Liam Gallagher interview about ‘The Longest Cocktail Party’ and the background to the film about the rise and fall of the Beatles Apple empire.
In its 7th season Liam Gallaghers Pretty Green goes international with a newly opened store in Tokyo’s fashionable district of Aoyama, its success is something- quite the opposite to one of the front-man’s all time favourite bands and main influences as The Beatles own attempt at creating a clothing range in the late 60’s ending in nothing short of total disaster…
In 1967 The Beatles created ‘Apple Corps’, a company like no other which blundered its way into many ventures with one being ‘The Apple Boutique’ which was the Fab’s disastrous and naive venture into the clothing trade. Its a story which Liam knows well and has actually helped in documenting in film shot last year based on the book “The Longest Cocktail Party” which depicts the whole crazy saga of Apple and the eventful scenes played out at The Beatles headquarters at 3 Saville Row.
At a time when the Beatles should of been taking stock of their financial situation they decided to go head first into the rag trade with a dangerous “Laissez faire” attitude, which remained prevalent until the shutters came down. Though this was reflective of the LSD driven era they were living in with most decisions they made at this time being heavily influenced by the drug.
It was in fact Brian Epstein who first imagined the “Beatles Boutiques” or pop supermarkets, selling records and clothes under the same roof but with his death in August 1967 it left ‘the Boys’ in financial disarray as they totally entrusted Epstein with all money matters. It was only after his death they started to realise what they had, and what they had lost commodity wise.
After taking advice from many quarters they decided they wanted to create a commune type PLC which allowed them to follow their creative ventures by creating sub companies under one big roof, the banner was called ” Apple” and the Beatles quickly enjoyed the title and status of company owners.
So when their new advisers told them they had joint reserves of 2 million- which after the tax man had taken his bite of 90% would leave them next to nothing, it would be better to write the money off as a business loss in a new business venture, something that would take their fancy. The thought of playing shop peaked the band’s interest- a Beatles clothes store, what a great idea, what could go wrong..!
It was three Dutchmen who spearheaded the groups clothing range, being famous for their Amsterdam boutique trend, having newly arrived in the capital they were looking to break into other activities within theatre costume.
They were called Simon Posthuma and Marijke Koger with Josje Leeger joining them once the men became stage designers and friends of the Fabs having met them through a mutual publisher who managed Epstein’s Saville Theatre.
Designing costumes for the epic “All You Need is Love” worldwide TV broadcast, as well as covering an array of work- including painting a piano and a gypsy caravan for Lennon and designing a fireplace for Harrison’s Esher bungalow, the three held the title of designers and couturiers to The Beatles. Giving an interview to the Sunday Times at the time they explained their deep rooted belief in Tarot Cards and other hippie ideals of the time which made the trio come across as something quite exotic.
The three designers formed themselves into a design group named “The Fool” (taken from the Tarot card) and in September of 1967 the Fool received ÃÂ£100,000 from Apple to design the new boutique. With the help of a team of art students they created a massive psychedelic mural running up the outside walls of the shop.
After many names were thrown about it was McCartney who decided on simply calling the boutique “Apple”. The store went all out, with no expense being spared, Pete Shotton, ex ‘Quarry Men’ member and Lennon’s confidant since his school days was brought in to oversee the imported arrival of oriental fabrics and exotic jewellery ordered by “the Fool”, and with a collection of pretty/hip girls that included Jennie Boyd, the sister of George’s wife Pattie, as shop assistants everyone at Apple was feeling excited and confident for the opening day.
The new boutique, an 18th century corner house which was situated a stones throw from the famous residence of Sherlock Holmes on Baker Street opened early December 1967 with a lavish party with just Lennon and Harrison as the only Beatles present, mixing with the ‘faces’ and ‘beautiful people’ of the day. But within only a few days of opening it was apparent that the shop was turning into a tourist attraction just as much as a fashion boutique with hundreds of people turning up to gorp at the massive psychedelic mural. Straight away it put the boutique at odds with other local traders who actually successfully petitioned to have the mural scrubbed off.
So with a shop that was part of the Beatle empire and ran by these three fashionable flying Dutchmen it was thought the Boutique was on to a winner when actually it turned into an expensive mess. Though it wasn’t their only money waster as the band went into numerous different businesses, Apple Electronics, Apple Music Publishing and Apple Tailoring, but it was the Boutique that really represented the boom and bust of Apple.
For starters the boutique was a shop lifter’s haven with feather boas and hanging drapes used as decor creating the perfect cover for a five fingered discount with the staff known to be just as bad with some members lifting up to ÃÂ£50 out the till a week. The hippie trust that the Beatles and their management put into the staff was very much taken advantage of within the Apple industries but the boutique really went to town on the loose management system of their bosses, Apple’s in house chief hippie/manager Derick Taylor admitted;
“We didn’t come to any harm, but when I look back at how we trusted everything would work out all right, it was folly. LSD did that to you”
The clothes themselves were more popular with those within Apple as staff would freely help themselves until the introduction of a sterner manager, John Lydon,(not that one) as the new head of Apple retail tightened up the slack, forbidding such practises and, in turn, the shop started to show a little improvement, but all proving too late.
The fact was while the three Dutchmen claimed to have the know-how with running successful boutiques in their homeland they showed none of it at the London boutique and left some at Apple bewildered at their lack of understanding of fundamental management and business skills and wondering how they had lasted as long as they had. But it’s to understand Apple’s own work ethics and the times they were living in which made these crazy schemes possible. The company wasn’t ran by business-hungry Alan Sugar types having highly charged pow wows but more like the suited beatnik manager Derick Taylor and his office get-together’s over bowls of hash.
It’s not totally clear what the deciding factors were that eventually closed the shop. It was probably a combination of a few things; Pete Shotton was told at a meeting by McCartney “John says we should close the shop”, though this decision could of been Lennon voicing Yoko’s thoughts as she saw not only closing the boutique down as the right thing to do but also declared that the group give the entire stock away to the public. Her appeal to the band to close the shop was after seeing an article in one of the publications that mocked the Beatles for turning to the “Rag Trade”, her words
“We must get rid of this ridiculous shop, John! it is good to give it all away, all away”
Either way the boutique was not only a poor money maker but seemed to attract heavy criticism from a list of objectors, from the inhabitants of Regents Park and local traders to the press and Fleet street, it became a problem that needed a decision.
On a sunny July day in 68 the Apple Boutique was opened for an organised looting session to the public with scuffles breaking out and police struggling to control crowds who all wanted a something to take home, and nothing was spared with shop fittings being whipped off the wall when all traces of clothing had gone.
The Beatles themselves were no slouches as it was their stock anyhow so with multiple trips to the shop days before the big give-away band members and wife’s helped them selves to the choicest items in which John and Yoko got a kick out of.
Lennon had his Roller pull up and and preceded to fill his boot with the best spoils proclaiming “it’s just like robbing”.
Even McCartney who would regularly be at odds with Lennon was in agreement with both him and Yoko with his last words on the matter;
“The Beatles are tired of being shop keepers”
As soon as it closed the fashion venture was quickly forgotten about though it did leave the band feeling a tad embarrassed, and it wasn’t the only one as a list of grand-business ideas followed with them all ending in fantastic failure. (They funded “Magic Alex’s” insane inventions, a crack pot scientist who befriend The Beatles and promised to create them a force-field to protect their homes amongst other mad ideas). Apple was a business like no other in which will soon see the release of the film version of the book by Richard Dilello ‘The Longest Cocktail Party’, first released in 1973.
Though talented designers, the Cheech & Chong management style of the Dutchmen along with the outrageous decision making of their Beatle employers may of not of changed the world of fashion but it did play its part in the unique and amazing story of Apple, which hopefully will see the big screen soon.