Grapefruit: The forgotten 1960s band produced by John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Many of you will have heard of Badfinger, the band hailed as the spiritual successor of The Beatles. But what about Grapefruit? Far less-known than their Apple labelmates but infinitely more inventive, tracks like the flute-laden ‘Another Game’, ‘Yesterday’s Game’ and ‘Deep Water’ are haunting, lush, and experimental without being inaccessible. How such a dizzying sound has passed me by for so many years remains a mystery. Join us, then, as we dive into the whimsical world of Grapefruit, perhaps the most daring of Apple’s 1960s groups.

In the summer of 1967, Terry Doran, an old friend of Brian Epstein, decided to sign singer and bassist George Alexander (born Alexander Young), the elder brother of AC/DC founding members Malcolm and Angus Young, to Apple. After deciding to stay in the UK while the rest of the Youngs emigrated to Australia, Alexander was put together with former Tony Rivers and the Castaways member John Perry and his bandmates Geoff and Pete Swettenham to form a new psychedelic pop group. Lennon approved of the lineup and named them Grapefruit after the book of the same name, written by Yoko Ono.

Apple did not yet have its own record label, so Grapefruit’s records were licensed to RCA Records in the UK and Equinox in the US, making them the second band signed to Apple after Liverpool group Focal Point. Impressed by the musicianship of Alexander and the rest of the band, Lennon introduced them to the UK press, inviting John Perry to help record Paul McCartney’s hit ‘Hey Jude’.

Equinox founder Terry Melcher was hired to produce Grapefruit’s debut single ‘Dear Delilah’, an organ-drenched slice of easy psychedelia which peaked at number 21 in the UK singles chart in the spring of 1968. Sufficiently bowled over, Paul McCartney and John Lennon took the band into the studio in the January of ’68 to record their follow-up single, ‘Lullaby’. Grapefruit clearly thought they could do better, seizing The Beatles’ absence – they were in India at the time – as an opportunity to turn over ‘Elevator’ and ‘Yes’ instead. Sadly, the double A-side failed to chart. Their subsequent cover of The Four Seasons’ ‘C’mon Marianne’, on the other hand, reached number 35.

Grapefruit were dropped by RCA soon after and released from their publishing contract with Apple. Alexander’s original contract, however, remained intact. The band were signed directly to Equinox, and Terry Melcher continued producing new tracks and re-mixing earlier recordings, though the Lennon-McCartney version of ‘Lullaby’ was not among them. After a minor lineup change in the December of 1968, Grapefruit released ‘Someday Soon’, which also failed to chart. This was followed by their first full-length LP, 1968’s Around Grapefruit and its successor, 1969’s Deep Water, which carried a harder rock sound and managed to crack the German top 20, peaking at number 19. In late 1969, Grapefruit decided to call it quits.

In 2016, the band were saved from total obscurity with a 20-song remastered compilation titled Yesterday’s Sunshine. Released by RPM, the compilation features 18 songs written by Alexander, one by Perry, the cover of ‘C’Mon ‘Marianne’ and, notably, the original version of ‘Lullaby’ – produced by Lennon and McCartney. Honey sweet and delightfully haunting, Yesterday’s Sunshine is a feast of late ’60s sonic exuberance. Check out ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Yesterday’s Sunshine’ below. You won’t regret it.

 

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