DVD review of ‘Strange Fruit: The Beatles’ Apple Records’

The Beatles
Strange Fruit: The Beatles’ Apple Records
Sexy Intellectual/Chrome Dreams
***
By Gillian G. Gaar

This documentary on the rise and fall of The Beatles’ Apple Records label is basically an informative view of the period from 1968 to 1975. But what ultimately bogs the story down is a static approach to the subject.

Strange Fruit The Beatles' Apple RecordsOnly one person who actually worked for the label is interviewed (Tony Bramwell, whose interview could’ve used subtitles due to his accent). A handful of musicians participate, as well, including Jackie Lomax, David Peel and members of The Iveys, Badfinger and Elephant’s Memory.

But the bulk of the story is told by three authors: Chris Ingham, author of “The Rough Guide to The Beatles”; Stefan Granados, author of “Those Were The Days,” an Apple Records history; and Mark Paytress, who has written numerous music books, though none Beatles-related. This means the documentary becomes very dry at times, with the journalists generally ending up not discussing Apple’s story, but how they feel about a particular artist. The interviews also undoubtedly contribute to the film’s length — it runs more than two-and-a-half hours).

The answer would have been to have less time spent with the talking heads and more time with people who a direct association with Apple, or at least license other people’s interviews with those folks. The Beatles, for example, are conspicuously absent, aside from a brief audio quote from John Lennon; they do appear in film clips.

Even journalists who covered Apple at the time could’ve added valuable insights, the kind of thing that a historian looking back at the period wouldn’t be able to do. And while performance clips are used frequently, the same clips tend to be used over and over again.

Longtime fans won’t learn much here, but if you’re unfamiliar with the workings of Apple beyond The Beatles, “Strange Fruit” offers a decent overview of the label’s antics. Though one wonders who thought up the film’s title; to people of a certain age, the words “Strange Fruit” bring to mind Billie Holiday’s famous song about lynching.

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