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Grapefruit were a London-based British band of the late 1960s, brought together by Terry Doran of Apple Publishing. Their brand of music was a typical late 1960s blend of rock, which they often fused with psychedelic effects such as phasers and vocoders, or classical arrangements.
In summer 1967, Terry Doran, a longtime friend of Brian Epstein’s and the new managing director of Apple Publishing, signed Scottish-born singer and bass guitarist George Alexander, born Alexander Young, the older brother of the Easybeats’ guitarist/songwriter George Young (and also of Malcolm and Angus Young, both founding members of the Australian hard rock band AC/DC), to a publishing contract. Alexander Young had chosen to remain in Britain when the rest of the Youngs emigrated to Australia, and had previously played with The Bobby Patrick Six, with whom he toured Germany in the mid-1960s. In November 1967, John Perry, a former member of Tony Rivers and the Castaways, pitched some of his songs to Doran at Apple Publishing. Doran rejected the songs but proposed combining Perry and his bandmates Geoff Swettenham and Pete Swettenham with Alexander to form a new group. The band was named Grapefruit by John Lennon after a book written by his future wife, Yoko Ono that was also entitled Grapefruit. Doran became their manager, seeing some commercial potential in them.
Apple promptly licensed Grapefruit’s music publishing rights for the U.S. to a new publishing and recording label being formed by Terry Melcher entitled Equinox. However, since Apple did not have its own record label at the time, Doran arranged for the band’s records to be licensed to RCA Records in the U.K. and to Equinox in the U.S. They were the second band signed to Apple Publishing, following the Liverpool group Focal Point, who were signed by Doran in September 1967. In addition, The Beatles continued to take an interest in Grapefruit, with John Lennon introducing the band to the media in January 1968 and inviting John Perry to join in on the recording of the hit single “Hey Jude“. As well as Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr of the Beatles, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Donovan, and Cilla Black attended the press launch and were photographed with the band. Jimi Hendrix and Sajid Khan were reportedly also in attendance.
When Melcher came to the U.K. to sign the publishing deal with Apple, he was persuaded to produce Grapefruit’s inaugural single “Dear Delilah”, which peaked at number 21 in the UK Singles Chart in the spring of 1968. As a follow-up single, Lennon and McCartney took the band into the studio in January 1968 to record the song “Lullaby” (also known as “Lullaby for a Lazy Day” and originally called “Circus Sgt. Pepper”). However, when RCA asked for the follow-up single, the recording (which had been made at Advision Sound Studios in London) was not turned over, as Lennon and McCartney were in India, and Grapefruit instead submitted the songs “Elevator” and “Yes”, which became a two-A-sided single but failed to chart. For a third single, Grapefruit submitted several other new songs, and a cover of The Four Seasons’ “C’mon Marianne” was remixed (at RCA’s request) by Derek Lawrence and reached number 35.
Before the next single could be released, RCA dropped the band in the UK, and the new head of Apple Publishing, Mike O’Connor, released the group from its Apple contracts, (except for the original publishing contract with George Alexander), and Terry Doran (still managing Grapefruit) signed the band directly to Equinox. Terry Melcher then resumed producing Grapefruit, including re-mixing or re-recording earlier songs (for which Apple was willing to supply the tapes), but the Lennon-McCartney version of “Lullaby” was still not released.
In December 1968, Grapefruit added Mick Fowler on organ and released a fourth single, “Someday Soon”, which also failed to chart. Grapefruit then released two albums (Around Grapefruit (1968) and Deep Water (1969)) with limited success, while their single “Deep Water” did crack the German Top 20, peaking at No. 19. Grapefruit broke up in late 1969, although Pete Swettenham had left the group earlier in the year and been replaced by Bob Wale on the second album. Toward the end of their career, following the new material being written by Alexander (with some inclusions by Wale), Grapefruit shifted from melodic pop to more of a rock-based sound, referred to as soft rock in a full-page Billboard advertisement for their second album, Deep Water.
After the break-up, Alexander remained the most visible. Alexander joined forces with his brother George Young and his songwriting partner Harry Vanda from The Easybeats and, in 1970, they recorded for the Young Blood label as Paintbox and Tramp. Alexander also participated in sessions for Vanda and Young’s Marcus Hook Roll Band. In 1971, they revived the Grapefruit name, issuing, “Universal Party” / “Sha Sha”, but the single was a one-off release with no follow-up.
In 2016, a 20-song compilation of all of Grapefruit’s recordings for Apple prior to November 1968, entitled Yesterday’s Sunshine, was released by RPM Records. This compilation (with 18 songs written by Alexander, 1 by Perry, plus the cover “C’Mon Marianne”) was the first to include the original version of “Lullaby” that was produced by Lennon and McCartney, as the version released on Around Grapefruit was a later, group-produced version that had been remixed by Melcher, who also added an orchestral arrangement. […]
In 1967 / 1968, Grapefruit had the following band members:
- George Alexander – bass guitar, vocals, guitar, saxophone
- John Perry – vocals, guitar, bass guitar
- Pete Swettenham – guitar, vocals
- Geoff Swettenham – drums
[…] Apple Publishing had been set up as a publishing business. But for Grapefruit, they would assume a larger role, effectively becoming a production company as well. Apple would pay for all of the Grapefruit recording sessions and then license the finished masters to a record label. With “Dear Delilah” in the can, Apple negotiated a deal with RCA to release Grapefruit’s records in England. For the United States, Grapefruit would be signed to a new label formed by [Terry] Melcher, Equinox Records.
The Beatles were impressed with “Dear Delilah” and soon developed a genuine interest in the group. On 10th January 1968 – several weeks before “Dear Delilah” was even released – Grapefruit entered Advision Studios in the company of Paul McCartney and John Lennon, who would product “Lullaby” as the follow up to “Dear Delilah”.
“Lullaby” was the song that had captured John Lennon’s imagination in the summer of 1967 and had led to George Alexander being signed to Apple. Lennon was particularly keen to get this song captured on tape and this was to be the only recording to ever be jointly produced by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. In a single session, the two Beatles transformed “Lullaby” into a perfect encapsulation of English psychedelic pop, but it would never be issued. Not the Lennon and McCartney produced version at least.
[…] “Dear Delilah” was released in February 1968 and in the weeks that followed, managed to climb to number 21 in the English charts. It was a promising enough start for a new group and RCA wanted a follow up single as soon as possible. They requested new material from Apple, but with the Beatles now off in India, the Lennon and McCartney version of “Lullaby” was left on the shelf after Grapefruit presented RCA with the self-produced tracks, “Elevator” and “Yes”. […]Stefan Granados – From the liner notes of Grapefruit – Yesterday’s Sunshine: The Complete 1967-1968 London Sessions, 2016
Last updated on September 22, 2021
Albums, EPs & singles by Grapefruit
By Grapefruit • Official album