Apple tailoring: A Day In The Life
by guest blogger Obadiah Jones
On Wednesday 22 May 1968, eighteen months after they first met at the Indica Gallery and nineteen days after they consummated their new relationship, John Lennon and Yoko Ono made their first joint public appearance in London. The occasion? The Beatles company Apple were celebrating the opening of their second clothing shop with a press party and fashion show at the trendy Club Dell’Aretusa, 107 King’s Road, Chelsea. The Apple Boutique had already opened its doors to the public on 7 December the previous year, and now Apple Tailoring was to mark Apple’s second foray into the business of clothing retail. To do this, Apple had turned the popular Dandie Fashions store at 161 King’s Road into their own storefront under the management of Australian designer Kenneth Malcolm John Crittle. In his vision, ‘civic and theatrical’ men and women’s clothing would be the main feature. The store had been ‘completely redecorated in white and apple green.’ 1
Dandie Fashions had been originally opened in October 1966 in Queen’s Gate Mews, Kensington, as the brainchild of 23-year-old Crittle and 21-year-old heir to the Guinness fortune Tara Browne, a friend of Paul McCartney. That same month, The Rolling Stones walked into the shop and cleared out the stock, buying fifteen suits.2 In December 1966, Dandie Fashions moved to the King’s Road address with a brightly colored storefront painted by the design collective Binder, Edwards & Vaughan.3 (They also painted Paul McCartney’s psychedelic upright Alfred E Knight piano around the same time.) The previous tenants of 161 King’s Road had been a hardware shop called W Bird & Son.4 Tragically, Tara Browne died in a car crash in South Kensington on the evening of 18 December 1966 when he swerved his Lotus Elan at high speed into the back of a parked Riley RM saloon car.5 This event would inspire the verse lyrics of Lennon’s ‘A Day In The Life’ a month later. The grand opening for the shop went ahead at the beginning of 1967 following Tara Browne’s memorial service on 10 January.6,7 On 19 May 1967, a surprise drug raid by ten plain-clothes policemen (including Sgt Norman Pilcher) and a dog led to the search of nine people in the store including John Crittle and strip dancer Peki D’Oslo.8 Both were arrested for possession of illegal drugs. John Crittle was tried at Marlborough Court on 27 July and 31 August pleading not guilty but was ultimately charged and given two-year’s probation on 22 January 1968.9,10 It was around the same time in January 1968 that talks began for Apple to take over Tara Browne’s share of Dandie Fashions and turn it into Apple Tailoring.10
A Dandie Fashions Ltd order form survives, dated 5 July 1967, for a tailor-made ‘gold brocade’ jacket with ‘mandarin collar’ and ‘flared split cuffs’. The customer, a certain Paul McCartney, wore a large 36 Regular size. Photographs taken by Brazilian fan Lizzie Bravo outside his 7 Cavendish Avenue town house five days later show Paul with a Dandie Fashions shopping bag in the backseat of his Aston Martin DB6.
There are no known photographs of Paul wearing this jacket. He may, however, have passed it on to his drummer, who appears to be sporting a similar jacket on location for the film Candy in Rome, 4 December 1967. The buttons are slightly larger on Ringo’s jacket, so it may not be the same item. Ringo was photographed in his gold jacket again two months later by Paul Saltzman while in Rishikesh, India.
After returning to England from India, John took advantage of his wife Cynthia’s absence in early May (she was on holiday in Greece with Donovan, Jenny Boyd and Alexis ‘Magic Alex’ Mardas) to kindle a new relationship with Yoko Ono at Kenwood, his Weybridge mansion. By May 16, he had come and gone from New York on a promotional venture for Apple, and it was now he invited Yoko to join him for his first public appearance. It is unclear why Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr did not attend the Apple Tailoring event on 22 May, although it is known that Paul was attending to other Apple business at the Baker Street shop.11 Perhaps they agreed four Beatles in one place would cause too much excitement. Although it had been John and Paul who had taken the recent trip to New York, the precedent had been set over the last year for John and George to appear as a duo. For instance, the two had made back-to-back appearances on The Frost Programme on 29 September and 4 October the previous year preaching the gospel of Transcendental Meditation. Similarly, it was John and George, without Paul and Ringo, who hosted the launch party for the Baker Street Apple store on 5 December 1967.
On that day in May 1968, it was George Harrison and his wife Pattie Boyd who were the first to arrive at the Club Dell’Aretusa. George, dressed in a contemporary floral jacket, was interviewed at his table by Alan Smith for the New Musical Express about this new business venture, to which George explained, ‘We bought a few things from him, and the next thing I knew, we owned the place!’ (interview published with a cover photo of John Lennon, John Crittle and George in the 1 June 1968 issue of NME).12
Seventeen-year-old photographer Alan Messer had been tipped off about the event by the manager of television host and disc jockey Simon Dee, who had been enlisted to compère the afternoon’s fashion show. (It would be on Simon Dee’s BBC1 programme Dee Time that Jane Asher would announce her split from Paul McCartney two months later, 20 July.) Messer had begun his career in photography on 4 December 1967 as an assistant to none other than early Beatles photographer Dezo Hoffmann. ‘I was a fan with a camera, with opportunities to photograph pop stars and great musicians,’ remembers Messer. He had already photographed Ringo Starr on 7 March 1968 in Studio 3, EMI Studios, Abbey Road, as he presented a Grammy award to engineer Geoff Emerick for his contribution to Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Messer says that by May 1968, however, Hoffmann ‘had run out of money and laid me off, so I was now a self-employed freelancer,’ albeit still working from Hoffmann’s studio.
That afternoon, Messer ‘perched’ himself at George’s table in the club and was just snapping a wide-angled shot of George, Pattie, Daily Express journalist Judith Simons and Apple’s Chris O’Dell, when John Lennon arrived with his new date Yoko Ono. ‘Get outta my bloody chair,’ John told Messer.
George stepped in, ‘Steady on, John, he’s ok.’13
Following the fashion show featuring John Crittle’s designs and after John and George caught up over a drink, both got up to move to the club basement for press photos with Crittle, model Amanda Lear (muse of Salvador Dalí) and hairdresser Leslie Cavendish. Apple Hair, the salon of this personal hairdresser of The Beatles, was going to be opening in the basement beneath Apple Tailoring.11 ‘John was in great spirits,’ remembers Alan Messer, ‘singing, “I’ll Apple you if you’ll Apple me…”’
Messer also remembers John saying something to Yoko along the lines of, ‘I hope you don’t mind me bringing you to this thing.’13 Other attendees at Club Dell’Aretusa that day were folk singer Julie Felix, Apple-signed band Grapefruit, Wonderwall director Joe Massot, Apple employees Derek Taylor, Peter Brown and Malcolm ‘Mal’ Evans. In addition to Alan Messer, the event was photographed by Leslie Bryce for The Beatles Book Monthly fan magazine, Bill Zygmant, Mike McKeown for the Daily Express and others.11,14,15
For the benefit of the press, it was decided that John and George would leave the party with their partners and walk the five-hundred and twenty-eight feet down Chelsea’s King’s Road from Club Dell’Aretusa to Apple Tailoring. For some reason they did not all walk together along the way: John and Yoko went ahead and were followed by George, Pattie, Derek Taylor and Mal Evans. Alan Messer remembers that ‘when John and Yoko left the club, I tried to get a picture press-style over my head but got nothing.’13
The first known photographs of John and Yoko in the street were taken as they walked by The Chelsea Potter public house at 119 King’s Road. The Chelsea Potter (now a Greene King pub) was named in 1958 in commemoration of ceramics artist William de Morgan who founded the Chelsea Arts Pottery in 1872. Alan Messer was captured looking inquisitively at the camera, standing slightly behind John’s right shoulder.
I don’t remember walking next to John and Yoko. I only remember a photographer taking a picture and did not know why I was part of it. I remember the cameras! I carried my Nikkormat, two Nikon F Photomics loaded with Kodak Tri-X and I have a Mecablitz Flash, which I never used. I carried too much gear and forever since I have preferred the stealth of one or two cameras, however, I got four memorable photographs.13
After walking less than two-hundred feet with them, Messer ‘got a taxi and went back to the studio [20 Gerrard Street] to develop the film.’ At the time, Record Mirror did not publish any of his photos from the event and instead, ‘I was reprimanded [by Mirror picture editor Peter Jones] for not getting a photo of John and Yoko [together].’13
At the second location along the route, a camera captured George and Pattie crossing Shawfield Street in front of the offices of Kendall & Sons (Chelsea) Ltd at 123a King’s Road (now a Starbucks). Sometime between the end of 1958 and the early-1960s Kendall & Sons (Chelsea) Ltd switched their business from being undertakers to ‘builders and decorators’ due to financial trouble.16One hundred feet or so beyond Kendall & Sons, John and Yoko were photographed again while passing 133 King’s Road, which was empty at the time. With its windows whitewashed, the shop was transitioning from chemist Timothy Whites to an Oxfam Charity shop that would open on 21 October 1968.17,18 The John Lennon and Yoko Ono seen in these photographs is not the attached-at-the-hip, power couple the world would come to recognize later in the year and into 1969 with their avant-garde antics and campaigns for peace. Here instead is a couple in the early days of getting to know each other, figuring out how to be together. Perhaps conscious of being photographed in public, both still married to their respective spouses, they do not hold hands or show obvious signs of being romantically involved. John, wearing the same fur coat he would don for The Beatles 30 January 1969 rooftop concert, has his hands thrust deeply into his pockets.
The weather on 22 May was overcast and mostly dry with a high temperature of 12oC (55oF).19 Yoko, dressed in simple, loose cotton clothing, smokes a cigarette and carries her coat over her arm. Behind John, the red awning and neon sign of the Picasso Restaurant and coffee bar, 127 King’s Road, are visible and beyond that Kendall & Sons (Chelsea) Ltd can once again be seen on the corner of Shawfield Street. Interestingly, the alleyway running between 129 and 131 King’s Road was then named ‘Small Alley’ but is no longer signposted in 2022. Picasso restaurant, used as a filming location in 1967 for Inner Space starring ex-Coronation Street actress Christine Hargreaves, is now a Five Guys burger joint.20 On either side of Picasso, 125 King’s Road was an Alex Strickland Record Centre (open since 1 July 1967) while number 129 was home to Jesson, a newsagent.21,22 Sometime in the 1960s, 131 King’s Road was a branch of Dollond & Aitchison opticians, but it is not clear if they were still there as John and Yoko walked past on this particular day. Since John was wearing the wire-rimmed National Health specs he adopted from his supporting role as Private Gripweed in Richard Lester’s How I Won The War, he actually would have been able to see into the shop windows.
John and Yoko were then photographed sixty feet further along the road as they crossed Flood Street. Behind them is an awning advertising ‘Men’s Wear’ belonging to Adler’s shirt shop at 143 King’s Road. The green, corner tile work is still recognizable as part of the Old Chelsea Town Hall (spanning 131-143 King’s Road), now an Anthropologie ladies’ clothing store branch.
In the final two-hundred-foot stretch of King’s Road to reach the Apple Tailoring store, Beatles Book Monthly photographer Leslie Bryce captured John and Yoko as they passed the recently sold Cheyne Gallery at 153 King’s Road and Sunlight Laundry at 155 King’s Road. The gallery had belonged to Chelsea photographer William Churcher since opening its first exhibition of ‘tapestries and painted designs’ on 11 July 1961.23 Perhaps conversation with Yoko had petered out for the moment as John looked away from her across the King’s Road and talked with Beatles Book Monthly’s publisher Sean O’Mahony. Yoko bit her lip and carried on ahead of him. Another photographer can be seen in one of Bryce’s photographs looking back toward John and Yoko.
George and Pattie, meanwhile, were photographed a final time with The Beatles loyal aide Mal Evans in this stretch of the King’s Road. It appears that they had just passed the overhang entrance to Chelsea Methodist Church at street number 155a. The ‘SOLD by Tuckerman’ sign above George’s head is the same one that appears in Bryce’s photos of John and Yoko. Pattie, in her stylish black minidress, was either braving the cold without her coat, or John was overdressed in his fur coat.
Amazingly, their photographed jaunt down a bustling London thoroughfare did not seem to attract much attention, nor were they bothered by fans. After the two-minute walk from Club Dell’Aretusa, the two Beatle parties reached the new Apple Tailoring storefront at number 161. There, John, George and John Crittle individually and the two Johns together posed for publicity photographs in front of the white and apple-green sign ‘Civil and Theatrical Apple Tailoring by John Crittle’. This had replaced the rainbow ‘God Is Love’ design by Binder, Edwards & Vaughan. In a curious parallel, the Apple Boutique on Baker Street had started life in technicolor with a large mural painted by The Fool collective, only to be whitewashed between 15-18 May due to complaints from the neighboring businesses. Apple Tailoring would open to the public the following day, Thursday 23 May 1968.
The Beatles/Apple’s association with John Crittle endured for only a while longer. On 30 July 1968, The Beatles closed their Apple Boutique, 94 Baker Street, with a giveaway of more than £10,000 worth of the remaining stock. However, as Paul declared in a statement co-signed by the other Beatles, the ‘King’s Road Apple shop would not be closing. [The Beatles] felt they had a moral and personal obligation to their partner, John Crittle.’24 By November 1968, however, Apple Tailoring had lost its Beatle backing and became the independent John Crittle & Co – ‘Your Friendly Tailor & Outfitter.’25 Leslie Cavendish’s Hairdressing Studio which officially opened at the end of August 1968, continued to do good business in the basement of number 161 until 1970 and Cavendish was never asked to return the £3,000 Apple invested in it.11,26
On 27 April 1969, Crittle and his then-wife Andrea Williams gave birth to their daughter Marnie Mercedes Darcey Pemberton Crittle. She would go on to become the widely-acclaimed ballerina Dame Darcey Bussell DBE.27 In the long run, John Crittle & Co did not survive the decade and by November 1970 a new boutique, Shape, had ‘risen from the ashes of the John Crittle / Apple tailoring enterprise on the same site.’28 John Crittle split from his young family and returned to Australia in 1973 where he died of emphysema in 2000 at the age of fifty-six.29 As of writing, in 2022, 161 King’s Road sits empty, its last occupant a Kuwaiti restaurant forced to close during the COVID-19 pandemic ironically called Bye Bye London.
In the bigger picture of Beatles history, Wednesday 22 May 1968 was ‘a day in the life’ of minor importance to John Lennon and George Harrison, who had almost no emotional and not much more financial investment in this new side business of their growing Apple conglomerate. Yet, like most things involving The Beatles, every step they took had rich connections to the colorful world of Swinging London. More significantly, this day captured John at a pivotal moment between his marriage to Cynthia Powell and his new infatuation with Yoko Ono.
Having returned from Rishikesh, India, only a month before, abruptly cutting ties with their guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, John and George were especially close at this time, the most serious meditation students of the Fab Four, come home to ‘play businessman.’30 While launching these various Apple ventures, The Beatles music juggernaut kept rolling. The band was brimming with new songs. Only eight days later, they would begin recording their monumental, self-titled double-album at EMI Studios, Abbey Road.
1. Chelsea News 24 May 1968.
2. London Life 15 October 1966.
3. Chelsea News 16 December 1966.
4. Chelsea News 21 November 1969.
5. Daily Mirror 19 December 1966.
6. Chelsea News 23 December 1966.
7. Daily Mirror 11 January 1967.
8. Daily Mirror 20 May 1967.
9. Chelsea News 28 July & 1 September 1967.
10. Chelsea News 19 & 26 January 1968.
11. Korinth, Axel; Dieckmann, Ed; Caroselli, Antonio. A Is For Apple Vol 1: 1966-1968. 2015.
12. Smith, Alan. New Musical Express 1 June 1968.
13. Author correspondence with Alan Messer 23 February-18 March 2022.
14. Beatles Book Monthly No. 60 July 1968.
15. Chelsea News 7 June 1968.
16. West London Press 21 November 1958.
17. West London Press 21 October 1960.
18. Chelsea News 18 October 1968.
19. Daily Mirror 22 May 1968.
20. Chelsea News 28 April 1967.
21. Chelsea News 30 June 1967.
22. West London Press 29 June 1956.
23. West London Press 14 July 1961.
24. Chelsea News 9 August 1968.
25. Evening Standard (London) 27 November 1968.
26. Evening Standard (London) 17 August 1968.
27. The Observer 8 November 2009.
28. Kensington Post 13 November 1970.
29. Sydney Morning Herald 9 May 2000.
30. John Lennon & Paul McCartney interview with Larry Kane, 13 May 1968.
About the author:
Obadiah Jones is a musician and researcher originally from Colorado, based in London. A graduate of The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (BA Hons), where he earned a one-on-one songwriting session with Sir Paul McCartney, Obadiah has been a life-long Beatles fan and has covered every song in their catalogue on his accounts @beatlescovers (Tik Tok) and @thembeatlescovers (Instagram). Obadiah is one half of the acclaimed Country/Americana duo O&O.