A IS FOR APPLE
You might ask why I'm going to talk about a Beatles book that is no longer available. (As it was limited to 500 copies worldwide, which quickly sold out earlier this year) Simply because this goliath of a book, at 700 pages in full color, is jammed packed full of facts, minutiae, untold stories is guaranteed to please even the most jaded Beatles aficionado. And with almost 3,500 images (many of which have never been seen before), it is a true work of art.
A IS FOR APPLE (An Illustrated History of the Beatles' Multimedia Corporation Vol. 1: 1966-1968) by Axel Korinth, Ed Dieckmann, & Antonio Caroselli is the first installment of a series of books that tell the story of the Beatles Apple. Not just Apple Records, but publishing, films, electronic, clothing, schools, films, etc. It is a balance between biography and discography, giving the most detailed list so far of every Apple release, along with photos of each release available. If the book wasn't impressive enough, there is also included a free 7" vinyl single containing two previously unreleased Jackie Lomax songs: "Land Of People" & demo version of "Is This What You Want" and a flexi of the unreleased Iveys Christmas record.
Volume I covers Apple's genesis in 1966 up to December of 1968. While impressed by the discography side of the book, my favorite part is the stories uncovered by interviews with musicians and employees of Apple. Such fascinating minutiae include stories of David Christian, who designed the Rubber Soul logo, the cover for "A Collection of Beatles Oldies" (which was originally meant to be the back cover) and the Magical Mystery Tour font. There is the info about playwright Max Wilk's script for a Beatles movie that I had never heard about. The little factoid that the Maharishi was in Hamburg in October of 1960 whilst the Beatles were just starting their Hamburg "training". Plus, it's good to finally see Apple Publishing given the coverage it deserves - before I always found it hard to make sense of it.
There are also never before seen vintage advertisements, contracts, memos, documents such as royalty sheets, and newspaper clippings. For example, you get to see: the invitation to join the audience for Hey Jude; George Harrison's infamous Hells Angels memo; the cover of the May 1968 issue of American Rifleman which inspired, "Happiness is a Warm Gun"; and ad for an actually Magical Mystery Tour that Apple promoted in 1968.
I'm optimistic that this book will eventually be made available to those who didn't get the chance to buy one of the limited 500 copies that were made, because it is a book that NEEDS to be available. It's that good.
Right: The ultra-rare Electric Apple.
EC: First, kudos on a wonderful book, it is really a feast for the eyes! Can you give me a little background on how the book came to be?
Axel: Thanks for the kudos, Ronnie. Well, I used to write for a German fanzine called A Ticket To Write for a long time. I had a series about Apple Publishing and had just started a new series about the formative solo albums when the idea came up to combine both series for the largest, biggest, most comprehensive book about Apple ever. Just in time, Ed had just started his worldwide Apple discography on www.applerecords.nl So, it was only a matter of time until we joined forces. Antonio came in later when we realized that we needed a third writer to get this mammoth project done. And Antonio was the right one to join us with his extensive knowledge about all things Apple. And he's a very funny guy – as is Ed. We're a great team.
Antonio: I was hit by Beatlemania on 23 December 1964 when I was given a copy of the single: My Bonnie / Ya Ya for my seventh birthday and at that point I was lost forever! In 1968 I became an Apple maniac, too and so I started writing to Apple Records in London on a monthly basis to inquire about forthcoming and obscure releases, thus getting in return lots of Apple catalogues and nice promo items. In July 1973 I visited London for the first time and had a chance to enter the second Apple headquarters at 54 St. James's Street. More and more European and worldwide contacts allowed me to expand my collection so as to cover all five continents. Starting from 1999 I wrote articles on the Apple discography and Apple rarities for several magazines worldwide and then, for its 2010 reissue campaign, Apple Records reproduced several items from my collection in the booklets of Come And Get It - The Best Of Apple Records and Mary Hopkin's Post Card CDs. When I read about the A is For Apple project I understood that the time had come to open my collection and make use of the wealth of information that I had gathered in almost five decades. The rest is history!
EC: With three authors (Axel Korinth, Ed Dieckmann, & Antonio Caroselli) - what did each person bring to the project?
Axel: I did the main narrative for Vol. 1. I'm not so much of a record collector. You could say I'm mainly collecting stories. Ed is responsible for the discographical parts and the administration and organization of our archives. Antonio is a great researcher and will contribute both to the narrative and the discographical sections in the future.
Antonio: With a third resource in the team (namely myself) we managed to balance the tasks among ourselves so that we could meet the deadline for the book release in a less stressful way! I conducted interviews with a few Apple-related people, researched and wrote about some topics and provided several records (including a few rarities) from my collection.
EC: Was the original scope of the book to be multi-volumes? What is your time frame, about 2 years for each book?
Axel: Initially the book was written in German and it was meant to be one book only. Ed made it clear though that it would be silly to write this in German. So he translated everything I had written so far into English. Mind you, he's Dutch. So translating a German book into English must have been a tremendous task for him, but he did an excellent job. It was only after a couple of months when we realized that there's no way to get all information into one book. Plus, we wanted to release what we had so far. So it became clear that it would have to be a multi-volume series. As for the time frame, honestly, I don't know. I wish I could say there'd be a book every two years. But we weren't able to do that much writing since releasing Vol. 1 back in April. I think about 80 pages are written by now.
Antonio: By the time that I joined the project it was evident that there would have been a multi-tome book. The original intention was to have mostly text with some pictures here and there, but, when it became clear that the book would not only be an Apple history, but also an Apple discography, the multi-volume concept materialized by itself! 2 or three years per volume might be a reasonable target. Don’t forget that from 1969 onwards the Beatles members had more and more solo projects and more artists joined Apple Records and Apple Publishing/Music.
EC: When was the decision made to make the book all colour?
Axel: I wanted it to be in color from the beginning. Even before Ed joined me on this journey.
Antonio: I would never conceive a discography with black/white pictures. The splendid books by Bruce Spizer led the way on what collectors really expect from discography books! Moreover, a black/white book would have not make justice to the colourful world of the late Sixties.
EC: Tell me about that FAB cover art? How did the cover come about? Will there be theme for each book?
Axel: Actually, we've received quite a lot of email from various people congratulating us on the great artwork. A nice gentleman called Ronnie has approached us and has kindly offered his services. We were very impressed by various Beatles themed artworks he did and so we didn't hesitate a second welcoming him in our little team. First we thought of having a Fool pastiche on the cover and Ronnie actually did a great draft of it. But how could we take on that theme for the next books? No way. So we finally decided on having an Apple building on each book. So it's a still scaffolded 94 Baker Street on Vol. 1 which is quite significant considering that Apple was just being built then. We'll have 3 Savile Row on the next cover of course and later on 54 St. James Street and possibly a picture of one of Apple's US offices. So far I haven't seen a photograph of either 1700 Broadway or 1370 Avenue of The Americas, both New York City, but I'm sure there must be some pictures in existence. Please get in touch with us if you have any pictures of those buildings!
(Editor's note: Yes, the "Ronnie" in question is me! There will soon be a downloadable version, suitable for framing at 18" x 24"; but it will have a little twist, with additional images not found on the original book cover!)
EC: Did you get any feedback from Apple about the book?
Axel: No. I've written a letter to Apple very early into this project but they've never bothered to reply. I'm not even sure whether Jeff Jones is aware of our project.
Antonio: Apple is too busy to give Apple aficionados what we do (not) really want!
Axel: Yes, I understand there will be new fridge magnets and coffee mugs. Haha.
Right: An advertisement for the actual Magical Mystery Tour that Apple took on the road between 24 and 25, August, 1968.
EC: I was really surprised by the amount of documentation that you showed, contracts, royalty statements, etc. With the general consensus that Apple was an "organizational nightmare", you would figure that there wouldn't be many documents available. Were these hard to track down?
Axel: No, not all. You're right when you say that Apple was an “organizational nightmare”. I think from the very beginning of Apple documents were taken away by certain people. That's why you find that many contracts and stuff in the hands of private collectors nowadays. Do you know where those royalty statements come from? Someone found them in Apple's garbage can! They were all torn but later carefully repaired with sticky tape. What we have is great and we're most gracious to everybody who has contributed documents. It's only that we would have liked to show – and read for that matter – even more documents, contracts, studio logs etc. I think it's all out there. So, dear collectors, please get in touch with us!
Antonio: Since Apple was not the source for any of the documents in our Volume 1, we have been very lucky to have encountered so many collectors, each one with an invaluable set of documents from disparate sources, and we hope to find more and more in the months/years to come.
EC: It was fascinating to read the story of Apple Publishing, since that is a normally ignored part of the Apple story. Do you think that if Apple Records and Apple Publishing had been launched at the same time that some of the bands such as Grapefruit and Focal Point would have been bigger?
Axel: No, I don't think they would have been bigger. Just because a certain record was on Apple doesn't mean it was successful. Quite contrary in fact. Take Jackie Lomax's records for instance. They're fantastic but no-one bothered to buy Sour Milk Sea or his LP back then. For sure, Focal Point's single for instance would be more remembered today had it been on Apple but I don't think acts like them or Fire or Denis Couldry or whoever would have been bigger. A shame since they did such great records. Grapefruit were fairly successful in Europe though but that's rather due to their management by NEMS.
Antonio: What Apple was really lacking in was artist promotion. James Taylor might have exploded while signed by Apple and made his next 2 successful LPs with Apple, not Warner Bros. Of course, the Beatles and their inner staff had been used to the automatic success of each new Beatles product, so they did not bother to do promotion for Apple artists in a more intense and professional way.
EC: What was the biggest "surprise" that you uncovered during your research?
Axel: Apple Publishing keeps surprising me to this day. Such a variety of musical styles and so many records to uncover. I would have never guessed to uncover so many groups associated with Apple! I've certainly never heard about The New Inspiration, a group from Belgium, prior to writing this book. It was also surprising to find out that Apple administered other publishers for some time and did some cooperation with Beacon Records. Who would have guessed that? I also like those “would be, could be” stories very much. Before becoming aware of Mary Hopkin Paul McCartney intended to sign a Dutch singer, Bojoura, as Apple Records' female singer. She could have sung Those Were The Days! There are really a lot of surprises in this book.
Antonio: I think that the 1968 Iveys Christmas acetate was quite a finding! It was a unique piece once owned by their manager Bill Collins. We decided to distribute this recording for free on a green flexi disc (in the tradition of the Beatles Christmas flexi discs) to those who ordered Volume 1 within 31 December 2014.
EC: How did you go about tracking down and contacting all the people with ties to Apple? Other than Mary Hopkin, where there any others that declined to be interviewed?
Axel: I think we got in touch with most people just by finding them on the Internet. Most were happy to share their memories, especially since quite a few of them have never told their stories before. That was very nice. I don't want to mention any names but there were also a couple of people who ignored our inquiries or lost interest once we produced their questions. That's a shame but we respect their decisions of course.
Antonio: Of course, the closer we got to the Beatles’ inner circle, the fewer responses we received. But many of the people that agreed to tell their own stories were so caught up that they also started contacting other people in order provide us with missing bits of info or pictures or more contacts or even recordings.
EC: I wish you had interviewed Alexis Mardas (a.k.a. "Magic Alex") as that would have been a really interesting interview. Were you not able to contact him?
Axel: Oh yes, we would have loved to talk with Alexis. In fact, we've tracked him down in Athens and we have sent a nice letter but unfortunately we have never heard back from him. I think we only know half the truth about him and his inventions. It would have been important to rectify a couple of things. When you read articles about him from the late Sixties there's not a word about flying saucers and stuff. Also, unprejudiced people like Stephen Maltz describe his actual inventions and what Apple made out of them: nothing. So it would have been fascinating to get Alexis' insight as well.
Antonio: As already said, Alexis was one of the Beatles’ inner circle, so we were not expecting to hear back from him. Moreover, his story had a bitter end, so probably he was not very keen on discussing about it.
Axel: Alex, if you happen to read this, please get in touch with us. We certainly don't want to drag you in the mud as other authors do!
Right: Rare photo of John in Hyde Park, May 1967 © Konrad Wodausch
EC: Have you any intentions of printing the full transcripts of those that you did interview?
Axel: We have actually never thought of doing this. I don't know. This could be included in the Compendium we will release after the last volume. I don't think so though.
Antonio: Not sure what to do with them. Some of the interviews are Q&A’s exchanged via email, but some more are Skype interviews lasting up to 2 hours, which means dozens of pages. Of course, we extracted/will extract all the juicy bits from them to have them added to our work, and we do not see any point in printing the full transcripts.
EC: The book was limited to 500 copies worldwide, which have since all sold. Any plans for an e-book version like Bruce Spicer has done for his out of print Beatles books?
Axel: Antonio is very keen on that idea. Personally, I don't like e-books very much. What I would rather have is a text-only version of the narrative with only the most fascinating pictures and documents once we're through with the last book. This would also be great opportunity to add new information. For instance, the guys from Focal Point all got in touch with us after Vol. 1 was finished. Another possibility would be crowd funding a reprint of Vol. 1. I'm not sure if there would be enough people interested though.
Antonio: We expect to have more subscribers to Volume 2, so we will have to face the problem of making Volume 1 accessible to them in one way or another. E-book, softbound copy or even an unnumbered/unsigned hardbound copy are viable options that are under discussion.
EC: You included the Jackie Lomax 7" vinyl and the Badfinger Christmas flexi with the book - will future editions contain such "bonuses"?
Axel: Yes! It's our aim to have some vinyl with every book. The next one will probably include an EP. I don't want to get too much into detail now. Also, I'd like to mention that we intend to bridge the gap until the next volume comes out with some smaller projects. Ed has nearly finished another book and we're currently in discussion with someone who was very near the Beatles about releasing his autobiography on Apcor Books. There might another two or three books coming up as well. So keep looking at www.aisforapplebook.com for the latest news or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive our newsletter. Thanks!
Antonio: Great, Axel! You said it all! A splendid time is guaranteed for all!