What has it been, two weeks since The Second Disc promised a continuation of our Back Tracks series regarding the Apple Records discography? Regardless of the gap, it’s time to continue our look back. Part 1 covered all the previous reissues of the records that are to be reissued in October. Part 2 will cover all the Apple releases that involve The Beatles; by this, we mean anything that had a Beatle involved by name.* (For the sake of clarity, we’re not including anything actually by The Beatles – most of us already have those releases down pat – nor are we including anything tangentially involving The Fab Four. Those releases are due for Part 3, which will cover the other, perhaps least-known Apple releases.)
Before you dive in, your catalogue correspondent would be a fool not to give serious thanks to reader Phil Cohen for his fountain of Apple knowledge which knows no bottom. Hopefully this will do alright by him – and you. Read on!
* Of course, much of this material had the Apple label only as a matter of convenience and were owned by EMI or others later on. Still, it’s nice to have all this collated somewhere.
George Harrison, Wonderwall Music (Apple, 1968 – reissued 1992)
It’s a record of firsts: first release on Apple Records, first solo effort by a Beatle, first of many Apple soundtracks, first of many Apple releases to chart higher in America than the U.K. (No. 49 in the States, no chart position in England) and first to be deleted from Apple’s catalogue. It wasn’t until 1992, when many of the other entries in the Apple discography were getting pressed onto CD, that this Indian-oriented platter was given its own reissue (with no bonus content to be had).
John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins (Apple, 1968 – reissued Rykodisc, 1997)
The second Apple LP is one of many studio experiments done by John and Yoko. But it’s obviously that cover – with both lovers fully nude – that was the big draw(back); even the CD reissues replicate that original brown wrapper that the LP sleeves had to be carried in. Unreleased by EMI or Capitol upon original release (Track handled distribution in the U.K. while Tetragrammaton handled Stateside distribution – although EMI had no problem pressing it), the wacky set hit the bottom half of the Billboard 200 and boasted an actual song on its Rykodisc reissue (the first official CD release, following years of grey-market reissues and part of the expansion of the Yoko Ono catalogue): “Remember Love,” which Ono released as the B-side to “Give Peace a Chance.”
John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions (Zapple, 1969 – reissued Rykodisc, 1997)
Another batch of experimental recordings, but this one was different for a few reasons. For one, it was more thematic (with experimental live recordings and more descriptive titles, as opposed to the whole whatever’s-on-the-tape-recorder nature of the previous set); for another, it was the premiere release on the Zapple offshoot, intended for avant-garde and spoken-word material. (Zapple never got too far after Allen Klein decided to fold the label.) The Rykodisc reissue added two unreleased recordings from the hospital suite where the second side of the record was recorded.
George Harrison, Electronic Sound (Zapple, 1969 – reissued EMI, 1996)
The second (and last) Zapple release was exactly what it said: two sides of experimental Moog noodling. Nothing spectacular, but it still managed to chart in the U.S. (No. 191!) and was given a straight reissue many years later.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Wedding Album (Apple, 1969 – reissued Rykodisc, 1997)
Another experimental romp through the sonic minds of John and Yoko. It’s two sides of experimental noise, one (“John and Yoko”) dealing simply with the duo’s voices, the other (“Amsterdam”) taken from their honeymoon and bed-in from earlier in the year. Packed as a box set with a bunch of inserts and other goods upon initial release, the Rykodisc reissue added two Plastic Ono Band B-sides and an unreleased Ono demo.
Plastic Ono Band, Live Peace in Toronto 1969 (Apple, 1969 – reissued EMI, 1995)
The first Beatle solo hit record (Top 10 in the U.S.), probably since it’s a straightforward rocker, with Lennon and Ono backed by Eric Clapton, Beatles producer Klaus Voormann on bass and Alan White (who joined Yes several years later) on drums. They surprised the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival with a set that covered mostly classic rock tracks (many of which had been done by The Beatles beforehand) and (predictably) some experimental stuff from Yoko. Like many of Lennon’s remasters, Ono supervised a remix of the record; the original mix is not to be included in the upcoming Lennon reissue set, much to the chagrin of fans.
Ringo Starr, Sentimental Journey (Apple/EMI, 1970 – reissued EMI, 1995)
Ringo’s solo debut was less avant garde than the others thus far, but it wasn’t particularly straightforward. Drawing from the concept of mostly standard songs loved (and even selected) by members of his family, Starr recorded the tunes with an all-star cast of arrangers, including Paul McCartney, George Martin, Maurice Gibb, Elmer Bernstein and Quincy Jones. Cheekily, it was the first solo Beatle success in England. A straight reissued was released in 1995.
Paul McCartney, McCartney (Apple/EMI, 1970 – reissued EMI, 1993)
Completed just a month before The Beatles finally dissolved during the post-production of Let It Be (and released three weeks after Sentimental Journey), Paul’s first LP consisted partially of Beatles leftovers (“Junk,” “Teddy Boy”) but had at least one classic in its midst: the unforgettable love song “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Its reissue included no bonus tracks (possibly because there were no singles anyway). Future reissues, however, could benefit from reproducing something in the packaging: the original press sheet given with promo copies of the album, in which McCartney provided track-by-track annotations and some answers to the many Fab Four-oriented questions spinning about him at the time.
Ringo Starr, Beaucoups of Blues (Apple/EMI, 1970 – reissued EMI, 1995)
The term “Ringo Starr country record” might elicit snickers, but the man is considerably adept at pulling it off, thanks to a crack team of backing musicians (including fiddler Charlie Daniels on guitar and pedal-steel player Pete Drake, who also produced). It was popular enough to get some bonus tracks when reissued; a non-LP B-side (“Coochy Coochy”) and a jam session with the assembled players round out this set.
George Harrison, All Things Must Pass (Apple/EMI, 1970 – reissued EMI, 2001)
Harrison’s proper coming-out as a soloist was a lavish one: three vinyl LPs consisting of many great recordings (some never used by The Beatles) and jam sessions with famous friends (all The Beatles except Paul, Peter Frampton, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Phil Collins and Badfinger). A big hit, “My Sweet Lord,” was famously the subject of one of the most vicious copyright lawsuits thanks to its similarity to The Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine.” The reissue, released months before Harrison’s death, spread the set to two CDs, with the “Apple Jam” tracks reorganized and several overdubbed versions, demos and rough mixes added to the first disc. (The cover art was also notably changed from sepia tones to color.)
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (Apple/EMI, 1971 – reissued EMI, 2000/2010)
John’s first solo debut is considered to be one of the finest efforts of a Beatle after The Beatles: stark and primal (a result of Lennon’s adoption of primal therapy with Arthur Janov), addressing his fears and issues with tracks like “Working Class Hero,” “Mother” and the stinging “God.” It’s no wonder the Japanese title of the LP translated to John’s Soul. Remixed by Yoko Ono in 2000, the reissue included non-LP single “Power to the People” and Lennon’s demo of “Do the Oz,” a protest song released by Bill Elliott on an Apple single (following the U.K. obscenity trial over Oz magazine). (The latter track was also previously released, having appeared on The John Lennon Anthology box set two years earlier. The upcoming “Imagine Peace” reissues will feature the original mix but no bonus tracks.
Paul & Linda McCartney, Ram (Apple/EMI, 1971 – reissued EMI, 1993)
This more spirited, experimental album was quite stronger than its predecessor, and it gave Paul a quick U.S. chart-topper with “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” a left-field collage recalling The Beatles’ more experimental leanings. The reissue included a standalone single, “Another Day,” and its B-side “Oh Woman, Oh Why.” (Still unreleased on CD is a dedicated mono mix of the album – just when you thought it was safe to keep a Beatle away from mono…!)
John Lennon, Imagine (Apple/EMI, 1971 – reissued EMI, 2000/2010)
Lennon’s second proper LP had three songs really well-known for various reasons. “Gimme Some Truth” is one of the best straight-up rock tunes Lennon ever did, while “Imagine” is the pretty, oft-overplayed ballad with a slightly cynical streak (you probably know this already, but the lyrics advocate not only the end to war and possession, but religion as well, which did not sit well with many). And then there’s “How Do You Sleep?” – the five-and-a-half minute ass-kicking from Lennon to former partner McCartney. (Though the two later reconciled, the vitriol level was high, to the point that even Ringo, visiting John in the studio, was perturbed.) The 2000 remix featured no bonus tracks, nor will the 2010 reissue of the original LP mix.
Wings – Wild Life (Apple/EMI, 1971 – reissued EMI, 1993)
Though Wings’ first record wasn’t a hit to all – Rolling Stone famously speculated it was “deliberately second-rate” – it was clear that McCartney once again felt at home in a band setting. Paul and Linda, Danny Seiwell (drummer for Ram) and ex-Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine were a pretty well-oiled outfit, crafting a debut relatively quickly (and some non-LP tracks to boot, including singles “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” released as bonus tracks on the reissue along with “Lamb” B-side “Little Woman Love” and outtake “Mama’s Little Girl”).
George Harrison and Friends, The Concert for Bangladesh (Apple/EMI, 1971 – reissued Capitol/Epic (U.K.), 2005)
Recorded live at Madison Square Garden to raise money for those affected by war in Bangladesh at the time, Harrison recruited the usual famous suspects (Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankar) and some other assorted greats (Bob Dylan, Leon Russell) for a wildly effective triple-album (which beat Live Aid by nearly 15 years). Worth seeking out is the reissue (on Capitol in the U.S. and Epic in Europe) which adds an extra Bob Dylan track, as well as the original concert as released on DVD by Rhino in 2002.
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Some Time in New York City (Apple/EMI, 1972 – reissued EMI, 2005/2010)
A deeply confusing, reactionary album, hindered by an unfortunately titled single (“Woman is the Nigger of the World”) and quite a few other politicized cuts, Some Time in New York City is possibly the least-loved of all Lennon’s solo albums. The original vinyl issue has an extra disc of live sides (one recorded in 1969 for a UNICEF concert, the other from a 1971 show at the Fillmore East with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention). The 2005 remix cut three of the Zappa tracks (they were remixed and reissued by Zappa on the 1992 set Playground Psychotics) and added the holiday evergreen single “Happy XMas (War is Over)” b/w “Listen, the Snow is Falling.”
Wings – Red Rose Speedway (Apple/EMI, 1973 – reissued EMI, 1993)
With the addition of guitarist Henry McCullough and a lengthy tour to hone their chops, Wings’ sophomore record was a bit better put together, with the Top 5 hit “My Love” leading the charge. Like the last album (and most of The Beatles’ LPs for that matter), the singles were standalone cuts and only added to CD later on (in this case, non-album single sides “Hi Hi Hi” and “C Moon,” a live cut of “The Mess” which backed the “My Love” single and “I Lie Around,” the B-side to Wings’ smash “Live and Let Die”).
George Harrison, Living in the Material World (Apple/EMI, 1973 – reissued EMI, 2006)
Harrison’s latest album was highly anticipated, after both All Things Must Pass and The Concert for Bangladesh let him transfer from the sleeper hit member of The Beatles to something more overt and successful. But Material saw Harrison in a more serious mood, feeling distress about the world he lived in (thanks in part to some ongoing legal cases involving The Fab Four, causing reflection on tunes like “Sue Me, Sue You Blues” and the title track). As a result, the sales cooled quicker than Harrison’s previous efforts did. A posthumous reissue added two B-sides from the era and a DVD of rare and unreleased live footage.
John Lennon, Mind Games (Apple/EMI, 1973 – reissued EMI, 2002/2010)
Mind Games is warmer than its political predecessor, but unusual in that it’s Lennon’s first “lost weekend” album, recorded when he and Ono split up and – with Ono’s approval – he entered an 18-month relationship with his assistant May Pang. Perhaps it is not as essential as the other LPs in Lennon’s catalogue, compared to its successor Walls and Bridges. The reissue included three unreleased demos.
Ringo Starr, Ringo (Apple/EMI, 1973 – reissued EMI, 1991)
Somehow, Ringo managed to do some of the most intriguing work after The Beatles split up. This album – his first in three years after pursuing acting more closely – saw Starr rounding up some famous friends (a familiar motif to him for years to come; this album included the talents of Levon Helm, Steve Cropper, Harry Nilsson, Marc Bolan, Stephen Stills, Martha Reeves and all of The Beatles). What’s more, two singles – “Photograph” and a cover of the classic, Sherman Brothers-penned “You’re Sixteen” – topped the U.S. charts. Bonus tracks included a non-LP single from a few years prior (“It Don’t Come Easy” b/w “Early 1970”) and “Down and Out,” which backed the “Photograph” single.
Wings – Band on the Run (Apple/EMI, 1973 – reissued EMI, 1993/1999 and Concord, 2010)
Band on the Run, on paper, could have been a flop: recorded in a less-than-state-of-the-art studio in Nigeria after two-thirds of the band quit (McCullough and Seiwell) and released to great reviews but little commercial movement. Then “Jet” took off (bad pun), people sat up and took notice and the rest is history. The record may be as close to perfection as any of The Beatles got after breaking up. Reissued in 1993 with non-album single “Helen Wheels” (actually a part of the U.S. track list) and B-side “Country Dreamer,” the second disc of the 25th anniversary remaster was a cheeky assortment of live cuts, alternate takes and interviews with key personnel from the recording of the album. Fans eagerly await something – anything – regarding the forthcoming new reissue from Concord, the new home to Paul’s back catalogue.
John Lennon, Walls and Bridges (Apple/EMI, 1974 – reissued EMI, 2005/2010)
The better of the “Lost Weekend” albums thanks to rejuvenations both personal (a reconciliation with son Julian) and professional (work with Elton John yielded chart-topper “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night,” Lennon’s only U.S. No. 1), Walls and Bridges is a satisfactory affair. It even has more than a few passing references to his former musical brethren on cuts like “Beef Jerky” and “Surprise Surprise.” The remix included a live track with Elton John (the others were released by John himself), an alternate take and an interview snippet.
Ringo Starr, Goodnight Vienna (Apple/EMI, 1975 – reissued EMI, 1992)
A less-successful repeat of the Ringo formula, the LP was still alright, with a cover (The Platters’ “Only You (And You Alone)”) and a decent original hit (“No No Song”). Bonus tracks included another non-LP single (“Back Off Boogaloo” b/w “Blindman”) and an extended version of “Six O’Clock” from the previous record’s 8-track release. Perhaps the album, mixed for quadraphonic listeners, could get such a reissue in the future.
George Harrison, Dark Horse (Apple/EMI, 1975 – reissued EMI, 1992)
Recorded after losing wife Pattie Boyd to Eric Clapton (she was the subject of Clapton’s “Layla” and “Wonderful Tonight”) and prepping a new label of the same name to begin once he left Apple, Dark Horse is raw, and unintentionally so, as Harrison developed laryngitis during the recording process (and had it through the subsequent, disastrous American tour). It was likely the least received of any of Harrison’s albums.
John Lennon, Rock ‘n’ Roll (Apple/EMI, 1975 – reissued EMI, 2004/2010)
Lennon covers the great rock songs of the ’50s. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Two years in the making (its beginnings actually precede Walls and Bridges), the record was thwarted by several bizarre happenings. Producer Phil Spector stole the master tapes from Lennon and only gave them back to Capitol after being injured in a car accident. Then the album’s release was sabotaged by Morris Levy, founder of Roulette Records; Levy had an ongoing lawsuit with Lennon over “Come Together” and its similarity to a Chuck Berry song which Levy owned the publishing rights to. Several botched attempts to smooth things over (peaking with Lennon considering – but deciding against – releasing the record on Levy’s Adam VIII mail-order label) led to Levy’s releasing of rough mixes of the sessions as a full album, cutting into eventual sales of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Remixed by Ono in 2004, it featured four outtakes from the Spector sessions (more had been released on other posthumous Lennon compilations).
George Harrison, Extra Texture (Read All About It) (Apple/EMI, 1975 – reissued EMI, 1992)
Extra Texture was a bit of an oddity, after the relative lack of success of Dark Horse. Harrison was ready to jettison the collapsing Apple label for his own (Dark Horse Records), and quickly cut together this final album for not only himself on the label, but the label itself (two compilations followed). Highlights include “You,” a Top 20 hit intended for Ronnie Spector (and the oldest song in this set, having been recorded some four years prior) and “Ooh Baby (You Know That I Love You),” a fine tribute to Smokey Robinson’s musical style. The 1992 reissue offered no extras.
John Lennon, Shaved Fish (Apple/EMI, 1975 – reissued EMI, 1990)
A compilation of nearly all Lennon’s singles up to that point, it’s been out of print for two decades and has been more or less outmoded by newer compilations. At the time, though, it was vital for its premieres of some singles on a full album (“Instant Karma!” “Happy XMas” – now crossfaded with part of a live performance of “Give Peace a Chance”). Lennon would more or less retire from music after this release, taking care of his family until 1980, when he began a new record (Double Fantasy) that inadvertently became a memorial to his too-short life.
Ringo Starr, Blast from Your Past (Apple/EMI, 1975 – reissued EMI, 1987)
This Ringo singles set (which featured a B-side and a few album cuts) was the last LP on the Apple label before it folded (Starr would sign with Atlantic/Polydor). It was given a CD release in the late 1980s, but all of its tracks are easily obtainable elsewhere.