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 artists including Mary Hopkin, James Taylor, Badfinger, and Billy Preston. In practice, the roster had become dominated by the mid-1970s with releases of the former Beatles as solo artists. Allen Klein managed the label from 1969 to 1973, then it was managed by Neil Aspinall on behalf of the Beatles and their heirs. Aspinall retired in 2007 and was replaced by Jeff Jones.
1967-69: Early years
Apple Corps Ltd was conceived by the Beatles in 1967 after the death of their manager Brian Epstein. It was intended to be a small group of companies (Apple Retail, Apple Publishing, Apple Electronics, and so on) as part of Epstein's plan to create a tax-effective business structure. The first project that the band released after forming the company was their film Magical Mystery Tour, which was produced under the Apple Films division. Apple Records was officially founded by the group after their return from India in 1968 as another sub-division of Apple Corps.
At this time, the Beatles were contracted to EMI. In a new distribution deal, EMI and its US subsidiary Capitol Records agreed to distribute Apple Records until 1976, while EMI retained ownership of their recordings. Beatles recordings issued in the United Kingdom on the Apple label carried Parlophone catalogue numbers, while US issues carried Capitol catalogue numbers. Apple Records owns the rights to all of the Beatles' videos and movie clips, and the rights to recordings of other artists signed to the label. The first catalogue number Apple 1 was a single pressing of Frank Sinatra singing "Maureen Is a Champ" (with lyrics by Sammy Cahn) to the melody of "The Lady Is a Tramp" as a surprise gift for the 21st birthday of Ringo Starr's wife Maureen.
In 1969, the Beatles were in need of financial and managerial direction, and John Lennon was approached by Allen Klein, manager of The Rolling Stones. When Klein went on to manage Apple three of the Beatles supported him, Paul McCartney being the only group member opposed to his involvement. McCartney had suggested his father-in-law Lee Eastman for the job.
Klein took control of Apple and shut down several sub-divisions, including Apple Electronics, and he dropped some of Apple Records' artistic roster. New signings to the label were not so numerous afterward and tended to arrive through the individual actions of the former Beatles; for example, Elephant's Memory were recruited through Lennon and Ravi Shankar through Harrison. McCartney had little input into Apple Records' roster after 1970. Klein managed Apple Corp. until March 1973, when his contract expired. The Beatles' entire pre-Apple catalogue on the Capitol label was re-issued on the Apple label in May 1971, including the singles from "I Want to Hold Your Hand" to "Lady Madonna", and the albums from Meet the Beatles! to Magical Mystery Tour; the album covers remained unchanged with the Capitol logos.
1973-2007: Aspinall era, Beatles reissues
After Klein's departure, Apple was managed by Neil Aspinall on behalf of the four Beatles and their heirs. Apple Records' distribution contract with EMI expired in 1976, when control of the Beatles' catalogue--including solo recordings to date by George Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr--reverted to EMI (Paul McCartney had acquired ownership of his solo recordings when he re-signed with Capitol in 1975).
The original UK versions of the Beatles' albums were released worldwide on compact disc in 1987 and 1988 by Parlophone. 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 authorised by the Beatles, EMI or Apple Corps. Following the settlement of Apple's ten-year lawsuit against EMI in 1989, new projects began to move forward, including the Live at the BBC album and The Beatles Anthology series. It was after the Anthology project (spearheaded by Neil Aspinall) that the company resumed making significantly large profits again and began its revival.
In 2007, longtime chief executive Neil Aspinall retired and was replaced by American music industry executive Jeff Jones. The Beatles' catalog was remastered and re-issued in September 2009 and was made available on iTunes in November 2010. When Universal Music Group acquired EMI and the Beatles' recorded music catalogue, Calderstone Productions was formed in 2012 to administer the Beatles' catalogue.
Standard Apple album and single labels displayed a bright green Granny Smith apple on the A-side, while the flipside displayed the cross section of the apple. The bright green apple returned for Beatles CDs releases in the 1990s, following initial CD releases by Parlophone.
On the US 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. The red apple also appeared on the back cover, and on the 2009 remastered edition back cover. Capitol's parent company EMI purchased United Artists Records in the late 1970s, and Capitol gained the American rights to the Let It Be soundtrack album (along with the American rights to another, earlier, United Artists Beatles movie soundtrack LP, 1964's A Hard Day's Night).
Aside from the red apple, other examples in which the apple has been altered include George Harrison's album All Things Must Pass triple album, on which the first two discs have orange apples while the third has a jar label reading Apple Jam; black and white apples on John Lennon's album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Yoko Ono's album Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band; a blue apple on Ringo Starr's single "Back Off Boogaloo"; Harrison's album Extra Texture (Read All About It), on which the apple (in shrunken cartoon form) is eaten away at its core (this was intended to be a joke because it was released at a time when Apple Records was beginning to fold); and a red apple on Starr's compilation album Blast from Your Past. Other types of apples were also used: in 1971, for Lennon's Imagine and Ono's Fly, the apples respectively featured pictures of Lennon and Ono, as did the apples for Ono's 1973 Approximately Infinite Universe and the singles that were released from these three albums.
Zapple Records, an Apple Records subsidiary run by Barry Miles, a friend of McCartney, was intended as an outlet for the release of spoken word and avant-garde records, as a budget label. It was active only from 3 February 1969 until June 1969; two albums were released on the label, one by Lennon and Ono (Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions) and one by Harrison (Electronic Sound). An album of readings by Richard Brautigan was planned for release as Zapple 3, and acetate disc copies were cut, but, said Miles, "The Zapple label was folded by [Allen] 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.
The first record that was done for Zapple was by poet Charles Olson. 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. An early 1969 press release also named Pablo Casals as an expected guest on the label. American author Ken Kesey was given a tape recorder to record his impressions of London, but they were never released. Miles also had the intention of bringing world leaders to the label. Zapple was shut down in June 1969 by Klein, apparently with the backing of Lennon.
Elastic Oz Band - A one-off single, "God Save Us", was written and produced by Lennon and Yoko Ono to raise money for a legal battle involving Oz magazine. The A-side of the single was sung by Bill Elliot, later a member of Harrison's Dark Horse Records signing Splinter.
Elephant's Memory - Recruited as backing band for Lennon and Ono, and also released material separately, including contributions to the soundtrack of the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy (not on Apple).
Chris Hodge - Discovered by Ringo Starr; they shared an interest in UFOs. Hodge only released two singles on Apple, the second of them not issued in the UK.
Hot Chocolate (as Hot Chocolate Band) - Released one single, a reggae version of "Give Peace A Chance", which they recorded and had played to Lennon, who liked it. Their post-Apple releases as Hot Chocolate were more commercially successful.
Jackie Lomax - Liverpudlian singer known to the Beatles through his Brian Epstein connections; he recorded the Harrison-produced album Is This What You Want?, released in 1969, which also includes musical contributions from Starr and McCartney. Lomax's first single, "Sour Milk Sea", features those three Beatles and was written by Harrison.
Ronnie Spector - Married to Phil Spector, who separately worked with the Beatles and solo Beatles from 1970 onwards. Harrison wrote, co-produced and played on her only Apple single, "Try Some, Buy Some", which was made with her husband, as an attempt to revive her recording career.
Doris Troy - An American soul artist since the early 1960s, who worked with Harrison and Preston while the latter was signed to Apple. Troy recorded one Apple album, and released two spin-off singles in 1970, the first of which, "Ain't That Cute", was co-written with Harrison. Starr also collaborated on the album, and is credited as a co-writer with Harrison and Troy on some of the tracks.
Lon and Derrek Van Eaton - Signed to the label in September 1971 by Harrison, who produced their debut single, "Sweet Music". Starr also contributed to the recording, and to other tracks on the Van Eatons' 1972 Apple album Brother.
Artists who had considerable success in the pop and rock world after their initial sessions at Apple Records include Badfinger (originally known as the Iveys), James Taylor, Mary Hopkin, Hot Chocolate, Yoko Ono and Billy Preston.
Artists who auditioned to appear on the label, but did not make it, include:
McGough and McGear (the latter of whom was McCartney's brother), whose self-titled album was due to be released on Apple; it was instead released on Parlophone, to which both were signed as members of The Scaffold.
Focal Point, a Liverpool band who were going to be managed by Brian Epstein before he died, were signed to Apple after chasing McCartney around Hyde Park. John Lennon signed them to Apple; they were the first band signed. Their single "Sycamore Sid" was issued on Deram Records with credit to Apple Publishing on the label.
Fire (a band with future Strawbs member Dave Lambert on guitar) released two singles in 1968: "Father's Name Was Dad", produced by Tony Clarke, and "Round the Gum Tree", on Decca with Apple publishing credits.
Delaney and Bonnie's Accept No Substitute album was originally meant to be released on Apple in 1969; it was first released commercially on Elektra Records the same year. In England, copies of the LP were pressed before Apple realized the band were already contracted to Elektra. No album covers were ever printed; the disc is now a high-value Apple collectible.
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.
Raven were offered a contract to record with Apple after Harrison received a tape from the band's manager Marty Angelo. Harrison was unable to be their producer, but sent Apple A&R chief Peter Asher to New York City to discuss Asher filling the role. This is documented in the book The Longest Cocktail Party and in Angelo's autobiography Once Life Matters: A New Beginning. The band turned down Asher's offer, and instead signed with Columbia Records in 1969.
Slow Dog (later known as Wheels) were a Cambridge-based rock band fronted by Scottish singer/guitarist Dave Kelly. They were the winners of the Apple Records-sponsored national talent contest early 1969, organised by Asher prior to his departure for the US. The winner of the talent contest was promised a record contract with Apple Records, but owing to Asher's departure, the band only recorded demo tracks. However, on recommendation from Mal Evans, Warner Bros. Records in London signed Slow Dog to a record contract, officially changing their name to Wheels.
See also Zapple Records section for cancelled releases.