A IS FOR APPLE
The Baker Street APPLE headquarters building was a dreary affair and the Beatles wanted to do something extra-ordinary with it so they approached us to brain storm the project. We met with the four of them and Brian Epstein in the upper floor offices and a general proposal was worked out that we would paint the building’s exterior and interior and design a manufactured “pret-a-porter” boutique clothing line for ladies, men and children. Apple would also print some of our paintings as lithographs for sale at the venue.
The Carnaby Street culture was a huge influence. As images came to my mind I first made colored concept sketches for the exterior three story high Apple mural as well as the interior staircase design, something out of 1001 nights, for their approval. At the follow-up meeting with Brian Epstein and the solicitors, contract documents were signed and it was decided to open the boutique on December 7, 1967.
Since we had to move around a lot we needed a car and Simon & Barry decided on a used 1961 Bentley in excellent condition even though Yosha and I thought a Mini Cooper would be handier and less expensive. However, there it was, so we had the Bentley painted with the Sun, Moon and Stars emblem on the doors, a blue roof with yellow stars and rose tinted windows; it was a beautiful thing.
John suggested the first thing needed was a poster incorporating the slogan “A is for Apple” to advertise and promote the Apple boutique’s upcoming opening. I conceived of it as a magician offering an apple to the observer, then painted it in gouache on board. Simon helped with the green spectral background and gemstone execution. Everyone raved about it and it was consequently printed as an unlimited edition lithograph.
Apple also produced thirteen other lithographs of our existing original paintings and gouaches as well as some prints by other artists such as Alan Aldridge and Martin Sharp. Outfits by designers Lord John, Tara Brown and others could also be purchased at Apple.
The Genie on the west wall of the Apple building came to me as a vision in a dream, representing a synthesis of the mythologies of different cultures and ethnicities, influenced by hallucinogens. I considered how to make everything happen in a timely manner so for the exterior I proposed to use the grid technique to transfer the design to the wall, the best choice for this design. The grid method involved drawing a grid over my reference image, (a line version of the concept sketch) and then a grid of equal ratio on the white primed wall surface of the building.
We marked the desired size increments across the top, bottom and both sides of the wall and then used a snap-line to “draw” the lines across the wall. After I could draw the image outline in black paint on the wall, focusing on one square at a time, until the entire image had been transferred. Thereafter it was colored in like a coloring book referring to the original sketch. All the murals were painted with high gloss oil based enamel house paint, (now outlawed because of its lead content).
The exterior was completed over one weekend, executed by the members of the Fool and a few art students whose names I don’t recall, except for Mickey Finn, later the drummer for Marc Bolan. Simon painted the graduating spectrum panels on the pillars and lintel stretching over the entrance and beneath the windows of the building. Monday morning the spectacular mural caused a traffic jam and the respectable burgers of Baker Street mumbled “what is the world coming to”…. Everyone now knows that Apple never obtained a permit and the city counsel of Westminster ordered the mural painted over after seven months.
The interior murals were painted “free hand” by Simon and myself in a few weeks. We always did work well together. Yosha and I designed all the clothing, chose the materials and had them manufactured from our sketches. While Simon and I were busy painting, Yosha, as dedicated to hard work as I am, was in charge of the manufacturing of the clothing line and Barry overlooked the construction by carpenters of the staircase and was a general liaison/quarter master.
We thought it was important to have multi-ethnic mannequins and these were custom ordered for the window displays and once installed, caused some disturbing negative reactions in the press. When the manufactured garments arrived we did some publicity photo shoots of the outfits with the photographers Ronald Traeger and Karl Ferris, modeled by Patti Boyd, Cynthia Lennon, Maureen Starsky, Jenny Boyd, Anke Ferris, Charlotte Martin and several other beautiful models.
Once all the painting on the Apple building was done, because Simon and I had connections in Morocco, we made a short weeklong trip to Marrakesh to buy more necessary inventory for Apple such as local musical instruments, ethnic jewelry and accessories. John’s old school friend Pete Shotton, designated the Apple store’s manager, came along as the officialbuyer.
We stayed at the magnificent “La Mamounia Hotel” in Marrakech and scoured the souks for appropriate items. Yosha and I chose some interesting fabrics, jewelry and fancy slippers. Pete conducted the business deals with the Moroccan vendors, aided by Simon & Barry, and handled the shipping but unfortunately, for some reason a lot of the merchandise never made it back to London. Of course the Fool was implicitly blamed, the ideal scapegoat.
For the opening of the Apple boutique by nightfall on December 7, 1967, we proceeded on foot from Montague Square with a parade of dressed up friends and their children playing drums, bells and flutes to Baker Street, not far away, to arrive at the Apple building which was bustling with famous and not so famous people drinking apple juice, music blaring, press cameras clicking away.
Twiggy marked the moment by biting into a big Golden Delicious apple and John was declaring the whole thing to be well done! The press was in an uproar, some people thought it was fantastic while others were appalled by this “Shock of the New“, to quote art critic Robert Hughes.
We intended Apple to also be a cultural center including art shows, lectures, poetry readings, music nights etcetera, rather than just a boutique but that intent somehow fell by the wayside. Some disparaging remarks have been voiced about the cost of the enterprise but John, always the most enthusiastic about the venture, assured us “Hey guys, it’s either going to the taxman or we can do something really incredible”. Apple was still selling posters and T-shirts with our designs into the new century…
The management of Apple was not the responsibility of the Fool. We were only the creative idea people and had our hands full painting and designing. After the city counsel enforced painting the mural over and when a good manager could not be found the Beatles eventually decided to give the inventory away to the public on July 31, 1968. I thought that was an appropriate grand finale of the whole production to the benefit of the public, a kind of new age bonfire of the vanities.
Henceforth the Beatles also needed some costumes for the “Magical Mystery Tour” film they were working on, so Yosha and I created those by hand. The animal costumes were rented from a theatrical company. Although we considered our exclusive handmade outfits to be another art form with the medium being textiles instead of paint, fashion designs cannot be copyrighted according to world wide patent laws. The BBC showed the film on December 26, 1967 to mixed reviews but I liked it. George was playing the “Rocky” guitar he had painted himself and Ringo splashed some groovy graffiti on his kick drum.
The movie was actually based on a real event that we experienced. When we all drove in convoy to Brian Epstein’s party that summer we rode with John in the painted Phantom Rolls Royce, him playing Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” over and over. John decided to stop for a break when we were on top of a hill, the green rolling landscape around us pure Constable. There was no other traffic other than the Phantom, George’s mini Cooper and two or three more sedate vehicles.
We were all having a drink, smoking and stretching our legs when suddenly out of nowhere a bus appeared over the horizon which came to a screeching halt and the Japanese tourists aboard started to climb out and descend on us screaming: The Beatles… the Beatles…we ran as fast as possible back to the vehicles and burnt rubber out of there… All in all it was a blast!
The “Magical Mystery Tour” premiere was celebrated with a fancy Ball Masque at “The Royal Lancaster Hotel”. The whole film crew and all the Beatles’ friends and usual assistants, including “The Fool” and Graham Nash were invited. Seated around large cloth covered tables bordering a spacious dance floor, the “Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band” (whose song was featured in the movie) played on stage. Everyone had rented costumes from a theatrical wardrobe warehouse. John was a Teddy Boy with pomaded quoif, George a cavalier a la d’Artagnan, Ringo a Regency dandy and Paul a Cockney Pearl King in suit and cap completely covered in mother of pearl buttons. Simon wore a star spangled magician’s cape and Yosha and Barry had gorgeous Chinese empiric outfits. I wore a sky blue organza Cinderella fairy gown and Graham Nash was a Renaissance Prince including an elaborate chaperon with liripipe. We were served great food and drinks and danced the night away until my beads fell off, scattering all over the dance floor early in the morning…
To be continued…