The Beatles on Apple Records
Interview with author Bruce Spizer
Interview by Ronnie

After reading THE BEATLES ON APPLE RECORDS with its meticulous attention to detail and its generous amounts of color photos, I was dutifully impressed to try and get an interview with author Bruce Spizer. Despite a busy schedule (2 upcoming books in addition to his legal job!) Mr. Spizer graciously consented to an e-mail interview. I was curious as to how his legal mindset affected the writing of his books.

Right: the author, Bruce Spizer

E.C.: First I must compliment you on the thoroughness of the book. Do you think that your background as a tax attorney and the detail-oriented mindset that must go along with that profession helped make your book so factual, meticulous and complete? Especially when so many Beatle books rely on errors-accepted-as-facts from previous books?

Bruce Spizer: My legal background has played an important part on the way I write my books. I learned early in my legal career never to count on the accuracy of someone else's prior work and to always go to the original source whenever possible. So many Beatles books just keep printing the same misinformation over and over again. Even though my Vee-Jay book came out in 1998 and proved that "Introducing The Beatles" did not come out until January, 1964, new books are still coming out saying that the LP was released in the summer of 1963.

I also know one should not believe everything that someone tells you in an interview. I always look for documentary support. Sometimes I have to totally disregard someone's account of events because the document and other facts do not support it. So people may come down on me and say, "How can you disagree with Mr. X. He was there and you weren't. Who do you think you are to disagree with him?" Well, if someone's story is not supported by the facts, then it is wrong and I should not believe it just because the person was there. Memories fade, people make mistakes, people embellish and people lie. As an attorney, you see it all the time when you question witnesses.

My legal and business background also helps me to organize things. So, my background has influenced how my books come out.

E.C.: Since Apple was in legal shambles by 1969 (especially when compared to Capitol Records), was it hard to verify any of the information? Was the paper trail hard to follow?

Bruce Spizer: There was very little Apple paper work available, but fortunately Capitol and Abkco did have some documents that helped explain certain things. I was also able to interview Ken Mansfield (Apple's first U.S. manager) and Allan Steckler (who later ran Apple through Abkco).

E.C.: I had never heard of the "pocket disc" before I read your book. Did you uncover anything that took you by surprise when researching this book?

Bruce Spizer: There are always surprises. To me, it was learning how Abkco was running the show from 1969 through 1973. I always thought that Capitol put together the "Hey Jude" LP. But it was entirely an Apple project that was planned and pushed through by Abkco.

I also enjoyed nailing down which label variations were the actual first pressings. For example, the first issue "Hey Jude" singles do not have master numbers, "Produced by George Martin" or "Recorded in England" on the labels. The 45 sold five million, but the first labels are not all that easy to find. The same goes for the first label variation for "The White Album." The first labels have "Bungalow Bill" on side one, while the later labels have "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill." Collectors are going nuts trying to find those "Bungalow Bill" labels.

E.C.: How did you balance the factual writing part of the book with the assembly of the photos to be used? I imagine that each of these tasks were gargantuan on their own?

Bruce Spizer: I take a very hands-on approach and work closely with my pre-press person. We get together a few times a week to work on capturing the images and perfecting the layouts. Sometimes I write a chapter first and then drop in the images. Sometimes I lay out a chapter with images before starting the text. Sometimes it is a case of starting with a little text and then adding in some images and more text and more images till I have the chapter complete. And yes, just scanning the images or obtaining the licensing for photos is a huge task in and of itself.

E.C.: When you wrote your first Beatles book about the band's history of Vee Jay records, where you already planning on writing about the Beatles' whole recorded history?

Bruce Spizer: When I started the Vee-Jay book, it was going to be a one shot deal. My contribution to a neglected and misunderstood area of the Beatles history. When I was nearly finished with the book, I thought about maybe doing a follow-up book on Capitol, but had made no decision to do so. When the Vee-Jay book got rave reviews and people started asking when the Capitol book was coming out, I decided to got for it. Even before the Capitol Books came out, I had people telling me, "I can't wait until you get around to Apple because that is my favorite part of the Beatles." So somewhere during the Capitol project, I realized I'd end up doing a complete series on the Beatles American records.

E.C.: Of the three record labels you have written about (Vee Jay, Capitol and Apple), which was the 'hardest' to research?

Bruce Spizer: Each label presented its own challenge. With Vee-Jay I had great documents, but most of the key players were dead. With Capitol, there were less documents, but I had people I could call such as former Capitol employees.

With Apple, there was very little in the way of documents, but I could still call people. I was told by many collectors, "After Vee-Jay, Capitol will seem easy." That was not the case. I was told the same thing about Apple. All of the records put out by the companies have tons of label variations. So which was the hardest? I will give the answer a mountain climber gave when asked what was the toughest mountain he ever climbed. He replied, "It's always the one you're climbing at the present that is the toughest." In other words, each has its own unique challenges.

E.C.: Have you considered writing any books on bands other than the Beatles? A group that comes to mind in the Beach Boys, who were also on Capitol. Their story kind of runs parallel to the Beatles in that the Beach Boys started on Capitol records and then started their own label Brother Records. However, they had a legal falling-out with Capitol about the time of their never released SMILE album in 1967. There has only been one book on the Beach Boys records on Capitol and it has been out of print for some time - would you ever consider such an endeavor?

Bruce Spizer: David Leaf has done a wonderful job with the Beach Boys. If anyone should try to top his efforts, it should be him! I don't think most Beach Boys fans care about all the label variations. They are more interested in the variations of band lineups, etc. I would love to do a book on the music of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller if I ever get the time. Those guys wrote so many great songs for the Coasters, Elvis and others. And, they are up in age, so I may not get to interview them if I don't find time soon.

E.C.: There have been stories in the news earlier this year about the Beatles releasing the GET BACK album. Your book devotes a section to the GET BACK album - with all the various mixes for the album, how would you like to see the album come out?

Bruce Spizer: Apple is taking an important step by putting out a de-Spectorized version of the "Let It Be" album. My understanding is that it will not be the original "Get Back" album, but rather the actual "Let It Be" LP, but with the few songs that Spector overproduced being replaced with original versions. For example, "Two Of Us" would remain the same, but "The Long And Winding Road" would be replaced with the pure Anthology version. I would also like to see the original "Get Back" LP, along with a bonus disc of other songs and other versions come out.

E.C.: I know that you are currently writing an edition on the Beatles solo output on Apple - do you have any other subjects on the horizon for future books?

Bruce Spizer: The Beatles solo book has been on hold for the past few months to allow me to complete my latest book project. It is called "The Beatles Are Coming! The Birth of Beatlemania in America." It will cover the first U.S. visit and the events leading up to it. It will be full of stories and pictures and documents. It will not be a book full of record labels. The Vee-Jay and Capitol books do that. It will debunk many myths. Even die hard collectors and historians who own my books will still learn some fascinating new things. The book will be published simultaneously in hardbound ($50) and paperback ($30) editions. My website, will begin posting details of the book sometime in August. The book will be out in early 2004 in time for the 40th anniversary of the Beatles arrival in America on February 7, 1964.

Click here to read our book review of THE BEATLES ON APPLE RECORDS

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