After the death of Brian Epstein, The Beatles decided two things: a) not to hire a new manager and b) to go ahead with their dream of their record company. This latter took a whole year to come into life but finally Apple Records was launched in August 1968 with a simultaneous release of four singles. This may have been good marketing strategy when it came to visibility, but it also meant that the “lesser” releases would be overshadowed by the other ones, particularly since the first four included both “Hey Jude”, The Beatles’ biggest hit ever and “Those Were The Days”, Mary Hopkin’s Macca produced version of the Lithuanian folk song that became huge internationally. Typically, it’s the other two releases that are of interest to us in here. (Pictured above you can see a black and white picture of René Magritte’s ‘Le Jeu de mourre’ which inspired the Apple logos – also pictured here.)
Jackie Lomax had been the lead singer in a second division Liverpool group the Undertakers, and had been briefly signed by Epstein as a solo artist. After Brian’s death The Beatles sort of “inherited” him, and George decided to take him under his wing. “Sour Milk Sea”, one of the songs George wrote in India in early 1968, was demoed by The Beatles for inclusion on the “White Album”, but no formal recordings ever took place, possibly because George came up with the somewhat similar sounding “Savoy Truffle.” Instead it was given to Lomax for his debut single. For the recording session George was able to recruit quite a band: Eric Clapton on lead guitar, Nicky Hopkins on keyboards (both had appeared on recent Beatles sessions as well) and Paul and Ringo as the rhythm section! George supplied rhythm guitar – and if you listen closely enough you can hear traces of his erased guide vocal (A version with George on vocals is the holy grail of many a collector – and unsurprisingly many have tried to sync The Beatles’ demo with Lomax’ record to varying degrees of success.) The result was naturally quite a Beatles sounding rocker, which received lots of airplay, good reviews – and bad sales. Nevertheless George went on to produce Lomax’ sole Apple LP “Is This What You Want?” (featuring the single and available on CD) but Lomax never became the star he was hoped to be.
And then there was “Thingumybob.” After the successes of “Love In The Open Air” and “Step Inside Love” Paul was asked to write another theme, this time for an ITV mini series starring Stanley Holloway and called – yep! – “Thingumybob.” Paul came up with a suitably catchy and cute tune and asked George Martin to do the scoring. Martin arranged the recording like a modernized version of a 1920′s dance band tune (“Winchester Cathedral”, anyone?”) but Paul didn’t like the version so it was not released until the 1990′ s George Martin box I may have mentioned before.
For the record Paul wanted a truer brass band sound (remember “The Family Way”?) so he recruited Britain’s finest The Black Dyke Mills Band and got what he wanted, a truly authentic brass band sound. (The band had been around since 1816 – though not all the original members were in the line up by 1968!) Paul and John produced -outdoors! – a version of “Yellow Submarine” for the flip side but the single failed to chart. It hasn’t been released on an official CD to date and the original 45′s change hands for huge sums in any condition – a boxed set of Apple rarities would be nice…
An aside: most Beatles collectors know that in a Beatles session on Aug 20 1968 Paul recorded a number called “Etcetera” and took the tape with him. Paul reportedly gave the song to Marianne Faithful but her version never materialised either. And it hasn’t been heard since. But some very exciting news tells us that an acetate of Paul’s recording has surfaced in a raid of Macca’s archives (he apparently has an anthology in the works!) It’s been reported that “Etcetera” is actually “Thingumybob” with corny lyrics and a newly written middle section! So one of the mysteries of Beatledom gets solved…Let’s hope the recording sees the light of day sooner or later. Oh, and it’s interesting to note that Paul was rewriting “Thingumybob” in late August when the tune had already been premiered on TV and the single was nearly in the shops.