Quick: What was the most successful label launch of the 1960s? That would be Apple Records, which – of course – had quite an advantage, being run by the most famous groups of the 60s. Nonetheless, the imprint’s success was incredible, with two of its first four singles hitting No.1 in the UK.
The idea for The Beatles’ Apple Corps began to take shape following the death of their manager Brian Epstein. The formed company’s first project was the film, Magical Mystery Tour, and the label was officially founded when The Beatles returned from India in 1968.
The Beatles had been contracted to EMI’s Parlophone label in the UK and Capitol Records in America, but they struck a new deal with the two companies to distribute Apple’s releases.
On August 26, 1968, Apple released their first four singles in the UK. There was the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” backed by “Revolution.” Apple 2 was Mary Hopkin’s “Those Were the Days,” produced by Paul McCartney. Apple 3 was Jackie Lomax’s “Sour Milk Sea,” a song written and produced by George Harrison. Apple 4, meanwhile, was “Thingumybob” by the Black Dyke Mills Band, a group composed of Lennon and McCartney. The tune they created was used as the theme to a Yorkshire television sitcom of the same name starring Stanley Holloway.
“Hey Jude” topped the UK singles chart for two weeks from September 11 and was replaced at No.1 by Mary Hopkin’s “Those Were The Days,” which stayed at No.1 for six weeks. No other record company has had such conspicuous success with its first two releases.
Strangely, the first catalogue number for Apple Records was not the aforementioned “Hey Jude.” It was actually a one-off pressing of Frank Sinatra singing “Maureen Is a Champ” (with lyrics by Sammy Cahn) to the melody of “The Lady Is a Tramp” for Ringo Starr’s then-wife Maureen as a surprise gift for her 21st birthday.