Apple Scruffs (song)
|Song by George Harrison from the album All Things Must Pass|
|Released||27 November 1970 (US)
30 November 1970 (UK)
|Producer||George Harrison, Phil Spector|
|All Things Must Pass track listing|
"Apple Scruffs" is a song by English musician George Harrison, released on his 1970 triple album All Things Must Pass. It was written as a tribute to the die-hard Beatles fans known as Apple scruffs, who would wait in certain London locations where the band members were likely to appear, even long after the group's break-up in April 1970. The recording has been noted for its Bob Dylan influence, featuring Harrison on acoustic guitar and harmonica, and is recognised as a departure from the big sound so synonymous with the All Things Must Pass album. "Apple Scruffs" was also released as the B-side to "What Is Life", gaining further popularity through airplay on US radio, and was chosen as the preferred side of the single in some countries.
The name "Apple scruffs" was first coined by George Harrison during the late 1960s. Although well known for his aversion to fan worship, particularly to the Beatlemania phenomenon, Harrison had formed a bond with a number of the scruffs, and he acknowledged in an April 1969 interview with Disc magazine: "their part in the play is equally as important as ours". His song "Apple Scruffs" was written as a tribute to those who had kept vigil outside the various recording studios he had been working in since late May 1970, as well as the Apple headquarters on Savile Row.
New York Post writer Al Aronowitz was present during much of these sessions and would recall: "Outside the studio door, whether it rained or not, there was always a handful of Apple Scruffs, one of them a girl all the way from Texas. Sometimes George would record from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and there they would be, waiting through the night, beggars for a sign of recognition on his way in and out." That description is borne out in the song's lyrics:
Now I've watched you sitting there
Seen the passers-by all stare
Like you had no place to go
But there's so much they don't know about Apple Scruffs.
In the fog and in the rain
Through the pleasure and the pain
On the step outside you stand
With your flowers in your hands, my Apple Scruffs.
"How I love you, how I love you." he concludes at the end of the choruses.
Harrison recorded the song late in the proceedings, during the overdubbing and mixing phase of the album, and even invited the scruffs into Abbey Road Studios to hear the results. As a then-teenage scruff, Gill Pritchard, later recalled, Harrison told them: "Well, you had your own magazine, your own office on the [studio] steps, so why not your own song?" Uniquely among the tracks on All Things Must Pass, "Apple Scruffs" was performed solo by Harrison – except for a percussive, tapping sound provided by Beatles assistant Mal Evans. Harrison recorded the song live on acoustic guitar and harmonica, before overdubbing backing vocals and twin slide-guitar parts.
Release and reception
On release in November 1970, reviewers were quick to point out the obvious Dylan influence. Rolling Stone's Ben Gerson described "Apple Scruffs" as "One of the most wonderful cuts on the album" and added: "it sounds as if it was recorded while co-producer Phil Spector was out for coffee." Beatles author Bruce Spizer has written of the song: "Sandwiched in the middle of an album full of elaborate wall-of-sound productions, Apple Scruffs breaks through like a breath of fresh air."
Author Simon Leng praises the song's bottleneck parts, and particularly the inventive backing vocals – "the best on the album". This same passage, towards the end of the song, has been referred to by Tom Moon in his book 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die as "an explosive peak-experience refrain that comes direct from heaven's songbook".
"Apple Scruffs" was afforded further exposure when issued as the B-side to "What Is Life", released internationally (though not in Britain) as a second single off All Things Must Pass, in February 1971. Its inclusion there marked the first of a short-lived tradition of what Leng has called Harrison's "upmarket busking"-style acoustic B-sides, the other examples being "Miss O'Dell" and "I Don't Care Anymore". A popular track on radio, "Apple Scruffs" received as much airplay in America as the single's A-side, while in some European markets and Australia, its popularity led to the song being favoured over "What Is Life" as the lead side.
- George Harrison – vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, slide guitars, backing vocals
- Mal Evans – wooden block
- Clayson, p. 272.
- Harrison, p. 36.
- Clayson, pp. 272–73.
- Leng, p. 93.
- Clayson, p. 288.
- Spizer, p. 224.
- Schaffner, p. 142.
- Cliff Jones, "We're Waiting for the Beatles", Mojo, October 1996, p. 71.
- Clayson, p. 297.
- Madinger & Easter, p. 430.
- Ben Gerson, "Reviews: George Harrison All Things Must Pass", Rolling Stone, 21 January 1971 (retrieved 20 February 2012).
- Carr & Tyler, p. 92.
- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, Workman Publishing Company (New York, NY, 2008); quoted in The Super Seventies "Classic 500", George Harrison – All Things Must Pass (retrieved 24 June 2012).
- Castleman & Podrazik, p. 99.
- Leng, pp. 136, 158.
- Madinger & Easter, p. 431.
- George Harrison (Song artist 225), Tsort pages (retrieved 16 October 2012).
- Roy Carr & Tony Tyler, The Beatles: An Illustrated Record, Trewin Copplestone Publishing (London, 1978; ISBN 0-450-04170-0).
- Harry Castleman & Walter J. Podrazik, All Together Now: The First Complete Beatles Discography 1961–1975, Ballantine Books (New York, NY, 1976; ISBN 0-345-25680-8).
- Alan Clayson, George Harrison, Sanctuary (London, 2003; ISBN 1-86074-489-3).
- George Harrison, I Me Mine, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA, 2002; ISBN 0-8118-3793-9).
- Simon Leng, While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Music of George Harrison, Hal Leonard (Milwaukee, WI, 2006; ISBN 1-4234-0609-5).
- Chip Madinger & Mark Easter, Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium, 44.1 Productions (Chesterfield, MO, 2000; ISBN 0-615-11724-4).
- Nicholas Schaffner, The Beatles Forever, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY, 1978; ISBN 0-07-055087-5).
- Bruce Spizer, The Beatles Solo on Apple Records, 498 Productions (New Orleans, LA, 2005; ISBN 0-9662649-5-9).