TERRY GROSS, host:
In 1968, The Beatles decided to do something no other band had ever done before: take control of their business affairs. Among the things their new company, Apple Corps Limited, would do, would be to run a record label to release The Beatles' own records. But they also hoped it would be a place for worthy young acts to flourish, and to that end, appointed their friend Peter Asher to find some. Thirty-one albums and 52 singles resulted, and Apple has just released "Come and Get It: The Best of Apple Records," collecting some of the singles.
Rock historian Ed Ward has a review.
(Soundbite of song, "Come and Get It")
BADFINGER (Rock Band): (Singing) If you want it, here it is. Come and get it. Make your mind up fast. If you want it anytime, I can give it. But you better hurry, 'cause it may not last. Did I hear you say that there must be a catch? Will you walk away from a fool and his money? If you want it, here it is. Come and get it.
ED WARD: Here's a bit of Beatle trivia for you: The first single on Apple Records was by Frank Sinatra. According to the discography I have, Apple one was "The Lady Is a Champ" and "But Beautiful," pressed on one side. Only one copy supposedly exists, and it's very likely in the hands of the former Maureen Starkey, Ringo's wife at the time. He thought it would make a great birthday present for his wife, and Sinatra agreed. Apple two, though, was, unfortunately, a worldwide smash.
(Soundbite of song, "Those Were the Days")
Ms. MARY HOPKIN (Folksinger): (Singing) Once upon a time there was a tavern, where we used to raise a glass or two. Remember how we laughed away the hours and dreamed of all the great things we would do.
Those were the days, my friend. We thought they'd never end. We'd sing and dance forever and a day. We'd live the life we choose. We'd fight and never lose, for we were young and sure to have our way. La, la, la, la...
WARD: Ingenue folksinger Mary Hopkin was a Paul McCartney discovery, and if Beatles fans were shocked at his producing such a sentimental piece of schlock, they hadn't been paying attention. But sentimentality was in the air, as was obvious from another early single with which McCartney had nothing to do, by a Welsh band called The Iveys.
(Soundbite of song, "Maybe Tomorrow")
THE IVEYS (Rock Band): (Singing) Listen to a lonely sound. See the grey and sadness all around. See the people go their way. Care not of me and love I've lost today.
Maybe tomorrow, I will love again. I'll never know until I've looked into her eyes. Maybe tomorrow...
WARD: The Iveys' "Maybe Tomorrow" was a flop everywhere except Holland, but Apple believed in the band, changed their name to Badfinger and had a huge hit with them a year later with "Come and Get It," written and produced for them by McCartney.
Some of the singles they put out defy logic. Why would The Beatles put out a sound-alike cover version of "Golden Slumbers" and "Carry that Weight" from the "Abbey Road" album by a Scottish band called White Trash - hastily changed to Trash after protests from radio and retailers? At least John Lennon was displaying a sense of humor when he had the company release a cover of "Give Peace a Chance."
(Soundbite of song, "Give Peace a Chance")
HOT CHOCOLATE BAND: (Singing) Everybody talking about this war and that war, who's for and not for the last war, the next war and nuclear is not for, and what for, then love war. Childish, man. Rubbish.
All we are saying is give peace a chance.
WARD: This engagingly weird rewrite was also from a very odd source: The Hot Chocolate Band later became Hot Chocolate and had smash after smash, including the memorable "You Sexy Thing." Another odd release was by veteran Cajun accordionist Lionel Cormier's band The Sundown Playboys, who'd been going at it since 1945.
(Soundbite of song, "Saturday Nite Special")
THE SUNDOWN PLAYBOYS (Cajun Band): (Singing in foreign language)
WARD: The story was that Cormier's teenage son heard that Apple was looking for acts and mailed them a copy of the single, and either George or Ringo decided to release it. It was their label, and they were having fun, so why not?
Well, one reason was that nobody was really looking after the money, and that the recording studio they were building was eating up a lot of it. They were also hiring expensive help: Phil Spector was hired to scout American talent out of Apple's New York office, as well as to ruin what became the "Let It Be" album. There was an upside to this, though, probably the best Apple single that never saw a full album.
(Soundbite of song, "Try Some Buy Some")
Ms. RONNIE SPECTOR: (Singing) Not a thing did I have. Not a thing did I see, till I called on your love and your love came to me.
WARD: At once grandiose and gorgeous, this George Harrison song gets a great production from Phil Spector, not least because the vocalist is his wife Veronica, of The Ronettes.
Apple Records outlived The Beatles as a group, but its best-known releases were albums. They set the pattern for independent and artist-owned labels, and as a few of these singles show, it was more than just an indulgence.
(Soundbite of song "Ain't That Cute")
GROSS: Ed Ward reviewed the new singles compilation "Come and Get It: The Best of Apple Records." It's been released as a stand-alone album, and it's also included in a new Apple Records box set that Ed will be reviewing in an upcoming segment.
(Soundbite of song "Ain't That Cute")
Ms. DORIS TROY: (Singing) Some folks want to be big wheels and stand up ten foot tall...
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