Revisiting The Apple Cart (A Conversation with Beatle Insider Tony Bramwell)
– by Bob Wilson
[cover photo via www.beatlesmagazine.blogspot.com]
December 8th marks the 33rd anniversary of the loss of John Lennon, so Live for Live Music chatted with former Apple Records filmmaker and CEO Tony Bramwell. Tony grew up in Liverpool with George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and John Lennon, and took a job with Brian Epstein and NEMS before going on to work for the lads themselves. Tony helped to pioneer the music video at Apple, and did so for many in the stable of acts sponsored by Apple Records. When the group stopped touring completely after 1966, he helped to turn the medium into an art form with groundbreaking films such as Strawberry Fields Forever. The budget of 700 pounds was said to be too high at the time for a film that will be studied as long as rock music is remembered in music history.
Tony helped to discover acts such as Badfinger, James Taylor, Mary Hopkin, and Queen. He is Great Britain’s first independent record producer, and stays at Bruce Springsteen‘s home when he visits New Jersey. Tony’s tome Magical Mystery Tours (2005) stands out among the library of works about the Beatles because he simply “was there.” The business tensions at Apple helped to pull the band apart. “Apple was already forming when Brian was alive, maybe it would have turned out differently had he had not died (in 1967), Tony mused. “It was a hugely successful music company (in terms of) records and songwriting.”
When asked by Donovan for anecdotes for his own book, Paul McCartney told him “you’d better ask Tony Bramwell.” This is among the soundest advice offered by a left-handed bass player, so we took him up on it, as well. The roots of the apple tree run deep. “I met George when we were both kids, age 5 or so. And became best friends, and I also knew Paul as a kid.” Tony continued, “I started making promo films because it became impossible for the Beatles to fulfill all the TV shows around the world. So in 1965, we started making little films and shipped them out.” MTV owes Tony a nod of gratitude, and a mention in the discussion of who pioneered the art form that changed the music industry so profoundly.
Bramwell remarked that no less than James Taylor “just turned up in Peter Asher’s offices, and we all liked him”. Freddie Mercury and Queen “were about, but John didn’t understand them. So they weren’t signed.” Tony recalled, “I would put together pop shows which became very popular.” The talent that performed there including Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Cream, Traffic, Donovan, and the Rolling Stones. It was Tony who salvaged many tapes, released in later years, after the theater was turned into a cinema in 2001.
By the time we lost John Lennon so senselessly in 1980, Bramwell states flatly that “a reunion would have been quite possible.” As John and Paul had made friends again, there was every reason to think they may have all got(ten) together. At that juncture, “none of them had a problem”. That thought makes the anniversary of John’s passing even harder to absorb, when we consider the gift of an extended Beatle catalog that was taken from the world.
Tony Bramwell is going to release a sequel to his first work, which will be titled Musical Mystery Tour (release date to be determined). If it is even a shadow of the first volume, and there is no reason to doubt it will be anything other than substantial Beatle fans should want to hold it in their hands to relive an era of time that conquered the hearts and minds of fans during the “British Invasion” and beyond.
For more info and works by Tony Bramwell, visit www.tonybramwell.com
Original Promo Footage from Strawberry Fields Forever: