Elsewhere on this site it was recently mentioned that ‘bootleg’ Beatles recordings are being made available on iTunes, ostensibly in an attempt to circumvent copyright expiration as well as cash in on the Christmas buying season.
The Beatles and Christmas presents have been associated for some time. Many of their classic EMI/Capitol albums were planned holiday season releases: With The Beatles (1963), Beatles For Sale (1964), Rubber Soul (1965), Magical Mystery Tour (1967), and The Beatles (‘White Album,’ 1968), as well as their yearly ‘fan club’ releases. This pattern continued even after their break up, with individual members’ releases such as 1970’s All Things Must Pass and John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, and Paul McCartney and Wings’ Band On The Run (1973) and Wings Over America (1976), and the trend has continued over the past 50 years, with re-releases on new formatting, and band-related compilations Beatles Box Set (1988), Live at the BBC (1994), Anthology 1 (1995), 1 (2000), Live at the BBC Volume 2 (2013). So, The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963 is met with the virtually the same reception by Beatlemaniacs as Catholics receive the Pope’s Christmas Mass.
However, for that discriminating Beatlemaniac who wants to find a gift somewhat or more out of the ordinary, there would be few better sources than to simply watch Strange Fruit: The Beatles’ Apple Records (2012), which is available on demand via FilmOn. The film itself is fascinating and great entertainment for a long holiday: one feels that its over 2 ½ hour length merely skims the surface of the drama that was the Apple Records heyday (approximately 1968-1973).
The artist roster from the beginning was dominated by the Beatles’ projects, both as a group and individuals, and other artists’ involvement was almost always contingent upon approval by at least one of the Fab Four. Later, the ruthless budget-cutting tactics of Allen Klein would further constrict proceedings.
However, the utopian vision initially broadcast to the world by John and Paul on a Chinese junk in New York harbor after their return from India in 1968 briefly pulled back the cynical veil of the music industry to allow for a burst of utopian euphoria that shines on even in the fractional amount that has been captured on record and in visual documents such as this.
For Llewyn Davis fans, Mary Hopkin is an immediate draw, notably her 1970 album Earth Song, Ocean Song, produced by her husband and Marc Bolan and David Bowie-producer Tony Visconti, and conjuring Sandy Denny and a female Nick Drake. That she would go on to sing with Sparks, Bowie on Low (1977) and Vangelis on the Blade Runner (1982) soundtrack is something the curious will soon discover. Others among a plethora of gems are the Iveys/Badfinger, Apple’s (initially) Welsh musical courtiers and oft-considered the first purveyors of ‘Power-pop’; a young but already wizened James Taylor, who cut his first self-titled record for Apple in 1969; ‘5th Beatles’ That’s The Way God Planned It album (1969) and Elephant’s Memory, the band that had been downtown New York’s best live draw from the Midnight Cowboy (1969) filming through John Lennon’s championing and star-crossed leadership during his politicized first years in Manhattan.
Watch the oldies on Vintage Music TV via FilmOn:
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