Meet the one Apple shop Jobs never had a hand in—though he may have been really, really inspired by it. In 1967, The Beatles opened the Apple Shop in London as one of their first Apple Corps ventures. And instead of sleek MacBooks and iPhones, the boutique sold technicolor clothing and accessories by Dutch psychedelic art collective The Fool, who also designed the colossal mural that dominated the otherwise bland street.
Like any good expensive hippie party, the opening night featured rock stars like Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, flutes, finger cymbals and apple juice—the store lacked a liquor license.
In Paul McCartney’s idyllic vision of the time, the store was “a beautiful place where people [could] buy beautiful things.” That vision came crashing down, quickly.
Unlike Jobs’ Apple brand, The Beatles’ Apple shop barely outlived its mural, which was painted over about a month prior to the shop’s ultimate demise. Because the mural had never been approved by Westminster City Council, it earned the ire of local shops and government.
“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,’” George Harrison has said of the mural. “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.”
As Antiques Roadshow puts it, “The store had a problem with liberation—of the shoplifting sort, that is.” With major profit losses, rampant shoplifting and the man killing their vibe, the Apple shop was destined for doom. So what were John, Paul, George and Ringo to do? Give it all away—literally.
The day before the store’s closure, the band announced that the store stock would be up in a free-for-all. McCartney stated the band’s reasoning simply in a press release: “So far, the biggest loss is in giving the things away, but we did that deliberately. We’re giving them away – rather than selling them to barrow boys – because we wanted to give rather than sell.”
For nearly 30 years, The Beatles—via their Apple Corps—and Apple Inc. fought over their similar logos and Apple Inc.’s molding of the music industry
The pandemonium that ensued rivaled any iPhone launch. Hundreds of people lined up the night before the store’s opening while cameras filmed the whole ordeal. Men, women and children gobbled up clothes they mentioned they could never have afforded otherwise—that’s probably true, considering Antiques Roadshow estimates a few outfits to cost today between $15,000 and $17,000.
When the flying clothes settled, The Beatles and their Apple Corps returned to music. “Apple is mainly concerned with fun, not with frocks,” McCartney said.
For nearly 30 years, The Beatles—via their Apple Corps—and Apple Inc. fought over their similar logos and Apple Inc.’s molding of the music industry. Their dispute began in 1978, with Apple Corps suing Apple Inc. for trademark infringement. The two settled with an agreement that Apple Corps stay out of the computer business while Apple Inc. keep out of the music industry. If you’ve ever used iTunes, you can see how well Jobs listened to the terms of the settlement.
For years, The Beatles were the biggest musical act to hold off selling their music on iTunes, though that’s since been remedied.
The bitter feud ended in 2007, when Apple Inc. bought the rights to the Apple name for an estimated $50 to $100 million. “We love the Beatles, and it has been painful being at odds with them over these trademarks,” Jobs said in a statement at the time. “It feels great to resolve this in a positive manner, and in a way that should remove the potential of further disagreements in the future.”