Vandaag is het vijftig jaar geleden dat Apple, de platenfirma van The Beatles, een eerste groep onder de arm neemt (na The Beatles zelf uiteraard). En men bleef in de fruitsector, want de groep kreeg de naam Grapefruit.
In the summer of 1967, Terry Doran, a longtime friend of Brian Epstein’s and the new managing director of Apple Publishing, signed Scottish-born singer and bass guitarist George Alexander, born Alexander Young, the older brother of the Easybeats’ guitarist/songwriter George Young (and also of Malcolm and Angus Young, both founding members of the Australian hard rock band AC/DC), to a publishing contract. Alexander Young had chosen to remain in Britain when the rest of the Youngs emigrated to Australia and had previously played with The Bobby Patrick Six, with whom he toured Germany in the mid-1960s.
In November 1967, John Perry, a former member of Tony Rivers and the Castaways, pitched some of his songs to Doran at Apple Publishing. Doran rejected the songs but proposed combining Perry and his bandmates Geoff Swettenham and Pete Swettenham with Alexander to form a new group. The band was named Grapefruit by John Lennon after a book written by his future wife, Yoko Ono that was also entitled Grapefruit. Doran became their manager, seeing some commercial potential in them.
Apple promptly licensed Grapefruit’s music publishing rights for the U.S. to a new publishing and recording label being formed by Terry Melcher entitled Equinox. However, since Apple did not have its own record label at the time, Doran arranged for the band’s records to be licensed to RCA Records in the U.K. and to Equinox in the U.S. They were in fact the second band signed to Apple Publishing, following the Liverpool group Focal Point, who were signed by Doran in September 1967, but didn’t even make it to Wikipedia (*).
In addition, The Beatles continued to take an interest in Grapefruit, with John Lennon introducing the band to the media in January 1968 and inviting John Perry to join in on the recording of the hit single “Hey Jude”. As well as Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr of the Beatles, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Donovan and Cilla Black attended the press launch and were photographed with the band.
When Melcher came to the U.K. to sign the publishing deal with Apple, he was persuaded to produce Grapefruit’s inaugural single “Dear Delilah”, which peaked at number 21 in the UK Singles Chart in the spring of 1968. As a follow-up single, Lennon and McCartney took the band into the studio in January 1968 to record the song “Lullaby” (also known as “Lullaby for a Lazy Day” and originally called “Circus Sgt. Pepper”). However, when RCA asked for the follow-up single, the recording (which had been made at Advision Sound Studios in London) was not turned over, as Lennon and McCartney were in India, and Grapefruit instead submitted the songs “Elevator” and “Yes”, which became a two-A-sided single but failed to chart. For a third single, Grapefruit submitted several other new songs, and a cover of The Four Seasons’ “C’mon Marianne” was remixed (at RCA’s request) by Derek Lawrence and reached number 35.
Before the next single could be released, RCA dropped the band in the UK, and the new head of Apple Publishing, Mike O’Connor, released the group from its Apple contracts, (except for the original publishing contract with George Alexander), and Terry Doran (still managing Grapefruit) signed the band directly to Equinox. Terry Melcher then resumed producing Grapefruit, including re-mixing or re-recording earlier songs (for which Apple was willing to supply the tapes), but the Lennon-McCartney version of “Lullaby” was still not released.
In December 1968, Grapefruit added Mick Fowler on organ and released a fourth single, “Someday Soon”, which also failed to chart. Grapefruit then released two albums (Around Grapefruit, 1968, and Deep Water, 1969) with limited success, while their single “Deep Water” did crack the German Top 20 and was also a minor hit in the lowlands.
Grapefruit broke up in late 1969, although Pete Swettenham had left the group earlier in the year and been replaced by Bob Wale on the second album. Toward the end of their career, following the new material being written by Alexander (with some inclusions by Wale), Grapefruit shifted from melodic pop to more of a rock-based sound, referred to as soft rock in a full-page Billboard advertisement for their second album, Deep Water.
After the break-up, Alexander remained the most visible. Alexander joined forces with his brother George Young and his songwriting partner Harry Vanda from The Easybeats and, in 1970, they recorded for the Young Blood label as Paintbox and Tramp. Alexander also participated in sessions for Vanda and Young’s Marcus Hook Roll Band. In 1971, they revived the Grapefruit name, issuing, “Universal Party” / “Sha Sha”, but the single was a one-off release with no follow-up.
In 2016, a 20-song compilation of all of Grapefruit’s recordings for Apple prior to November 1968, entitled Yesterday’s Sunshine, was released by RPM Records. This compilation (with 18 songs written by Alexander, 1 by Perry, plus the cover “C’Mon Marianne”) was the first to include the original version of “Lullaby” that was produced by Lennon and McCartney, as the version released on Around Grapefruit was a later, group-produced version that had been remixed by Melcher, who also added an orchestral arrangement. (Wikipedia)
(*) Als Grapefruit met enige overdrijving de groep van John Lennon kon worden genoemd, dan was Focal Point (niet te verwarren met de latere punkgroep) een groep van Paul McCartney. Op www.allmusic.com lezen we het volgende: “Focal Point released one fair pop-psychedelic single in 1968, Sycamore Sid/Love You Forever. Sycamore Sid was typical of much British rock of the time in its sketch of an eccentric character, played out against a pleasant medium-tempo power pop arrangement combining hard rock guitar riffs, organ, and piano. Love You Forever was an altogether more romantic, dainty piece, like a woozy update of late-’50s/early-’60s teen rock ballads. A few other unreleased Focal Point tracks that have surfaced have similar fey, never-never land textures (indeed one of their songs was called Never Never), albeit with nice mild pop melodies and psychedelic-influenced organ/guitar arrangements. The Liverpool band’s Beatles/Apple connection arose in 1967 when vacationing songwriters Paul Tennant and Dave Rhodes came across Paul McCartney, who was walking his dog in London’s Hyde Park. McCartney actually gave them the name and number of Terry Doran, who was then starting Apple’s music publishing company (Apple had yet to start its record label). After hearing the pair play some songs in his office, Doran was impressed enough to record some demos with the duo, which he played to Brian Epstein and John Lennon. Epstein suggested that the two form a band called Focal Point, and although he died shortly afterward, Tennant and Rhodes did form the group in Liverpool and sign a contract with Apple Publishing. Apple even rented the group a flat in London and gave them access to a recording studio in the Apple office for cutting demos. They got a contact with Deram and recorded their single, but after it made few waves, Apple’s interest in the band seemed to peter out, and they never recorded again. Both sides of the single, as well as two outtakes from the recording session and a demo, appeared on the CD compilation 94 Baker Street: The Pop-Psych Sounds of the Apple Era 1967-1969.“