NEW DVD/BLU-RAY: FASCINATING DOCUMENTARY ON THE BEATLES' DOOMED APPLE VENTURES

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It was one of the great failures of rock ‘n’ roll and arrived just before the dawn of The Beatles’ great undoing. The idea was magnificent — to dodge the taxman, the Fab Four would invest money in a business venture that was unprecedented in the music industry: a boutique, a label, an electronics wing, all owned by a rock band. The boutique lasted about as long as a plate of Gran’s famous fish and chips; the electronics wing — run by band friend Magic Alex — was doomed in the womb.

But the label thrived, more or less, thanks in part to a major hit from folk singer Mary Hopkin, whose material was overseen by none other than Paul McCartney. Other hopes, such as the soulful Jackie Lomax, faded faster than a bootleg Ted Nugent t-shirt. Interestingly, for as much freedom as Apple could have represented it was ultimately subject to all the same constraints as imprints run by The Man. McCartney carefully crafted Hopkin’s records to the point that some have argued she was little more than his pop puppet; Lomax’s record died a swift death in America, lost in a glut of four Apple singles released on the same day, including one from the lads themselves. They weren’t touring and didn’t consider that some of their stable might have to. (Manager Brian Epstein died in late 1967, leaving the boys to fend for themselves.)

Strange Fruit pays particular attention to the story of Badfinger — birthed from The Iveys, a band that suffered from its share of Beatles comparisons as would its successor — a group that is either derided as derivative or praised for being an early power pop act. The documentary doesn’t mention the short-lived subsidiary Zapple, more of a paragraph than a chapter in the Apple story, and the albums released on the label by The Beatles are not delved into, making this truly about the other artists surrounding the group. Jackie Lomax, Badfinger’s Joey Molland, and Ron Griffiths of The Iveys appear alongside David Peel and Van Scyoc. The usual round of music journalist also pop in, giving their insightful appraisals to the releases and bringing some greater pace to the sometimes-glacial narrative. — PopMatters

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