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The Story of the Beatles’ Experimental Zapple Records

In the summer of 1968, the Beatles issued their first release on their own Apple Records imprint with the single “Hey Jude.” A few months later, the idea for a side label, Zapple Records, existing solely for the purpose of putting out more experimental outings, was proposed.

On May 9, 1969, two Beatles-related releases, George Harrison‘s Electronic Sound and John Lennon and Yoko Ono‘s Unfinished Music No 2: Life With the Lions, became Zapple’s first records. The label was run by author Barry Miles, who also happened to be a close friend of Paul McCartney.

Lennon and Ono put their avant-garde selves on display with Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With the Lions,’ which was, in some ways, like wandering into the middle of the off-kilter duo’s life at the time. Odd little tracks like “Mulberry” and “No Bed for Beatle John” were sung by Ono while Lennon noodled away on guitar. Side one was taken up with a single piece, a 27-minute piece of insanity called “Cambridge 1969,” which is essentially a battle between Ono’s screaming and Lennon’s howling guitar feedback. “Baby’s Heartbeat” is self-explanatory, as is “Two Minutes of Silence.”

Neither of Zapple’s albums sold well, though Electronic Sound crack Billboard‘s chart with a No. 191 showing before dropping off the very next week. Once manager Allen Klein was in full control of the Beatles’ business, he demanded that Zapple be closed, and planned releases by comedian Lenny Bruce and poet Richard Brautigan never came out.

Even with so many years in the distance, these two Zapple albums still sound like they came from another planet. This was barely six years after the release of Please Please Me.  Things certainly moved at a different pace back then.

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