There have been countless musicians, both professional as well as amateur, who have cited the Beatles as their primary influence. But how many people can say the Beatles inspired them to start a record company?
The Beatles launched Apple Records in August 1968 with high ideals. The label reflected the quality that fans had come to expect from Beatles records: from the graphics and press materials to the initial slate of artists signed -- Mary Hopkin, Badfinger and James Taylor, among them. The Beatles' press officer, Derek Taylor, established a unique writing style that was reflected in the artist bios and advertising. The company's "This man has talent ..." ad, featuring a photo of a one-man-band, announced an open door policy when it came to attracting talent.
We couldn't hope to measure up to Apple: we didn't have the Beatles' money, taste or charisma. Still there were things we could learn. I liked the idea that anyone could come in off the street and get a record deal. I even signed an artist that way.
Unfortunately, because of the times, the drugs, and their insular environment, the Beatles initiated a large number of naïve, absurd, hubristic and delusional projects that are recounted in Richard DiLello's exceptional book The Longest Cocktail Party. My partner Richard Foos and I did a lot of crazy things at our label, but we always tried to keep our heads on straight.
More of an impression was Apple's scope, which wasn't limited to records, but included films, electronics, and a boutique. We certainly embraced the sixties ethos that anything was possible in growing our company, but we were also realistic. While we would have loved to have produced hit records, early on we realized that it was beyond our expertise. I thought Rhino should include anything Richard and I felt comfortably expanded our brand. Atypical of record companies, we produced films and published books. We had a few meetings in Las Vegas about a Rhino themed restaurant, but the project was unrealized.
We rarely heard when famous people bought our product. One exception was when Laurence Juber, the guitarist in Wings ('78-'81), told us that Paul McCartney had someone search all over London to track down a copy of our Temple City Kazoo Orchestra record. It was comforting to know that, in our earliest years, a Beatle was listening to a Rhino Record.
Ten years after Rhino released that record, we had enough money in the coffers to offer Apple half a million dollars for the US rights to the label's non-Beatles catalogue, which still hadn't been made available on CD. In addition to creating quality reissues, I wanted to celebrate the label. Neil Aspinall, Apple's managing director, never responded to my offer.
Harold Bronson's book THE RHINO RECORDS STORY will be published on October 22nd.
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