APPLE BOUTIQUE: THE BEATLES' SHOP REVIVED
Fans were falling over each other, arms and legs everywhere, reaching out to grab whatever clothes or artefacts they could get their hands on. Outside the shop at 94 Baker Street, the queue grew longer as more and more people pushed and shoved to get in and grab a free item (or five) to keep as their final memory of The Apple Boutique.
It was July 31, 1968, and The Beatles hung up their career as shopkeepers. After a little less than eight months in business, they gave the rest of the inventory away.
The launch party on December 5, 1967, was famously attended by John Lennon, George Harrison, and most of London's in-crowd. While the likes of Keith Moon, Eric Clapton, Cilla Black, and Twiggy were sipping apple juice and eating apples inside, the exterior left no passers-by in doubt that The Beatles had moved in.
Dutch art collective The Fool had been commissioned to decorate the 18th-century building on the corner of Baker Street and Paddington Street in Marylebone with an impressive, psychedelic mural. The surrounding Georgian houses in one of London's oldest neighbourhoods were hit by a colour quake so strong that it was felt in the entire City of Westminster.
Confusion reigns regarding all things Apple, including how long the mural was up, but likely until the middle of May. Complaints from local traders resulted in Westminster City Council issuing Apple with an enforcement notice to paint over the mural. Much against their will, The Beatles dipped the entire building in white paint and wrote "Apple" in cursive script above the shop windows. The building remained that way until the shop closed its doors for the last time on July 31, 1968.
Visually, in a seemingly unrelated twist of fate, the colour transformation of the building from maximum rainbow to all-white prefigures the contrast in cover art between both 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' and 'Magical Mystery Tour', which came out shortly before the Apple Boutique opened, to that of 'The Beatles' (soon to be better known as 'The White Album'), released half a year after the Apple Boutique folded.
Number 94 Baker Street was demolished in 1974. In its place now stands a new build that aims to replicate the original. Except - the mural is missing, of course. Like many other Beatles fans before me, I went to Baker Street in the naive hope that I could catch a glimpse of the psychedelic mural and a long-gone era I would have loved to witness first-hand.
What a loss. What an attraction it could have been for the City of Westminster, for London, and for England, even. If only the authorities had understood the importance of keeping a unique piece of music history, a lasting memory of a band who at the time was already the biggest in the world, and whose legacy and cultural influence don't look to diminish anytime soon. There is no facepalm big enough. And all because some nearby shopkeepers weren't too fond of purple, orange, and blue.
George Harrison perhaps put it best in The Beatles Anthology:
"If they'd protected it and the painted wall was there now, they would be saying, 'Wow, look at this. We've got to stop it chipping off.' But that's just typical of the narrow minds we were trying to fight against. That's what the whole Sixties Flower-Power thing was about. 'Go away, you bunch of boring people.' The whole government, the police, the public - everybody was so boring, and then suddenly people realised they could have fun. Once we were told we had to get rid of the painting, the whole thing started to lose its appeal."
That is why I decided to revive The Beatles' shop in Baker Street. Many hours of comprehensive research have gone into creating this illustration to help preserve the memory of an irreplaceable part of London and Beatles music history.