It wasn’t only other Liverpool acts or brothers of girlfriends that had the benefit of Lennon And McCartney’s songwriting skills in the early sixties. The Applejacks were from Birmingham and yes, the music they played was unsurprisingly referred to as Brumbeat. Unusually they had a female bass player in Megan Davies and were originally an instrumental group until Al Jackson joined in 1963. Their first single Tell Me When went to No.7 in the UK chart in 1964.
Ironically it was Decca Records that had signed The Applejacks, their second single written by Paul McCartney in 1959 was one of the songs from the failed Decca audition. Apparently McCartney never thought much of the song but despite the Like Dreamers Do receiving little love from its author or the record label, it still made No.20 in the UK chart in the same year. The Applejacks had one more hit, Three Little Words (I Love You) reaching No.23 and although Decca continued to release singles into 1965, by 1966 they were playing on cruise liners. In 1967 they released You’ve Been Cheating on CBS but they were gone, times had changed, they were out of date.
The Applejacks are mostly forgotten even though there were hits and a Beatles connection. They might seem rather uninteresting to discerning music fans with a handful of rather bland meaningless Pop tunes, but listen to the production – their records are expertly recorded under the guidance of producer Mike Leander. They sound like an uncynical Housemartins.
The Applejacks were also the first band to release the Ray Davies classic, I Go To Sleep. It’s an odd rather clumsy version of this beautiful song, with a bizarre left of centre approach that didn’t really work. It was probably recorded in a 3 hour session, it’s not like there was a lot of time in those days to abandon the idea and try another approach.
What happened to them? Megan Davies married the drummer Gary Freeman and retired from music to became a nurse. The fate of the other members; Martin Baggott, lead guitar/Phil Cash rhythm guitar/ Don Gould, organ/ Gary Freeman and Al Jackson remains a mystery.
It’s hard to imagine what Decca saw in The Applejacks that they didn’t see in the Beatles. Perhaps through the publicity photo you can see that Decca saw them as catchy fun and easily manipulated. They tried to get them to record Chim Chim Chiree from Mary Poppins (what an absolutely brilliant idea!) – they refused, the relationship soured and the label didn’t release a follow up to their last hit for 6 more months, but it was too late. Bye Bye Girl should have been called just “Bye Bye” – I Go To Sleep was followed by I’m Through and they were. Three hits in 1964, three flops in 1965 and The Applejacks have almost been erased from Pop history.
Note: They recorded one more Beatles song (Baby’s In Black) in 1965 on a Decca Sampler/Charity Album:
If you are wondering who Mike Leander was (he died in 1996) his CV is long and impressive. One of his most famous contributions to music was his arrangement of She’s Leaving Home.