Jackie Lomax dies; first Apple artist

Apple Records artist Jackie LomaxJackie Lomax, a British singer best known for his long association with the Beatles, has died at age 69.

Lomax was the first artist signed to the Beatles’ label Apple Records, releasing the album “Is This What You Want?” in 1969. The album foundered, despite the presence on the recording of three Beatles — George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr — and other U.K. rock royalty such as Eric Clapton. Harrison produced the Lomax album.

Harrison wrote Lomax’s first single, “Sour Milk Sea,” released in August 1968. The song, inspired by Sanskrit legends, was recorded by the Beatles as a demo and had been under consideration for the “White Album.” It apparently was the first composition emerging songwriter Harrison gave to another artist.

“George was a champion,” Lomax recalled years later. “He made time for me and was protective even, inviting me to his home. I felt really privileged. It was incredible. To have my name associated with The Beatles — what better thing could happen to a budding artist?”

Lomax, who knew the Beatles from their days at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, sang backup on “Hey Jude” and “Dear Prudence.” He was a member of the Merseybeat band the Undertakers. Brian Epstein managed him for a short while and John Lennon was instrumental in his becoming a solo act. Lomax initially was signed to Apple as a songwriter.

Lomax recalled the superstar-heavy session for “Sour Milk Sea”:

When the backing tape was played back, I thought it worked as an instrumental. “You want me to sing on top of that?!” There I am in the studio and there are three Beatles in the control room watching me. That choked up my throat a bit.

Lomax recorded several strong psychedelic-pop songs, including “Sunset,” “Sour Milk Sea” and “The Eagle Laughs at You.” His song “Is This What You Want?” had striking similarities to the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus.” “Some of the chords are similar,” he later admitted, “but not exactly. The chorus is all R&B.”

While his early recordings reflected the psychedelic era sensibilities, Lomax drew on R&B influences such as Motown and the girl groups.

The singer-songwriter moved to the United States after his split with the Beatles label, living and recording in Woodstock, N.Y. He then found his way to Southern California, working as a musician and in the restaurant business. (He was the greeter for a while at Hollywood’s music biz hangout the Cat & the Fiddle.)

Lomax’s 1970s solo albums included (for Warner Bros.) “Home Is My Head,” “Three” and (for Capitol) “Livin’ for Lovin,'” “Did You Ever Have That Feeling?” He was a member of the bands Heavy Jelly and Badger.

Lomax, who settled in the artists community of Ojai, Calif., played informally in Southern California with a British ex-pats Terry Reid, Mick Taylor and Brian Auger, as well as rocker Tom Petty. He also found work on the oldies circuit, playing bass for versions of the Coasters and the Drifters.

A new album, “Against All Odds,” was about to be released by Angel Air Records, which released Lomax’s “The Ballad of Liverpool Slim” a decade ago.

Lomax died of cancer Sept. 15, 2013, in the Wirral, Merseyside, where he was born. Survivors include his three daughters and his stepson, the fashion/celebrity photographer Terry Richardson.

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