The artistic and musical revolution of the sixties, underscored by a healthy grounding in Rock and Roll was a movement more than a fashion.
The majority of the world chose one act above all to use as the yardstick and waited like hungry dogs for every offering, that was of course The Beatles. Largely through them, music and fashion became influenced by their connection with India. There was a genuine feel of things being a little more ethereal with barriers of conventional pop music being broken and re-developed. There was a tangible air of excitement and expectancy at the rapid changes and who wouldn't want to be a part of that? The music scene was vibrant.
Earlier, in 1964, The Beatles made their first visit to the USA. They were asked at the airport press conference what was it that made them so popular? John Lennon replied "If we knew that, we'd all become managers, have groups of our own, and and be rich".
Little did he know how prophetic a statement that was.
It is pertinent to note here that his apparent viewpoint that managers were the ones who gained more financially than the group, was probably based on the fact that, The Beatles were paid 50 quid a week in cash each. Brian Epstein paid himself One Thousand Pounds per week. Moreover, at one time he tried to get them to sign a contract whereby he guaranteed them 50 pounds a week each for life and he got the rest! Things were mighty different in those days folks.
THE BEATLES AND APPLE
WERE THEY THE KISS OF DEATH?
BULLS HEAD BOB, A ROAD STORY
Can you imagine, during the years of the late 6o's some guy drops into your dressing room after a gig or you get a phone call from someone at Apple saying that they were interested in recording your band?? Without a doubt, you would have been thrilled 'to the core' to think that we would have been joining what was the newest and trendiest, organisation run by The Beatles themselves. It would be a reasonable assumption too, to think that because of being recruited into their company, some of that golden touch would rub off on you. Things were going to change for you in a heartbeat and you would be propelled into stardom, wearing the greatest clothes, mixing with all the groovy people, playing all the great venues, drinking at The Scotch of St James, travel, America, lots of money - the list is endless.
In 1968 my band were playing at Alton Towers before it became a thrill seekers playground. There were usually 3 or sometimes 4 groups playing on Saturday nights and we were on the same bill as Grapefruit, the second band to be signed to Apple. They were given their name by John Lennon (taken from Yoko Ono's book). They had a self penned single climbing into the lower part of the charts with "My Delilah" a record soaked in psychedelic 'phasing'. It was flashing lights and mini skirted dancers. It was trippy and 'of it's time'.
It was given a massive amount of publicity and The Beatles, The Stones, Hendrix and others had all been at the single's launch party. I had known a couple of the guys in the band from the circuit when they were members of the great Tony Rivers and The Castaways so was looking forward to saying hello again..
Grapefruit pulled up at Alton Towers in their psychedelicaly painted car, I seem to remember it was a Rover 3 Litre. They were dressed in the latest of clothes and really looked 'the biz'.
We and Grapefruit shared a dressing room and whilst I congratulated the guys on their success, they introduced me to someone in their company. He was in fact Terry Doran, the new manager of Grapefruit, close friend of Brian Epstein and The Beatles and was now firmly in the employ of Apple as the first head of Apple Music publishing and he had signed the first two bands, Grapefruit being the second. At this stage the Apple label itself had not been launched and the band released their single on RCA Victor.
We did our set and as we came off stage, Grapefruit went on but Terry remained in the dressing room. He complimented me on my playing and we got chatting again, having a laugh and a cigarette, whilst I packed away my sweaty stage clothes. Then something very strange happened, he said "You gonna buy me a pint then?", once again in an abrupt manner, I was taken aback and started stumbling over my words, "Or do you want a free pint?....come with me". We walked out of the dressing room, down a corridor and I found myself, along with Terry at a doorway to the back of the enormous bar that ran the length of the Alton Towers Ballroom. He spoke to one of the bar staff for a couple of minutes, I saw her look kind of quizzically at him but then she picked up a bucket and walked along the serving area of the bar emptying the full drip trays from the beer pumps into the bucket, he gave me a wink as he picked up two glasses and we walked back to the dressing room with our bucket of mixed beers.
The story is not so remarkable really but it gave me the idea that things at Apple couldn't be all that rosy, financially. We had a laugh though and, later, he gave me his phone number said "Look, come down to London and give me a call, OK?", he only meant me - not the band - and that seemed like a scary proposition for one so young, fragile and susceptible to dangerous pursuits as I. He didn't seem like a Manager, he was just a likeable scouser, a bit rogueish.
On the drive back to Brum I kept thinking to myself that maybe I should take a chance and do it but after a conversation with another member of the group a week or so later, I made the decision that my future was still with them.
The idea of maybe being placed into another band also crossed my mind as being something I wouldn't have liked to happen.
Grapefruit had some minor success with their third release, a cover of the Four Seasons 'C'mon Marianne" then kind of disappeared into oblivion. I read recently that they had been offered "Across the Universe" by John Lennon but had turned it down because they were fed up being labelled as The Beatles group. Now that was probably a huge error of judgement on their part. Later that same year, Terry Doran actually got Grapefruit out of their Apple contract because he thought the company wasn't doing enough for them! Evidence enough to show an incompetent approach and lack of concern for Apple signings.
This personal experience made me look a little more closely at the 'stable' of artists who thought they would get fame with Apple. Apart from the Grannies favourite of the day, Mary Hopkin, no act ever gained any advantage or practically no success from their association with The Beatles/Apple, including James Taylor. If anything, the majority of those acts suffered very short existences and passed on. In actuality Apple was a disaster, dressed in fancy clothes and smoke fuelled, chic hyperbole. It never did anything other than give the Beatles a new toy to play with for a while. What was slightly painful was the insincerity of all that launch bullshit with Lennon saying that groups "Wouldn't have to go down on their knees to beg for a chance any longer" and he out of all of them did nothing except record himself and Yoko. Groups who sent in demo's were never given a chance by Apple, it was just some mates playing Managers with their 'discoveries' found on the old boy net.
I kept the telephone number for a while but never made the call to Terry Doran. In hindsight it was probably a wise move, although sometimes I think I should have gone for it. Doran worked with George Harrison up until the beginning of the 80's and was last seen working once again, as a car salesman in London. I liked the man and was glad to have had some time in his company.
BADFINGER - THE NIGHTMARE
I won't go through the list of Apple acts but one suffered more than any other group and that was Badfinger (formerly The Iveys). They had been signed to Apple by Mal Evans, one of The Beatles road managers, as The Iveys and had released their first single with Apple "Maybe Tomorrow'. They were then given the new name 'Badfinger', and a McCartney written and produced song to re-launch them in their new identity and that was "Come and Get it", a brilliant song by any standard and one that I would have liked to have heard The Beatles do themselves. They were living the dream for a while but were so inextricably linked with The Beatles and Apple that when it all started to blow apart, Badfingers trip into hell commenced. From then on their story was one of horrifying events. I just can't imagine how difficult it must have been for them to continue to exist. Fame without the fortune is a hard cross to bear and this band paid the ultimate price.
I really recommend that all bands should watch the Story of Badfinger before they ever think about signing ANYTHING with anyone.. If you think you were ever treated badly by a shit manager, agent, promoter or record company watch this!
This should be be on some Universities curriculum as obligatory viewing.
Click Here: THE STORY OF BADFINGER
Although out of context geographically for this Birmingham associated blog, I really feel that it wouldn't be right to let the passing of this exceptional musician go by without a mention. Levon Helm, drummer and vocalist for The Band died last month from cancer. I felt sad for a couple of days and played The Band music throughout, whisking me back to the Brumbeat days playing 'Long Black Veil' in our act for a while. The Band were the tightest group you would ever have seen with four lead vocalists, all as good as each other but for me, Helm's voice smacked with the twang of the deep south of America, real porch stuff, he gave The Band authenticity to the basic down-home approach to their songs liberally laced with clever historic references.
His vocals and tight drumming are just so good on 'Cripple Creek'.
If you have some time, put on their second LP, 'The Band' turned up to a nice volume level, sit back and just listen to the sublime quality of the recording, fantastic, tight and effective drum patterns
matched with imaginative songs and a peerless musical performance from every member of that group.
If that's not enough please do watch The Band DVD "The Last Waltz", very entertaining.
Robbie Robertson broke that band up by saying he could never tour again, he was burned out, the road had broken him. The Band broke up and Robbie Robertson went straight back out - on his own. Another story of ego fuelled deceit, how well I know that scenario. There is a Brumbeat connection though and that is that Spooky Tooth went on to have their first recording success with a cover of 'The Weight'.
WANTED: BARRY CIVIL
Are you, or do you know Barry Civil, once a member of 'Extreem' and reportedly still playing locally?
Please contact me at bobsbullocks@Gmail.com if you are Barry Civil or have any information.
Great news indeed, Steve Winwood back on the road playing a few concerts.
Sadly he only played one UK date at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival on 2 May with the rest of his tour being in the States. Shame....
It's Olympics fever in the boozer and I and thought I'd share with you some hot poop from the gang.
|Sue and Biff "Is that a canoe in your pocket?"|
I bet that was Sue Barkers idea, "She's definitely the cutting edge chick with all the wild and crazy grooves cool daddy" said a spokesperson for the Crew. David Beckham was reported to have commented "I fink it wood be grate to av ad im on vu mannur 'nat" (awaiting confirmation and translation).
NORTH OF ENGLAND..... As usual the Great British public are doing everything to create a feeling of welcome to the shores, that is unless you are from the Lake District where they appear to have set traps for them. Either that, or they have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure their visitors have a time to remember!!
So that's it from me and the Gang at the pub, got my rail ticket in hand.....whoo whoo!!
A farewell to Big Eck........."I tried but I failed" - I thought he had a bit of a raw deal from everyone at Villa Park. UTV.