In addition to everything else that was going on in The Beatles’ orbit — filming, editing, recording, meditating, talking about meditating — in the wake of Brian Epstein’s demise, they had begun setting up the organization that would become Apple Corps. This was inspired in part by the same irrational exuberance that had given birth to Magical Mystery Tour:

“We’re just going to do – everything!” John told [childhood friend] Pete Shotton…. “We’ll have electronics, we’ll have clothes, we’ll have publishing, we’ll have music. We’re going to be talent spotters and have new talent.” [Bob Spitz, The Beatles]

There was also, of course, the ever-present need to spend money to keep the Taxman at bay. In a tax-heavy economy like 1960s Britain, it behooves anyone who makes a lot of money to invest as much as they can back into some kind of business. The Beatles’ advisors had tried to sell them on schemes like opening a record store (too on the nose), investing in real estate (boring), and making greeting cards (“fucking boring,” according to John).

Instead, as their first venture The Beatles settled on the idea of opening a clothing store to be called the Apple Boutique. The aforementioned Pete Shotton, at the time running a grocery store that John owned, was recruited to take charge — not just of the Boutique, as he initially thought, but of the whole Apple pie.

Unfortunately for him, this venture was no more thought-out than the Magical Mystery Tour had been. Spitz again:

His first assignment – getting the Apple Boutique off the ground – gave him an eye-opening view of the cock-up he was inheriting. When he arrived at Baker Street [where The Beatles owned a building just off Oxford Street], the scene reminded him of an asylum. “Everybody was smoking dope and taking acid,” Shotton recalls. “So, to them, anything could be done, anything was possible.” Magic Alex was even commissioned, at considerable expense, to provide an artificial sun that would light up the sky over the boutique.

Acting with the blithe haste that characterized most of their activities during this period, The Beatles decided in late September that the shop would open on November 2, and announced this to the press with no consideration for the realities of the situation.

It would be ready, they assured Pete. Somehow these things always took care of themselves.

But as late as October 5, the entire shop still had to be renovated. “It was a shithole,” Shotton remembers.


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