45 Years Ago: The Beatles Launch Experimental Zapple Records
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In the summer of 1968, the Beatles issued their first release on their own Apple imprint with the single ‘Hey Jude.’ A few months later, the idea for a side label, existing solely for the purpose of putting out more experimental outings, was proposed, which they called “Zapple.”
On May 9, 1969, two Beatles-related releases, George Harrison‘s ‘Electronic Sound‘ and John Lennon and Yoko Ono‘s ‘Unfinished Music No 2: Life With The Lions,’ became Zapple’s first efforts. The label was run by noted author, and resident hipster of the day, Barry Miles, who also happened to be a close friend of Paul McCartney.
Lennon and Ono put their avant-garde selves on display with ‘Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions,’ which was, in some ways, like wandering into the middle of the off-kilter duo’s life at the time. Odd little ‘songs’ like ‘Mulberry’ and ‘No Bed For Beatle John’ were sung by Yoko while John noodled away on guitar. Side one was taken up with a single piece, the 27-minute insanity of ‘Cambridge 1969,’ which is essentially a battle between Yoko screaming and John getting howling feedback from a guitar…for 27 minutes. No single edit was made for radio play. One track,’ Baby’s Heartbeat,’ is self-explanatory, while ‘Two Minutes of Silence,’ is, well, two minutes of silence. John Cage, eat your heart out!
It goes without saying, neither album sold at all, though ‘Electronic Sound’ did actually make the Billboard Top 100 charts, checking in at No. 191 before dropping off as fast as it arrived. Once manager Allen Klein was in full control, he demanded that Zapple be closed for business with planned releases by comedian Lenny Bruce and poet Richard Brautigan never materializing.
Even with so many years in the distance, these two Zapple albums still sound like they came from another planet. Keep in mind, this was barely six years after the release of ‘Please Please Me.’ Things certainly moved at a different pace back then.