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Why The Clash frontman Joe Strummer despised The Beatles label Apple Records

An alignment with the most successful group to have ever graced the planet, The Beatles, would seemingly be a straightforward decision. However, Joe Strummer, the enigmatic and uncompromising leader of The clash, felt as though Apple Records were an amateurish operation that he wouldn’t wish to associate with his own artistic endeavours.

Strummer was no stranger to a maligned relationship with a record label, with ‘Complete Control’ being the band’s response to the behaviour of CBS Records. That riotous track appeared on their debut album, and the partnership disintegrated further as the years progressed.

The singer talked openly in interviews about his discontent with the deal that The Clash were locked into. Strummer hoped that 1980’s Sandinista! would be their final project for the label, and in an interview with NME at that end of that year, he was speaking as if the band were searching for a new home.

One place for certain that he wanted to avoid was somewhere that promised the world but delivered nothing, such as Apple Records, the label founded by the Beatles in 1968. Speaking journalist Paul Du Noyer, Strummer explained: “I wouldn’t want to be involved in a big bullshit scene like Apple, where they said ‘right, we’re gonna start our company and we’re gonna help new talent and it’s gonna be wonderful’ and of course, it all turns out to be a load of freeloaders.”

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Strummer continued: “Y’know, I’ve got a mate who was fucked up by Apple, a bloke called Tymon Dogg, he sings a number on Sandinista! [‘Lose This Skin’]. He was, like, the one they signed and couldn’t do anything with. Paul McCartney wrote him this song and it went [mimics prissy pianist doing inane ditty]: ‘Good golly Miss Pringle / You make me go jingle’ – and this is like, one of the heaviest songwriters I ever met!”

While Apple Records professed to be this artist-first utopian sanctuary, their legacy suggests otherwise. During the early days of the label, they stockpiled talent. However, nobody had the acumen to establish these artists as household names, and unfortunately, many potential careers were squandered due to their incompetency.

Apart from The Beatles, no other act enjoyed major success while signed to the label despite the immense pool of talent they had at their disposal, with Badfinger and James Taylor among those that gravitated towards Apple.

One thing that Strummer detested was pretenders, and at Apple, they were aplenty. Things seemed too good to be true when The Beatles announced their grandiose plans to wrestle the power from the man back to artists, and sadly, the old adage was proved right on this occasion when the operation spectacularly fell apart.

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