A collection of late 1960s pop rarities from the Apple Publishing catalogue incorporates a pioneering Birmingham recording project, writes Terry Grimley...

A couple of months ago I ended my review of a double CD compilation of 1960s Brumbeat tracks with the tongue-in-cheek (some might say wilfully obscure) question: "Now, does anyone have a pristine copy of an An Apple a Day by Bachdenkel in the attic?"

Obviously you should be careful what you wish for. This little fragment of Birmingham pop music history has just turned up, together with two other songs recorded at the same sessions, as the opening title track for a collection of rare songs published by the Beatles' company Apple Publishing in the late 1960s.

The coincidence is all the more remarkable since this is the first time they have been commercially released since they were recorded at Hollick & Taylor's Handsworth studio nearly 40 years ago.

But first, a bit of background for new readers. Bachdenkel are one of the oddest footnotes to 1960s Birmingham pop. A guitar-bass-drums trio in the mould of Cream and Hendrix but perhaps owing more to American West Coast groups in their raga-like approach to improvisation, they were Birmingham contemporaries of Black Sabbath but left the city in 1969 when they were persuaded to tour France - and never came back.

They are still living there today, having disbanded as a group in the late 1970s with a final reunion in 1982. Their two studio albums have been reissued on CD, one of them with previously unissued material, and are widely available in Europe and America via the internet.

However, nostalgia for their music, possibly limited to myself and a few other people, largely rests on their exciting live performances, mystify-ingly little of which seems to have been captured, or survived, on tape.

The three tracks just released pre-date both Bach-denkel's final line-up and its name, and are actually credited to the The U (Don't) No Who - which might be the worst-ever band name if it were not an apparently jocular tag for what seems to have been a pick-up outfit put together for a recording project.

In 1968, decades ahead of his time, future Bachdenkel manager Karel Beer had the concept of starting a Birmingham-based record label and assembled this band to record three original songs.

It was only subsequently, with the setting up of Apple, that he realised that An Apple a Day might have theme-song potential, and Apple did indeed publish all three songs, but nothing came of the recordings and the project went no further.

An Apple a Day, mindlessly cheerful and infuriatingly catchy, could hardly have been further removed from the morbid introspection of Bach-denkel's later songwriting.

I t features the then-fashionable, now dated, staccato piano chords popularised by the Beatles' Penny Lane, and a brass section led by Bill Hunt, later of ELO.

The other two songs have worn better. The haunting melody of Strange People might have earned it minor classic status if anybody had ever got to hear it, while Now and Again Rebecca is a respectable piece of late 1960s rock'n'roll, not unlike American bands of the time like Moby Grape, which is lifted out of the ordinary by its startling, upward-rushing guitar introduction.

Though impressively produced these tracks haven't quite come down to us in pristine condition. Their slightly fuzzy-edged sound suggest they are among the majority of tracks on the album which survive only in the form of acetates.

The other 19 tracks on this new compilation no doubt have their own stories of might-have-beens, but the general impression is of second division pop which only serves to underline the relative quality of late-60s pop aristocracy.

The prime purpose of Apple, after all, was to provide the Beatles with a tax haven, not to be a serious incubator of talent.

The fate of American band Mortimer, who were actually bought out of a record deal with Mercury by Apple but whose subsequent album was never released, must be typical of many who dabbled unsuccessfully in the heady pop world of this era.

The Iveys, subsequently renamed Badfinger, were the best known Apple artists alongside Mary Hopkin and gave the company a long-term earner in Without You - covered by Mariah Carey as recently as 1994 - before splitting up in 1972. However, the three tracks here are earlier home-recorded demos.

Artists like Lace, Jigsaw, Denis Couldry and Turquise have left minimal marks on musical history, but Gallagher & Lyle, who were staff song-writers at Apple at the end of the 1960s, enjoyed success under their own names in the early 1970s.

Songs like Ivy Unrehearsed and Technicolour Dream demonstate their catchy but lightweight talent.

* An Apple a Day: More Pop-Psych Sounds from the Apple Era 1967-69 is out now on RPM Records. For more information, visit rpmrecords.co.uk