Two Lennon Books, and an Apple CD

With COVID-19 restrictions now easing quite a bit in most parts of Australia (sadly still not for our friends in Melbourne, Victoria – we’re thinking of you guys!), some of the previously closed opportunity shops around Sydney are re-opening and getting back to normal.

One near us that’s been completely closed for at least six months has suddenly opened its doors once again, and so a forage there over the weekend turned up a couple of interesting items.

With what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday looming large this coming Friday, it was a coincidence that all three of the finds where Lennon-related.

They are two books, We All Shine On – The Stories Behind Every John Lennon Song, 1970-1980 and John Lennon – In My Life.

We All Shine On – The Stories Behind Every John Lennon Song, 1970-1980 is by journalist and author Paul Du Noyer.

This is an original Australian edition paperback in a large format, dated 1997. It’s a book that’s been published and re-published numerous times over the years. According to Du Noyer’s website, the latest version is from 2020. The book is also available in German, Spanish, Italian and Czech language editions.

The title says it all: it is the track-by-track story of John Lennon’s last ten years, revealed through the music he made.

In fact we already had a revised and updated UK edition of this same title (in a small paperback format from 2010), but this earlier edition has a slightly different layout. Here are some images of what’s inside:

The second book is quite a fascinating account from former Lennon friend and personal assistant, Pete Shotton (as told to Nicholas Schaffner):

Pete Shotton’s friendship with John Lennon spanned more than thirty years, from the time they met as children in Liverpool to their last meeting in John’s Dakota apartment building in New York. They grew up together in the leafy Liverpool suburb of Woolton and Pete stayed close right through his friend’s rise to fame, wealth and stardom – not as a hanger-on, but as a trusted buddy or mate whom Lennon valued. He was someone who knew Lennon well and didn’t treat him like a star.

Nicholas Schaffner is an author and acknowledged Beatle expert – probably best known for his book The Beatles Forever. In this book Shotton and Schaffner reveal an insider’s view of many of the key public events in Beatle history, but also the private life of John Lennon throughout his career.

As you can see, the text is accompanied by many photographs and documents to help tell the story. This book is well worth seeking out if you haven’t got it already. It was first published in 1983. Here’s the rear cover (and yes, it’s a reverse image of the front):

Also in amongst the CD’s at the opportunity shop was this Apple recording. The photos are ‘as-found’ as they tell a bit of a story in themselves:

This is John Tavener’s The Whale. Tavener was a young classical composer signed to The Beatles’ Apple label in 1969. And it was John Lennon who was influential in making that happen. From the CD booklet:

“Although it was Ringo Starr who became Tavener’s main contact at Apple and who was responsible for getting The Whale onto disc, it was in fact Lennon – contrary to stories elsewhere – who took the first initiative and provided the composer with an introduction to the company. [They] first met in 1969, at a dinner party in London’s Hereford Square, and they marked the occasion by swapping tapes of their latest works. Lennon brought along his avant-garde experiments with Yoko Ono, whilst Tavener played extracts from his opera Notre Dame Des Fleurs, and the BBC recording of The Whale. On the strength of the opera, Lennon invited Tavener to join Apple, although it was The Whale which eventually sufaced on the label.”

The Whale is based on the the story of Jonah and the Whale, and has been described as both a ‘dramatic cantata’ and a ‘Biblical fantasy’. It is performed by the London Sinfonietta and the London Sinfonietta Chorus, conducted by David Atherton. It was recorded in 1970. This CD edition though came out as part of the Apple Records re-issue program in 1991/1992.

It’s interesting to note that the original purchaser of this disc (her name and address is on a sticker on the back) paid $46.99 Australian for it at the time! That’s US$33.74 by today’s exchange rate, or £26 UK pounds. That’s a lot of money – even today. It would have been a huge amount in 1992. The record store JB Hi Fi (it’s a big Australian music chain store) has put a “JB Hi Fi Special Import Sticker” on the spine of the jewel case.

(As usual, click on any of the images to see larger versions)

Two More Apple Vinyl Re-Issues for the Collection

In our last post we featured a new series of books being prepared called A is for Apple, a history of the Beatles’ Apple Corps company. Volume 1 in the series will be released in the first half of next year.

Apple Corps was established not only to release the Beatles own records but also to promote new talent – to build a stable of newer and undiscovered artists. In the late 1960s and early 1970s they signed and released a series of albums and singles by a wide range of performers.

In 2010 Apple re-issued a selection of those artists on CD.

But well before that (between 1991 and 1996) they had a similar re-issue program under way – releasing on CD and vinyl a selection of the artists signed to Apple. There were 23 titles in all, re-issued in five main phases over the course of five years.

We’ve slowly been collecting examples of these re-issues on vinyl – the reason being that most of them (but not all) came with unique, additional discs on the Apple label containing bonus material, previously unreleased tracks, etc.

You can see some examples of these here (e.g. Jackie Lomax’s Is This What You Want?; The Ivey’s Maybe Tomorrow; Badfinger’s No Dice and Straight Up; and Billy Preston’s Encouraging Words), and also here (Badfinger’s Magic Christian Music). 

We’ve just added two more to the collection. They are John Tavener’s The Whale, and Billy Preston’s That’s the Way God Planned It.

The Whale frontThe Whale rear

The Whale was re-issued on vinyl in June, 1992. Like the original 1970 release it comes in a beautiful gatefold cover which opens to reveal a fantastic painting (click image to see a larger version):The Whale gatefoldThe Whale does not come with any bonus material and so it is a single LP disc. The labels look like this:

The Whale Label AThe Whale label B

Unlike the original release though this 1992 re-issue comes with an inner sleeve containing an article about the recording and how a modern classical composer like Tavener came to be signed to Apple. It is by Andy Davis (from Record Collector magazine). On the other side is some detail about the re-issue:

The Whale inner aThe Whale inner b

Our other recent find was a copy of Billy Preston’s That’s The Way God Planned It, which was reissued on vinyl in 1991: Preston God coverPreston God rear

Unlike the original 1969 release this one comes in a gatefold cover. That’s so that the cover can hold a second vinyl record with the three bonus tracks (click image to see a larger version of the gatefold image below). As you can see, That’s The Way God Planned It was produced by George HarrisonPreston God gatefoldPreston God Side 1

Preston God Side 2Preston God Bonus APreston God Bonus B

Note that while the bonus tracks come on a 12″ disc, it plays at 45 rpm.

The hunt for other vinyl examples in this 1990s Apple re-issue series continues!

Apple Records – Re-releases Announced

I’ve been away traveling for a while without ready access to a computer and so have missed updating the blog with a significant announcement by Apple about some forthcoming non-Beatles re-releases. So, in case you missed it, here’s a catch-up post.

I’ve been buying records on the Apple label since I was a teenager. They were all Beatles releases of course as at the time that was the extent of my interest and my knowledge of the Beatles record label’s activities. It wasn’t until about fifteen years ago that I realised that alongside their Beatles releases the record label also issued a wealth of other artists, and so I began trying to catch up on these and started to collect the entire Apple catalogue in earnest. I’m still engaged in that quest. There are a lot of original records out there still to track down…..

As one fellow blogger put it “…part of what makes Apple so fun to collect is that the label’s artist roster in the late 60s and early 70s was so varied. Apple covered everything, from the Modern Jazz Quartet, to the folk of Mary Hopkin, to the avant-garde orchestration of John Tavener. The label also released a handful of film soundtracks, and launched the careers of some pretty high-profile artists such as James Taylor and Badfinger.”

Well, when I got back from my travels the other day I found this emailed press release (dated July 6) from Apple Corps Ltd in my inbox:

Badfinger, Billy Preston, Mary Hopkin, James Taylor, and more. Apple Records catalogue remastered and reissued on CD and digital download – Classics Set For Release on October 26th

Launched by The Beatles in 1968, as the new outlet for their own recordings as well as the music of an eclectic roster of artists – James Taylor, Badfinger, Billy Preston, Mary Hopkin, Doris Troy, and Jackie Lomax among them – who were all personally brought to the label by The Beatles (individually and/or collectively), Apple Records made popular music history from the very moment it opened its doors.

Four decades later, Apple Corps Ltd. and EMI Music raise the curtain on remastered CD and digital download releases of 15 key albums from the Apple Records catalog. All 15 titles will be released on October 26th. Most of the physical CDs will include bonus material. Together, the 15 albums represent the first ever Apple Records releases to be available via digital download.

In the revolutionary spirit of 1968, The Beatles’ explosive musical output (characterised by their double-LP White Album) was only exceeded by their fascination with what they saw and heard going on around them. Five years into The Beatles’ reign, Apple Records afforded them the unique opportunity to sign new (and established) artists who appealed to each of them. In turn, the introduction of an artist on The Beatles’ record label was an imprimatur taken very seriously by fans across the universe.

Apple Records’ utopian artist-orientated mission immediately set it apart, as the first operation of its kind in the major-label sphere. Diversity was celebrated, and artists were encouraged to record and release their music in a friendly creative environment. Apple developed a distinctive graphic aesthetic, from its legendary ‘apple-core’ logo to its advertising and merchandising, in the process setting a subtle new benchmark for the industry to follow.

From 1968 to 1973, Apple Records bedazzled the world with a rainbow spectrum of releases – and fans were unusually well-informed about individual involvements of The Beatles with nearly every project. 1968’s self-titled debut album by Boston-based singer-songwriter James Taylor, for example, features Paul McCartney and George Harrison on “Carolina In My Mind”. Paul was instrumental in bringing the Welsh chanteuse Mary Hopkin to Apple, and produced her debut single, “Those Were The Days”. Badfinger, also from Wales, was still known as The Iveys when they recorded “Come And Get It”, written and produced by Paul (for The Magic Christian movie soundtrack).

The Beatles had been fans of Billy Preston ever since seeing him in Little Richard’s band in Hamburg in 1962. George went on to produce and play on Preston’s Apple debut, That’s the Way God Planned It. Harrison was one of the producers and played (along with Ringo Starr) on Doris Troy’s self-titled Apple album. George also produced and played (with Paul and Ringo) on Jackie Lomax’s debut album, Is This What You Want? featuring the Harrison composition, “Sour Milk Sea”.

John was much taken with the music of The Modern Jazz Quartet, who released the only two jazz albums in the Apple catalogue. Ringo was intrigued by the music of contemporary British classical composer John Tavener, and his Apple album, The Whale has become one of the most sought-after Apple collectibles of all time.

Each of the 15 albums in this bumper batch of Apple Records releases has been digitally remastered at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios in London by the same dedicated team of engineers behind The Beatles’ recent remastered catalogue releases of 2009.

For details about the release, visit www.applerecords.com

Many Thanks

thebeatles.com

The releases (15 titles in all) are:

  • James Taylor (1968) by James Taylor
  • Magic Christian Music (1970) by Badfinger
  • No Dice (1970) by Badfinger
  • Straight Up (1972) by Badfinger
  • Ass (1974) by Badfinger
  • Post Card (1969) by Mary Hopkin
  • Earth Song, Ocean Song (1971) by Mary Hopkin
  • That’s The Way God Planned It (1969) by Billy Preston
  • Encouraging  Words (1970) by Billy Preston
  • Doris Troy (1970) by Doris Troy
  • Is This What You Want? (1968) by Jackie Lomax
  • Under The Jasmine Tree (1968), and Space (1969) by the Modern Jazz Quartet (a 2-on-1 CD)
  • The Whale (1970), and Celtic Requiem (1971) by John Tavener (a 2-on-1 CD)

It has to be said that this is not the first time these titles have been re-issued by Apple. There was another major campaign between 1991-1993 when they were all released for the first time on CD. That campaign also saw them released as vinyl LPs, complete with the original artwork and lots of bonus tracks, additional photographs, etc….So, for many collectors it will be a case of having to decide whether or not to get these 2010 releases a second time. What’s new is that they have all been freshly re-mastered by the engineering team at Abbey Road (who did the recent Beatles re-masters), and that they’re to be available as digital downloads for the first time making these re-issues the first Apple product ever available in that form. Can an announcement about the Beatles catalogue being digitally down-loadable be far behind?

To mark that 1991-1993 release campaign Apple Records released this special apple-shaped extended play CD.