This time around, RPM Records takes a look at the Beatles' publishing company Apple Music Publishing, a company the fab four started in the 1967-1968 time period when they realized the potential in the music publishing business. Many but not all of the Apple Music Publishing groups would release their music on the Beatles' record label Apple Records. 94 Baker Street is a fascinating look into the late 1960s music publishing world with many demos, released and unreleased songs by Focal Point, Grapefruit, Ways and Means, Iveys (pre-Badfinger), Paintbox, and John Fitch and Associates. These tracks gives us an ear-opening view into some of what the Beatles were involved with in those heady days of Apple Records.
The compilation starts out with an early Apple group called Focal Point, a group championed by the Beatles early on, but soon after the sole Focal Point single was released and failed to chart (included here), Apple lost interest in the group. From the released single, Sycamore Sid which starts out the disc far outshines its b-side Love You Forever. Sycamore Sid is the type of song quite popular back in the late 1960s about a quirky character; the b-side is a more old fashioned ballad, that may have worked in the hands of Harmony Grass, but doesn't really work here.
It's a shame focus was lost after this failed single, because the 3 unreleased Focal Point songs which follow are excellent pop psych similar to the dreamier side of Pink Floyd. Never Never has a floating, dreamy quality to it with Floydian organ mixing well with Dylanesque guitar lines. Girl On The Corner continues the dreaminess - a fitting reverie for a girl alone. 'Cept Me is the Focal Point highlight - and is the song which most impressed John Lennon. It has a similar vibe to Girl On The Corner, but is a more stripped down, acoustic affair, and sounds like a Guided By Voices tune in it's demo-ish quality.
Grapefruit (who were named by John Lennon, after a book by Yoko Ono) included songwriter George Alexander (the older brother of The Easybeats' George Young and AC/DC's Angus and Malcolm Young) and members of Tony Rivers and the Castaways. They are a much more polished orchestrated group, and since they faired better on the charts than Focal Point with their first single Dear Delilah (included here, along with its b-side Ain't It Good), Grapefruit released an lp in 1968 (called Around Grapefruit). Included here are some un-orchestrated alternate versions of two songs from that lp, Lullaby and Another Game. Both are excellent and much more exciting than the released single - Lullaby continues the dreamy psych pop song of the earlier Focal Point tunes, but with a more lazy Kinks sound. Another Game is a pure pop delight which could very have been produced by Curt Boettcher and Sandy Salisbury, it has that combination of sounds they were known for on sides by the Millennium and Sagittarius.
A real coup on RPM's part was included two more George Alexander compositions not performed by Grapefruit - both songs are really great highlights. Breaking Up A Dream by Ways And Means is like SF Sorrow era Pretty Things (Walking Through My Dreams to be more exact) mixed with hints of Hollies harmonies.
The other George Alexander composition is a 1970 soulgem by Paintbox called Getting Ready For Love, and while it doesn't really fit in sound-wise with the 60s psych pop tag of the late 60s Beatles sound, it does fit in with the bubble soul which was bubbling in Britain at the time (like groups Pickettywitch or The Foundations for instance). It's an interesting take on a George Alexander composition and well worth the inclusion here.
I think most people will be curious to hear the Iveys, the group which eventually became Badfinger. I know I was most curious to hear the Iveys because their one Apple release Maybe Tomorrow has been rarer than rare even on cd. It turns out the Iveys recorded a slew of very well recorded (for the time period, the late 1960s) home demos, a handful of them included here (and according to the liner notes, RPM plans to put out a more extensive collection with much more of these demos).
Their album's title song Maybe Tomorrow is heard in demo form and is a really sweet McCartney-esque ballad. Tube Train and I've Been There Once Before both sound like Who outtakes, the latter of which is the more intriguing at just over 5 minutes long. The real highlight for me is the Curtis Mayfield-esque She Came Out Of The Cold - it combines an Impressions melodic style with Beatles styled harmonies and would fit perfectly on a Guided By Voices record.
Apparently early versions of 94 Baker
Street listed tracks by The Misunderstood which were not included (there are
two Misunderstood cds Before the Dream Faded and The Legendary Goldstar Album/
Golden Glass, both on RPM subsidiary Cherry Red). This version ends with two tracks by John Fitch & Associates and is labeled properly. It's a shame though because both John Fitch's songs were previously included on RPM's Let's Copp A Groove and seem out of place on 94 Baker Street. They are definitely fine fuzz drenched soul if you have not heard them yet.