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The Sound and the Fury

October 31, 2018

Apple Jammin’

APPLEJAM_offthewhitealbum

Seattle’s Apple Jam’s lovingly interprets an album’s-worth of Beatles songs,
unreleased by the band — it’s the White Album that could have been

Apple Jam isn’t your typical Beatles tribute band. It was meant to be a one-off project, for one thing. But the Seattle-based group had such a good time playing Beatles and solo Beatles numbers, they’ve continued playing together in varying configurations since 2005. But they don’t dress up to try and look like the group (no matching suits or Sgt. Pepper outfits), or crack Liverpudlian witticisms during their sets. Rather, they’re Beatles emulators — not imitators.

Most importantly, they take a unique approach to the Beatles’ music. Apple Jam’s shows aren’t the usual set of the Fab Four’s Top 10 hits; they like to delve into the catalogue. They also tend to do themed-shows. Their first shows focused on the songs of John Lennon and George Harrison; in another show devoted to Paul McCartney, they played Band on the Run in its entirety.

Their recordings are different as well. Off the Beatle Track was a collection of songs written by Lennon/McCartney but given to other artists (e.g. “I’ll Be On My Way,” recorded by Billy J. Kramer). The On the Wings of a Nightingale EP featured three versions of the McCartney-written number (recorded by the Everly Brothers), as McCartney might have recorded it in 1964, 1969, and 1971 (the EP also included a Lennon track he never recorded, “Help Me to Help Myself”).

The band’s upcoming release is in keeping with this ethos: Off the White Album, a collection of songs written by the Beatles during the White Album era that they didn’t end up releasing themselves. The album’s release is set for November, followed by a show at Seattle’s Neptune Theatre in December.

Apple Jam came together to help out a friend. Steven Roseta (now the band’s manager) was looking for a way to promote his play, (Just Like) Starting Over, based on the final interview Lennon, along with his wife Yoko Ono, ever gave, to RKO Radio on December 8, 1980. Steven asked a musician he knew, Rick Lovrovich, of Seattle group the Beatniks, if he’d be willing to put together a group to play a set of Lennon songs at a commemorative show that would also help raise funds for the play. Rick eagerly accepted, and the first “John Lennon Jam” was held on December 5, 2005, at Seattle’s Crocodile Café.

There were two further Lennon-themed shows by the ad hoc group in 2006, followed by the successful staging of Steven’s play the same year. But the musicians were having too much fun to stop, “and it just kind of snowballed from there,” says Rick. There was a Harrison-themed show, and in 2007 the group finally took on a name: Apple Jam.

“We did the George show, and then we were like, ‘Well, this is a neat little group, let’s think of what we could do with this,’” Rick says. “It’s really important to us to not just become another Beatles tribute act. There’s a lot of lot of good ones out there, and we wanted to differentiate ourselves from them. And then the idea came, let’s make a record of all the songs the Beatles had written but never recorded, and let’s try to do them in the style of the Beatles. That was Off the Beatle Track.”

Off the Beatle Track came out in 2009, and it’s a fun release, especially if you’re a fan of the Beatles’ Merseybeat period. Lennon and McCartney gave the songs to friends like Kramer and Cilla Black (“Love of the Loved”), or acts that their manager, Brian Epstein, also managed (like “Tip of My Tongue,” by Tommy Quickly). “We had to think about, ‘How would the Beatles approach these songs?’” Rick explains. “Because the artists that had done those songs wanted to put their own stamp on them. And really, most of the songs didn’t sound anything like the Beatles; my first time hearing them I thought, ‘There’s no way that John and Paul wrote these songs!’

“The style of the Beatles was so unique, it was important to try and get the songs in the same style, and the same sounds, and the same inflections, and the same vocals,” he adds. “Every little detail makes a difference when it comes to trying to make it sound like the Beatles would’ve done it.” The group even recorded the album in one all-day session, just as the Beatles did with Please Please Me.

And the attention to detail paid off; Apple Jam’s version of “Hello Little Girl” is so successfully “Beatle-ized,” you wonder why the group didn’t hang onto it themselves (they did record the number when auditioning for Decca Records in 1962, but eventually passed it on to the Fourmost, who had a Top 10 UK hit with it).

The band began thinking of a similarly themed White Album release, but it would take them some time before they got to it. Over the years, there were lineup changes, as members came and went. The On the Wings of a Nightingale EP was released in 2012. Then 2018 began looming on the horizon; the 50th anniversary of the White Album’s release, giving the band a
natural deadline.

The song choices are eclectic, and included McCartney’s sweet “Goodbye” (later recorded by Mary Hopkins), “Sour Milk Sea” (later recorded by Jackie Lomax), and Lennon’s somewhat pensive “Child of Nature” (which turned into “Jealous Guy”).

There were different challenges this time around. “I feel like those songs really don’t belong in the Beatles catalogue, because they never did them,” says Rick. “Some of them, it was very difficult to give a Beatle feel to them. There’s a song Paul McCartney wrote for Cilla Black, ‘Step Inside Love.’ There was no intention of the Beatles recording that song; he wrote it specifically for her. So trying to make that sound like what the Beatles would’ve done, it’s almost impossible. Because they never would’ve touched that song. But we had to play the role of ‘What if they did?’ So it really was a challenging thing to do
this project.”

Another unusual choice is “What’s the New Mary Jane,” recorded for, but ultimately dropped from the White Album. “It was a difficult song to do, because it’s really not a normal type of a song,” Rick says of the wildly improvisational number. “So we had to get into that mindspace of what would they have done. It really is up in the air, because they could’ve done anything, really, on that song.”

This version of the Apple Jam lineup includes Rick on lead vocals and bass, Jakael Tristram and Doug Kilishek on guitar and vocals, Johnny Jones on keyboards, and Kelly Van Camp on drums and vocals (Shane Peck is guest drummer on “The Happy Rishikesh Song”). The songs were recorded in Rick’s home studio, and have been released online, on a track-by-track basis, all year, available via the usual outlets (iTunes, amazon, CD Baby, Spotify). But don’t fret, you fans of physical media; a CD will be released on November 22, the very day the White Album was released in 1968. A record release party is set for December 1 at Seattle’s Neptune Theatre (expect some surprises; Yes drummer Alan White, who also played on Lennon and Harrison’s records, is a local resident, and frequently sits in with Apple Jam). Check the band’s facebook page, applejamband.com,
or offthewhitealbum.com for more info.

So amid all fuss about the reissue of that other White Album in November (aka The Beatles), check out Apple Jam’s take on the period; Off the White Album is the Beatles album that could
have been.






2 Comments


  1. Terry Szink

    Apple Jam is the thinking Beatles fan´s tribute band. As the article states, they don´t just play the hits, (although they can and when they do so they are great). Their choice of music to play evidences a deep understanding of the Beatles. If you are a Beatles fan, Your favorite writer should be Mark Lewisohn (Author of among other books, the great “Tune In,” your favorite lecturer should be Scott Freiman (who haw produced the “Deconstructing the Beatles” series, and you favorite band should be Apple Jam.


  2. Chris hampton

    ‘Help me to help myself’ wa a demo that was put on the bonus features of the deluxe Double fantasy cd years later.



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