Our First Four – A Very Collectable First Apple Release

One of the reasons I got into this Beatles collecting caper, apart from a love of the music, was that I became fascinated by the band setting up their very own record label – Apple Records.

The Beatles were amongst the first, if not the first, band to do so and (apart from themselves) they signed up an eclectic range of artists to the label.

Their very first releases were marked by the issuing of a limited edition press kit of the first four 45rpm vinyl singles to come out on Apple – which they called “Our First Four”.

In the UK there seems to have been two versions of this.

One was in a stronger, hard plastic outer case. Examples of this version were very limited, and these were hand-delivered to dignitaries like Stanley Gortikov, President of Capitol Records in 1968; to Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace; to her sister Princess Margaret at Kensington Palace; to the Queen Mother at St James’s Palace; and to the then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson at Number 10 Downing Street, London. The plastic box set looked like this:45OurFirstFourUK

The other, lower cost version was posted to radio disc jockeys, music journalists and critics. It was in a cheaper, thin black cardboard box.

Both versions contained four singles: The Beatles “Hey Jude/Revolution” (R 5722); Mary Hopkin “Those Were the Days” (APPLE 2); Jackie Lomax “Sour Milk Sea” (APPLE 3); and The Black Dyke Mills Band “Thingumybob” (APPLE 4).

Each single was accompanied by a press release printed on the outside of a coloured folder containing an artist photo and a plastic sleeve to hold the record.

The reason for this post is that a copy of the cardboard “Our First Four” has just sold on Ebay for an impressive AU$6,199 (that’s US$5,700, or £3,643 UK Pounds).

The price it fetched is testament to it’s rarity. And as it is not often seen (and because the listing had such a good selection of photos of the item – showing in detail how the box worked and what was inside), I couldn’t resist reproducing a selection of them here:off-a2off-boff-coff-doff-fapple1-aapple1-bapple2-aapple2-bapple3-aapple3-bapple4-aapple4-bThe Beatles official site has reproduced a nice press advertisement for “Our First Four”.

In the United States the press kit mailed to DJ’s and music journos was perhaps a little less colourful and extravagant, but its contents were definitely as interesting (and collectable). Respected Beatle writer and discographer Bruce Spizer has a great article on the background to this one:folder-closedOPENFOLD-7-inch

If you had a lazy six grand lying around would you purchase one of these?

Beatles USB Apple – not the First Apple-shaped Product Released….

I’ve always had a fascination with the Beatles and their music. From the very first days of being old enough to buy my own records I’ve had at least some copies of their albums and singles in my collection – mostly vinyl, starting with Sgt Pepper, The White Album, Abbey Road, and Let It Be, plus the odd single here and there.

But the way I got into seriously collecting a wider range of related records, CDs and books was when I became intrigued by their Apple Records label and the eclectic stable of artists they signed up – both the well-known and the more obscure. Its a quest I’m still on. There are some titles and artists out there on Apple Records that I still don’t have…

In launching Apple Records in 1968 the Beatles produced what was then and is now an exceptionally rare promotional box-set of the very first Apple singles called “Our First Four”.  According to Richard DiLello in “The Longest Cocktail Party”, his 1972 memoir about being an Apple Records “house hippie”, this was a presentation box containing the first four 45 rpm vinyl singles from the label. It was “….a box made of plastic, 10 by 12 inches in matte black with a recessed lid carrying the Apple sticker that announced it as Our First Four, 3 Saville Row, W1.” It contained The Beatles “Hey Jude/Revolution” (R 5722), Mary Hopkin – “Those Were the Days” (APPLE 2), Jackie Lomax – “Sour Milk Sea” (APPLE 3), and The Black Dyke Mills Band – “Thingumybob” (APPLE 4).  Richard DiLello again: “There was a single coloured folder containing the biographies and photographs of the artists with the records in a polythene sleeve. The name of the person to whom the box was going was printed on the outside Apple sticker. This was primarily an inter-industry gift presentation package for the benefit of Capitol Records and selected disc jockeys and journalists.” Here’s a website that has a photo of one of these extremely rare boxes – although I’m not sure how authentic it is. DiLello says in his book that one of these boxes was presented to Stanley Gortikov, President of Capitol Records in 1968. Others were hand-delivered to the Queen Mother at St James’s Palace; Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace; Princess Margaret at Kensington Palace; and to British Prime Minister Harold Wilson at Number 10 Downing Street, London.

In 1991, when it came time for Apple to conduct a big re-issue program of all the Apple album releases, they decided to do something similar (but not exactly the same – and certainly not as rare) with a special Limited Edition CD.

The Apple EP

The Apple E.P. (1991) CD

As you can see it’s an official, apple-shaped CD release to mark the re-issuing of the Apple LP catalogue on both CD and vinyl – back in 1991.

When you open the “apple” it looks like this:

Apple EP

The Apple EP opened to reveal the 4-track CD

Inside is a 4-track compact disc with a song each from Mary Hopkin – “Those Were the Days”; Billy Preston – “That’s the Way God Planned It”; Jackie Lomax – “Sour Milk Sea”; and Badfinger – “Come and Get It”. Not exactly the same tracks as Our First Four, but still two tracks written by Beatles (“Sour Milk Sea” by George Harrison and “Come and Get It” by Paul McCartney):

Apple EP - rear cover

The Apple E.P. - rear cover with track details

As well tracks 1 and 4 were produced by Paul McCartney, and tracks 2 and 3 were produced by George Harrison.

OK, so there is no “Hey Jude”/”Revolution”,  but there is still a pretty large Beatle quotient here. And for me its a reminder that the current Beatles USB (containing all the remastered Beatles albums in high quality digital format) is not the first time that Apple has used an apple-shaped object to market product.

Apple EP CD

The artwork for the Apple EP compact disc (1991)

Its also not the first time that Apple has collected together four songs from artists in their stable and released an EP for promotional purposes. In 1969, not that long after Our First Four, they gave permission for the British ice cream company Walls to issue a vinyl EP:

Walls Ice Cream EP

The Walls Ice Cream EP from 1969

Click here for more information on this release.

As for the Apple re-issue program from 1991, I have quite a few of the vinyl LP re-issues from that time (complete with bonus tracks and original and additional artwork) and will post some pictures and info on these in the future.