By Richard Porter From the London Beatles Fanclub magazine.
[Blogger’s note – From 1988 to 1998 I was the founder, and President of the London Beatles Fanclub, and the editor of the club’s fanzine. During that time, I got to meet, and interview, many different people with a Beatles connection – some totally by chance. One of those was Geoff and Pete Swettenham on Apple Band ‘Grapefruit’. Below is the article about that meeting :
When I started my job with the Metropolitan Police, it didn’t take too long for my workmates to realise I was a Beatles fan. Well, I do talk about them rather a lot! Imagine my surprise when one of my colleagues, Darryl Swettenham told me ‘My dad used to know the Beatles!’
Darryl told me his dad, Geoff, was the drummer of ‘Grapefruit’, the first band signed to Apple Publishing.
Well, my curiosity was aroused, and I went home to try to find out all I could about Grapefruit. I went through my substantial collection of Beatles books but could find very little. I was rather surprised at the lack on information about this group, and decided I wanted to know more. I therefore asked Darryl if he would ask his dad whether I could interview him for our magazine.
I rang up Geoff and he readily agreed to the interview and suggested I meet him in his local pub, the Turks Head in St Margarets. This just happened to be where Ringo plays darts in ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and disrupts everyone’s pub games. Geoff also offered to ask his brother, Pete, along as he was Grapefruit’s rhythm guitarist. Consequently, I spent two very enjoyable and informative hours in the company of half of Grapefruit. They talked very openly about their time as members of an Apple band and their meetings with the Beatles and other assorted rock stars of the day.
Their first professional band – Tony Rivers and the Castaways, used to do a lot of Beatles covers and harmony work, influenced by the Beach Boys. One of the original Castaways left the group to become an agent for Nems Enterprises, Brian Epstein’s company. It was through that connection that the Castaways were signed to Nems. Geoff and Pete remember going to a meeting at Brian Epstein’s Chapel Street house and being interviewed by both Brian and Robert Stigwood. Three “weirdly dressed” people were also there – these turned out to be another new Nems signing – the Bee Gees!
Tony Rivers and the Castaways were signed to Nems in the summer of 1967, and it wasn’t long afterwards that while on the road between gigs, they heard of Brian Epstein’s death. The Castaways broke up soon afterwards.
The formation of Grapefruit came about when John Perry, a former Castaway, met Terry Doran, then the managing director of Apple Publishing, in a London club. John told Terry that he had written some songs and also told him about a friend of his, George Alexander, who was also a songwriter and bass player. John wanted to form a four-piece group and so asked Geoff and Pete if they were interested. They said they were and joined.
They all first met Terry Doran in the Apple Publishing office above the Apple boutique on Baker Street. Geoff remembers they had to go up rickety old stairs to Apple, but when they arrived there was no one in. Sometime later, a lunatic with a mop of curly hair came bouncing up the stairs. It was Terry Doran. The new band was formed but didn’t have a name. Pete remembers “Terry got a call from John Lennon saying he’d thought of the name ‘Grapefruit’ – he got it from Yoko’s book. However, at the time, John was still with Cynthia so they had to change the story for our publicity hand-outs.”
Not long after the formation of the group, Grapefruit were taken to meet Paul McCartney. Paul was supervising the editing of The Beatles’ ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ film, at a cutting room in Old Compton Street. Pete remembers that they were led past lines girls who were sitting on the stairs waiting for Paul to emerge.
ON 24th November 1967, Grapefruit did their first recording session at IBC Studios in Portland Street, near BBC Broadcasting House. Pete remembers: “We’d been recording for about half an hour when, on the stairs leading up to the control room, suddenly in walked John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who had been our heroes for years! Geoff remembers, “ In between takes, Paul came down and asked if he could have a go on my drumkit. I told him to piss off! No, seriously, of course I let him. Geoff said that even though Paul was a fairly good drummer and played with lots of feeling, Ringo was far better. “He was a very tight drummer and used to swing as well.”
“We’d been drinking scotch and coke and Paul asked for a drink. He took one sip and asked if there was any scotch in it. He then proceeded to fill the glass up with scotch and said ‘Now that’s what I call a scotch and coke’. They remained in the studio for some hours”.
According to Geoff, even though they didn’t actively participate in the recording of ‘Dear Delilah’, John and Paul produced a track on Grapefruit’s first album, called ‘Lullaby’. Geoff said “You can hear a nice, tight, punchy, Beatley sound on that track – they did a good job on it.
The first time Grapefruit played live before any sort of audience was at the press reception for the release of ‘Dear Delilah’ at the Hanover Grand Hotel. Among those present were John, Paul, and Ringo, plus Brian Jones, Donovan, Cilla Black, Jimi Hendrix and the Hollies! “We felt very intimidated playing in front of all these people” said Geoff. “We played six songs very badly.
The first actual concert Grapefruit played was at the Royal Albert Hall, supporting the Bee Gees – not a bad way to start your live career, but it must have been plain sailing after playing at the press reception.
Geoff and Pete were now in a different world. Geoff recalls one occasion in particular. “One day, me and Pete piled in a small car with Pattie Harrison, Twiggy, and Adrienne Posta and decided to visit or parent’s pub in Chelmsford. Imagine the look on people’s faces when we walked through the door, it caused quite a stir!”
Geoff remembers one of the many practical jokes that John Lennon used to play on people. “I was in his psychedelic Rolls Royce once. He drove up really close behind the car in front, wound down the window and played a tape recording of a car crash at full blast. The other guy must have thought he’d been hit! We just fell around laughing!
After the release of ‘Dear Delilah’ the group had to decide what to release as a follow-up. There was a choice between two songs, ‘Elevator’ and ‘Yes’, and quite an argument ensued. However, one day Geoff had a brainwave and said, “I thought why not make it a double ‘A’ side.” This they did. However, Paul McCartney thought they were “Bloody idiots” releasing a double ‘A’ side at this stage in their career. He did offer to produce a promo film for ‘Elevator’ though. He took them to Hyde Park and directed them bouncing up and down on trampolines near the Albert Memorial.
Pate says, “Paul also came down to Advision Studios when we were recording ‘Yes’. – Spencer Davies came as well. Paul helped us record the backing track. We had orgasms over it! It was probably why we couldn’t decide between the tracks.”
In the end, despite Paul’s help, the single flopped as having it as a double A side didn’t work. Grapefruit never really recovered from the flop. Also, it took them more than a year to get their first album together. Pete and Geoff thought Terry Doran was too democratic with them and let them get way with being lazy. Pete Swettenham left Grapefruit in 1969 and by that time the group had change a lot musically. Grapefruit finally broke up in 1970.
After the first heady days of Grapefruit, Pete and Geoff still saw a fair bit of the Beatles. For a time Pete was living in Ringo’s flat in Montagu Square – however, he had to leave in a hurry. He recalls: “I was sitting on an aeroplane and I was reading that Ringo had been forced to sell the flat. When we got back our stuff had been moved out and we had to find somewhere else to live. So, Terry Doran called George Harrison and we went down to his place in Esther for a while.”
Although it was enjoyable living at the bungalow at the beginning, with numerous rock stars coming and going, things got a little strained after a while. “I never felt I was George’s equal” Said Pete. Also, George was going through a bad patch. “He came down to breakfast one morning and announced, ‘I told the other’s yesterday that I am leaving the Beatles!’ This was during the filming of ‘Let it Be’. However, George was talked into going back a few days later.
By this time, Pete thought he had overstayed his welcome and left.
Even after Grapefruit broke up, both Pete and Geoff had encounters that brought back vivid memories of the old days. Pete was working as a tape operator at AIR Studios when Paul came there to work on ‘Band on the Run’. When Paul arrived on his first day, he immediately recognised Peter and said Hello.
On the last day of recording, Paul had done the backing track of ‘1985’ but hadn’t written the lyrics. “Paul wrote them over breakfast” says Pete, “which is probably why they are so bad!”
Incidentally, Pete remembers that Paul didn’t credit the studios on the LP sleeve because of an argument over recording schedules, even though he did a lot of work there.
Geoff had a more bizarre encounter. When abroad on business, he had a chance meeting with Yoko’ ex husband Tony Cox, and daughter Kyoko in the early 80s. When Geoff told Tony of his connections with John, Tony became rather guarded as he still worried that Yoko would try to take Kyoko back.
Although neither Geoff or Pete are playing music full time, both still play for fun. I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours with them and I thank them for being so open with me.