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An Apple a Day: Mary Hopkin - Post Card
by Bruce Spizer
This installment in our Apple a Day series, highlighting the recent Apple remasters, brings us to Mary Hopkin.
Mary Hopkin was signed to Apple in 1968 after supermodel Twiggy saw the young Welsh folk singer on the British TV talent show Opportunity Knocks and was so impressed that she told Paul McCartney of her talent. McCartney signed her to Apple and produced her first year of recordings. He also selected the songs for her to record, guided her career and accompanied her on promotional appearances.
Mary Hopkin's debut single paired "Those Were The Days," a Lithuanian folk song adapted by American Gene Raskin and given a big production send-up by Paul, with "Turn, Turn, Turn," a folk song written by Pete Seeger that was a number one hit for the Byrds in 1965. "Those Were The Days," released as part of Apple's "First Four" in late August, 1968, helped get Apple off to a fantastic start by reaching number two on the charts (blocked by the Beatles "Hey Jude") and selling over one million copies in the U.S. and topping the U.K. charts. It was a true international hit charting high throughout the world.
Paul McCartney and Mary Hopkin
Paul was in complete control of Mary's debut album, "Post Card." He produced the album, selected the songs, brought in Richard Hewson as arranger, played guitar and bass on several of the tracks, designed the art work and had future wife Linda take the cover photographs. The songs were a mixture of folk songs, standards and show tunes. It was released in March, 1969, and charted at 28 in the U.S.
Although the U.K. album did not have either side of Mary's debut single, the remastered CD opens with "Those Were The Days." This alteration is for the best is the song presents Paul and Mary at their best. It is a haunting and nostalgic song that grips the listener early on and builds to an exciting finish.
Paul and Donovan play acoustic guitar on two Donovan compositions, "Lord Of The Reedy River" and "Voyage To The Moon," which were written especially for Mary. She sang and played acoustic guitar on Donovan's "Happiness Runs," which features Donovan on acoustic guitar and Paul on bass. These songs are among the album's best.
Mary sounds most comfortable on the album's folk songs. "Y Blodyn Gwyn" is sung by Mary in her native Welsh. It is a traditional Welsh folk song that Mary sang in school. It's title translates as "The White Flower."
"Prince En Avignon" is a mournful French song. "The Puppy Song" was written for her by Harry Nilsson. It nearly became her second Apple single.
"The Honeymoon Song" was a tune Paul sang in his early Beatles days. The group recorded the song for the BBC. "Young Love" was an upbeat fifties number one hit for Tab Hunter.
The other standards and show tunes are well produced, but Mary seems out of her element at times. "Inch Worm" is from the Danny Kaye film "Hans Christian Anderson" The album's closing track is a glorious big production number, "There's No Business Like Show Business," which features George Martin on piano.
The remastered CD's bonus tracks are among the best on the disc. They include the B-side of her first single, "Turn, Turn, Turn" and both sides of her second single, "Goodbye" and "Sparrow." "Goodbye" was written by Paul for Mary. He played acoustic guitar, bass and "thigh-slap" percussion on the song. It was released in April, 1969, and gave Mary a number 13 hit. "Fields of St. Etienne" appears in a previously unreleased version produced by Geoff Emerick that was slated for Mary's third single.
Paul's work with Mary ended at the time he lost interest in Apple due to his problems with Allen Klein. Her future releases would move away from the standards and show tunes that McCartney favored and envisioned for her.
"Post Card" is somewhat of a mixed bag due to the songs selected by Paul. While some of the show tunes seem out of place, the "Post Card" remastered CD is worth owning due to the folk songs and bonus tracks.
Additional information about the artists who recorded for Apple Records can be found in Bruce Spizer's book "The Beatles Solo on Apple Records." Bruce Spizer is the author of a series of critically acclaimed books on the Beatles American record releases. He also wrote "The Beatles Are Coming! The Birth of Beatlemania in America," which is the definitive book on the subject. He served as editor and publisher of "Price Guide for the Beatles American Records," which was written by Perry Cox and Frank Daniels. Bruce is currently working with Frank Daniels on a new book covering the Beatles U.K. record releases from the sixties titled "Beatles For Sale on Parlophone Records." He has served as a consultant for EMI/Capitol Records on Beatles projects. Information regarding his books can be found at his website www.beatle.net.
Published December 1, 2010
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