The Man Who Lost His Letter From Apple

Some columns scream out for illustrative backup, something that proves the column is actually based on real life and not amphetaminist bollocks. This is one of those. Somewhere out there lies the evidence I need to prove this outrageous tale is true.

The story begins, as so many good stories do, with the Beatles. In 1968, the band's accountants delivered them the option of giving 2 million to Inland Revenue, or spending it on Who Cares What.

Apple Corps was chosen to be Who Cares What, and one of the hippies there put the bong down long enough to place ads in all the influential English music papers begging anyone with an artistic vision to come forward. The ads professed particular interest in the weird and goofy, the ones outside the rhombus who, like the Beatles themselves, had been initially thrown down life's stairs by the established record companies.

Paul McCartney saw Apple as a controlled weirdness, a kind of Western communism. George Harrison later lamented that during this time, Apple Corps managed to attract every single freak in the world.

I was one of those freaks.

The line between confidence and conceit is terribly thin, and in 1968, I tottered along that high wire with ease. I had been writing for newspapers for three years, and could play the piano, which led me to believe that only paper and pen stood between me and songwriting stardom.

When I saw the ad on the back page of Record Mirror, I tore off three lyrics, wrote the people at Apple Corps an explanatory back story describing the weave of my artistic fibre (specifically, a burning empathy with alienation), and sat back awaiting my brown paper bag of Beatlemoney.

And here is where the absent verification comes in. Within days I received a long letter from Apple Corps with a big green Apple at the top of the page. Love and teeming superlatives stalactited from every line, it was the Waitomo Caves of replies.

I re-read the letter many times before slipping it furtively inside a book in one of our bookcases so my parents wouldn't find it and ask me why I didn't want to get a proper job. And I never saw that letter again.

It is entirely possible a burglar broke into our house and stole it, aware of how valuable the letter would be on eBay 40 years later. They have always said burglars have a fine sense of history. Or it may have been tossed and lives on now as landfill. Or again, it may have been donated to the Regent Theatre book sale and is now owned by someone who is wondering whatever happened to Roy Colbert, maybe he changed his name to Leonard Cohen. Or, and this is the best Or, I may still own it, as we still have many books from back then.

No matter. I do remember Apple saying my words reminded them of Tim Buckley.

This was entirely possible for I had not long discovered Buckley and probably nicked a few lines when I was groping for a suitable image. I have no memory of any specific lines or titles, though I would suspect a typical title, mirroring the creative point I had reached by 1968, would have been Reflections From A Crystal Prism.

Apple asked if I could send the music, which was pretty much them wanting to sign me if you got right down to it. It was also pretty much the same encouragement they gave to every halfwit who came down the pike, but I didn't find that out until years later. But how hard could it be?

Morons were writing hits on the back of caf menus in 1968.

I noodled on the piano for a few weeks but always got diverted by laziness and chocolate. Apple signed James Taylor instead, and you know the rest. I just became The Man Who Lost His Letter From Apple.

Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.


Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter