3 May 2017

Jon Isherwood - Old Time Movies/ Apple Pie

Label: Parlophone
Year of Release: 1969

You may remember that way back in those heady, summery, olde worlde days of August 2016 I uploaded Mike Quinn's version of "Apple Pie" to this blog. It's worth a read if it passed you by at the time, purely and simply because "Apple Pie" strikes me as representing something of a turning point in the general perception of The Beatles among their showbiz peers. In the early sixties, the group were lionised by other musicians, but by the end of the decade the piss-taking had set in as some dared to suggest that they were rather silly boys with highfalutin ideas. 

As I state on that blog entry, the emergence of the Apple boutique was a heavenly gift not just to hippy thieves, but also satirists: "Opened up as a boutique-come-talent-funding-facility-come-technological-research-lab-come-record-label-come-hippy-commune-come-whatever-the-hell-was-in-the-Fabs-heads-that-given-day, the business gullibility of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr became grimly apparent now Epstein was no longer around to keep watch. While many clothes and valuable items were stolen from the boutique by anarchic hippies, the Fabs apparently also funded some "interesting" artistic research schemes which went nowhere. The person responsible for most of this work gets highly litigious when they're mentioned anywhere, so for the sake of a quiet and uncomplicated life, let's just say that nobody can really remember whether The Beatles were promised a large quantity of Electric Paint from somebody working for them or not, or a Special Invisible Security Force Field - what we do know is that many rumours have cropped up over the years insisting that they did. And even if those rumours aren't true, they paint a very interesting picture of other's perceptions of the organisation at that time. There's no question that Apple leaked money from seemingly every department and squandered a large part of the fortune The Beatles had built up. Apple had always sounded like a tremendously utopian idea, and unfortunately it's these businesses - in the media, technology, the arts or elsewhere - which tend to hit Earth at a very rapid velocity, whatever the wealth or good intentions of their original owners."

So "Apple Pie", later compiled on the "Circus Days" compilation series issued by Strange Things, and still commercially available on the usual sites, goes for the jugular, pointing out the sheer preposterousness of the Fabs and their hangers-on. I can't include it in full here due to the fact that you can nip over to your local friendly internet music store and get yourself a copy for less than a pound, but suffice to say Isherwood's original version is the definitive one for me, full of scorn and vinegar, and packed with music hall styled silly voices mirroring both the Fab's own media obsessions and the comedic nature of their own lives at this point. Isherwood apparently had strong feelings about Apple due to a short-lived association with them which bore no fruit (no pun intended). According to the "Pompey Pop" blog, he even kept a cheque signed by George Harrison rather than cashing it, purely because he figured out that the paltry sum in the total box was worth less than the man's signature.

While "Apple Pie" has probably become Isherwood's best known track to people who aren't folk music buffs, the man was in fact one of Portsmouth's top folk singers and songwriters, producing two LPs in the seventies ("A Laughing Cry" on Decca, and "A Bellyful Of Isherwood" for Sweet Folk And Country in 1974). Rather like Connolly and Carrott, Isherwood was a tall tale telling folk performer during this period, whose natural rapport with his audiences also lead to some attention on the comedy circuit, although not to the extent that those two stars managed.

The A-side here, a cover of Hammond and Hazlewood's "Old Time Movies", has also been neglected. It's a rinky-dink piece of sixties music hall mania which hasn't been compiled anywhere perhaps primarily because it doesn't cross the line from "Quite good" to "unquestionably worthy of your attention" - but still, fans of "Apple Pie" will want to know what it took second billing to, and it's certainly a likeable listen. The Beatles old label Parlophone clearly didn't warrant it good enough to give him a second try, however, and it remains his sole release for them.

As for what Isherwood is up to now, I'm sorry to report that he died at least twenty years ago, but towards the end of his life in the nineties he upped sticks from Pompey to move to Moate in Ireland where he became a regular folk performer and much-loved character in the town.

I've only included a brief excerpt of "Apple Pie" below - if you really want to hear it in full for nowt, YouTube is your friend.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Dave, I had only " Apple pie" in the collection

Greetings Albert

Arthur Nibble said...

You missed a trick there, Dave - should've called that snippet "Apple Pie Slice"!