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Grapefruit

Grapefruit were one of the better Beatlesque late-'60s British pop-rock bands. In 1968 they seemed on the way to stardom, with a couple of small hit British singles and, more importantly, some help from the Beatles themselves. Led by George Alexander, brother of the Easybeats' George Young, the group were at the outset cheerful harmony pop/rockers with similarities to the Easybeats, Bee Gees, and some Paul McCartney-penned tunes from the Beatles' own psych-pop era. Not quite as incessantly chipper as the Easybeats, not as melodramatic as the Bee Gees, and certainly not as inventive as the Beatles, they were nonetheless similarly skilled at blending melodic pop with sophisticated arrangements that employed baroque/psychedelic touches of strings, orchestration, and several varieties of keyboards. A disappointing second album, however, helped sink them out of sight, and the Beatles couldn't be of help as they were preoccupied with their own imminent dissolution.

George Alexander (born Alexander Young), who wrote most of the songs for Grapefruit, was the older brother of George Young and had stayed behind in the U.K. when the rest of his family emigrated to Australia. He was signed to Apple Music Publishing in 1967 by Terry Doran, who had been affiliated with Brian Epstein and the Beatles' organization for some time. Doran also managed the band, which was completed by several members of the light harmony pop-rock group Tony Rivers and the Castaways (who were managed by Brian Epstein's NEMS Enterprises). Guitarist and lead singer John Perry has remembered that the idea behind Grapefruit would be to play music in the mold of the Beatles' earlier pop image, filling a gap left empty by the Beatles' growth into psychedelia and more sophisticated territory. The Beatles also got behind the group to some extent, as John Lennon named the band (after Yoko Ono's book with the same title) and went to press receptions introducing the band to the media. Members of the Beatles pitched in ideas for Grapefruit arrangements and recording sessions, and Paul McCartney even directed a promotional video for their single, "Elevator." Grapefruit, despite all the Beatles associations, were not on Apple Records, which might have seemed their logical home. There was a pragmatic reason for this: Although Grapefruit began releasing discs in early 1968, Apple Records was not officially launched until quite a few months later.

Grapefruit just missed the Top 20 with their first single, "Dear Delilah," with its lilting melody, uplifting harmonies, and creative use of orchestration and electronic phasing. A cover of the Four Seasons' "C'mon Marianne" just missed the Top Thirty, and although there were several other singles in 1968 and early 1969, nothing else made the charts. Their first LP, Around Grapefruit, was largely comprised of songs from their first five singles.

In contrast to Around Grapefruit, their second album, 1969's Deep Water, was an utterly undistinguished effort that could have been by an entirely different band, as its routine late '60s rock was quite unlike the band's debut. Grapefruit went into a much heavier sound, with deeper traces of blues and occasionally country, and virtually abandoned the harmonies, pop melodicism, and creative multi-textured arrangements that were the strongest points in their favor. For good measure, their association with Apple Publishing ended in November 1968, although John Lennon did suggest in early 1969 that the band should record the then-unreleased Lennon-McCartney song "Two of Us" (which they didn't). Following some personnel changes, the group broke up around the end of the 1960s, although Alexander did revive Grapefruit for a 1971 single, "Universal Party"/"Sha Sha," which also featured ex-Easybeats George Young and Harry Vanda.

Subsequently Alexander worked with Vanda and Young on other production and songwriting projects, while John Perry made an unlikely return to the public eye as a member of the new wave band the Only Ones in the late '70s. Grapefruit's two albums have been reissued on CD by Repertoire with some non-LP tracks. There are also three songs from a BBC session, including two they never released on record -- "Breakin' Up a Dream" and "Trying to Make It to Monday" -- on Hard Up Heroes II, a various-artists bootleg compilation of unreleased late '60s BBC recordings. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
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