most of Apple's back catalogue. This would include re-releases of material by artistes who worked at Apple including Badfinger, James Taylor, Billy Preston and Mary Hopkin.
Zapple Records, an Apple Records subsidiary run by Barry Miles, a friend and ultimately biographer of Paul McCartney, was intended as an outlet for the release of spoken word and avant garde records. It was active from October 1968 until June 1969, and only two albums were released on the label, one by John Lennon and Yoko Ono (Unfinished Music No.2: Life With The Lions) and one by George Harrison (Electronic Sound). An album of readings by Richard Brautigan was planned for release as Zapple 3, and acetate copies were pressed, but, said Miles, "The Zapple label was folded by Klein before the record could be released. The first two Zapple records did come out. We just didn't have [Brautigan's record] ready in time before Klein closed it down. None of the Beatles ever heard it." Brautigan's record was eventually released as Listening To Richard Brautigan on Harvest Records, a subsidiary of Apple distributor EMI, in the US only. According to Miles, a spoken word album by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, which had been recorded and edited, would have been Zapple 4, and a spoken word album by Michael McClure had also been recorded. A planned Zapple release of a UK appearance by comedian Lenny Bruce was never completed. As noted above, Zapple was shut down in June 1969 by Klein, apparently with the backing of John Lennon.
Artistes who signed with Apple RecordsEdit
- Badfinger (originally known as The Iveys) - Signed to Apple after several demo tapes were brought in by Mal Evans, after getting approval from McCartney, Harrison and Lennon. They had several top 10 hits in the UK and USA, including the Paul McCartney song "Come And Get It", and recorded five albums for Apple.
- Black Dyke Mills Band (as John Foster & Sons Ltd. Black Dyke Mills Band) - A north of England brass band whom Paul McCartney employed for the one-off "Thingummybob"/"Yellow Submarine" single. It was recorded by McCartney on location near Bradford, where the group were based.
- Brute Force (Stephen Friedland) - A musical outfit fronted by Stephen Freidland. George Harrison attempted to have his pre-made track "King of Fuh" released as an Apple single. EMI refused to handle it due to its references to "the Fuh king", but Apple manufactured a small number of copies in-house which were made available to the public.
- Elastic Oz Band - A one-off single, "God Save Us", was written and produced by John Lennon and Yoko Ono to raise money for a legal battle involving Oz magazine. The A-side of the single was sung by Bill Elliott, later of George Harrison's Dark Horse Records signing Splinter.
- Elephant's Memory - Recruited as backing band for John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and also released material separately.
- Chris Hodge - Discovered by Ringo Starr; they shared an interest in UFOs. Hodge only released two singles on Apple, the second not issued in the UK.
- Mary Hopkin - Discovered after appearing on a UK television talent show. Early recordings were produced by Paul McCartney, including the Lennon-McCartney original "Goodbye" and her hit recording of "Those Were the Days". She also released a Eurovision Song Contest entry on Apple ("Knock Knock, Who's There") and two studio albums.
- Hot Chocolate (as Hot Chocolate Band) - Released one single, "Give Peace A Chance", which they recorded and had played to John Lennon, who liked it. Their post-Apple releases as Hot Chocolate were more commercially successful.
- Jackie Lomax - Liverpudlian singer known via his Brian Epstein connections, he recorded with Harrison, McCartney and Starr at various times. His first single "Sour Milk Sea" features all three and was written by Harrison.
- Modern Jazz Quartet - Associated with Yoko Ono, and were famous prior to their involvement with Apple. They released two albums for the label.
- Yoko Ono - Recorded extensively with John Lennon and released several singles and albums herself, with Lennon usually performing, and directing the band.
- David Peel and the Lower East Side - Political folk singer brought to the label by John Lennon.
- Billy Preston - Brought in to work with the Beatles in January 1969 on their "Get Back" / "Let It Be" sessions, and signed as a solo artiste. George Harrison worked on some of Preston's recordings which include the hit single "That's The Way God Planned It". Preston's recording of Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" was released on Apple before Harrison's version. Preston issued two albums on Apple in 1969-70.
- Radha Krishna Temple, the London Hare Krishna temple - George Harrison brought them to the label and produced a single and album for them.
- Ravi Shankar (with Ali Akbar Khan) - A classical Indian musician. George Harrison brought him to the label.
- Ronnie Spector - Married to Phil Spector, who separately worked with the Beatles and solo Beatles around 1970. George Harrison and John Lennon appear on her only Apple single "Try Some Buy Some", which was made with her husband, as an attempt to revive her recording career.
- The Sundown Playboys - A French-language cajun band from Louisiana. A pre-existing single was brought to the label by Ringo Starr.
- John Tavener - A classical composer. His brother, a builder, worked on Ringo Starr's house, and Starr took interest in Tavener.
- James Taylor - Recorded with Paul McCartney, who appears on the Apple LP which launched his career.
- Trash (originally White Trash) - Brought to Apple by Tony Meehan, formerly of the Shadows. Their second single was a cover of "Golden Slumbers" and charted on Apple in the UK.
- Doris Troy - An American soul artiste since the early 1960s, who worked with George Harrison and Billy Preston while the latter was signed to Apple. She recorded one Apple album, and released a few spin-off singles.
- Lon and Derek Van Eaton - Brought in during 1970s by George Harrison, who worked on their Apple album.
Also released were the soundtracks to Come Together and El Topo (in the U.S.), the onetime Philles Records compilation Phil Spector's Christmas Album and the multi-artiste The Concert for Bangla Desh. Cassette and 8-track tape versions of Bangla Desh were marketed by Columbia Records, in a deal that permitted the inclusion of Bob Dylan, a Columbia artiste, on the album.
Artistes who went on to have considerable success in the pop and rock world (though in some cases, for their post-Apple work) include Badfinger (originally known as The Iveys), James Taylor, Mary Hopkin, Hot Chocolate, Yoko Ono and Billy Preston.
Artistes who were to appear on the label, but didn't make it, include:
- McGough and McGear, whose self-titled album was due to be released on Apple, but it was released on Parlophone Records, to which both were signed, as members of The Scaffold;
- Grapefruit, whose single "Dear Delilah" was issued on RCA Records with Apple Records publishing credit;
- Focal Point, a Liverpool band who were going to be managed by Brian Epstein before he died, were signed to Apple after chasing Paul McCartney around Hyde Park. John Lennon and Brian Epstein signed them to Apple, and they were the first band signed. Their single "Sycamore Sid" was issued on Deram Records with credit to Apple Publishing on the label.
- Delaney and Bonnie's Accept No Substitute album was originally meant to be released on Apple in 1969; it was originally commercially released on Elektra Records the same year.
- Mortimer were a folk-based three-piece, notable for a recording of the Beatles' "Two Of Us". It was planned for release as an Apple single in 1969 (before the Beatles' version was issued) under the title "On Our Way Home", but the release was cancelled.
- Slow Dog (Wheels) who were a Cambridge based rock band headed up by Scottish singer/guitarist Dave Kelly. They were the winners of the Apple Records sponsored national talent contest early 1969, organized by Apple A & R head Peter Asher prior to his departure for the USA. The winner of the talent contest was promised a record contract with Apple Records, but the band only recorded demo tracks, due to Asher's departure. However, on the recommendation from Beatles' roadie Mal Evans, Warner Brothers Records in London, headed up by Ian Ralfini, signed Slow Dog to a record contract, changing their name to Wheels.
- See also Zapple Records section for cancelled releases.
Main article: Apple Records discography