John Lennon Thought The Beatles’ Apple Records Was a ‘Messy’ Money Pit: ‘We Did It All Wrong’

John Lennon was initially optimistic about The Beatles’ Apple Records. Within a year, he completely changed his opinion. Here’s what he said.

John Lennon was initially a proponent of The Beatles’ Apple Records, but he eventually changed his opinion of the company. In an interview, Lennon spoke about how wasteful he found Apple. He expressed the belief that they had to entirely change their business model if they wanted to avoid going broke.

John Lennon thought The Beatles’ company, Apple Records, was a disaster

In 1968, The Beatles launched Apple Records. By 1969, Lennon began to question their business model.

“I think it’s a bit messy and it wants tightening up. We haven’t got half the money people think we have,” he said in the book Lennon: The Definitive Biography by Ray Coleman, adding, “We have enough to live on but we can’t let Apple go on like it is. We started off with loads of ideas of what we wanted to do — an umbrella for different activities. But like one or two Beatle things, it didn’t work because we aren’t practical and we weren’t quick enough to realize that we need a businessman’s brain to run the whole thing.”

He believed it was a problem that they approached a large business from an artistic point of view.

“You can’t offer facilities to poets and charities and filmmakers unless you have money definitely coming in,” he said. “It’s been pie-in-the-sky from the start… We did it all wrong — you know, Paul and me running to New York saying we’ll do this and encourage this and that. It’s got to be a business first; we realize that now. It needs a new broom and a lot of people there will have to go … It doesn’t need to make vast profits but if it carries on like this all of us will be broke in the next six months.”

Paul McCartney was not happy about his bandmate’s comments

Paul McCartney was firmer in his belief in Apple Records, and he worried Lennon’s comment might damage the company. He turned on Coleman, to whom Lennon made the remarks.

“[McCartney] was furious with my decision to publish John’s comments,” Coleman wrote. “‘What did you want to go and use all that for?’ he snapped. ‘You know this is a small and young company, just trying to get along. And you know John always shoots his mouth off. It’s not that bad. We’ve got a few problems but they’ll be sorted out. I’m surprised it was you — we thought we had a few friends in the press we could trust.’”

Their differing opinions on the company hinted at deeper issues in The Beatles. Not long after this, Lennon told his bandmates he wanted to leave the band.

John Lennon was initially more hopeful about The Beatles’ Apple Records

At the start of Apple Records, Lennon was more hopeful about the company.

“It’s a business concerning records, films, and electronics,” he said in 1968, per NPR. “We want to set up a system whereby people who just want to make a film about anything don’t have to go on their knees in somebody’s office. Probably yours.”

While this sounded idealistic, others believed Lennon saw the company as a way to avoid taxes.

“As far as I can tell, the idea behind Apple was a tax dodge,” music journalist Douglas Wolk said. “The top tax rate in England at that time was enormous. And John Lennon said something to the effect of, ‘We talked to our accountants. We realized we could either give the money to the government or we could put it into a business.’”

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