In his statement for his exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries, London 1974, the artist explains that Billy Apple came to existence on 22 November 1962, Thanksgiving Day in the United States.
He is “conceived” by Barry Bates as “an extended work which is part of an effort to break down the separation between “art activity” and “life activity”. The name is selected in conversation with British painter Richard Smith, with whom he is temporarily living, in his warehouse studio in east London. The occasion is marked by the artist bleaching his hair and eyebrows with Lady Clairol Instant Whip (the same product he and David Hockney first used in 1961 on their trip to New York after watching an ad on television which promised that “blondes have more fun”) and recorded in a series of photographs taken by Smith.
Soon after, the artist has his “new look” photographed professionally by Robert Freeman (famously known for his photographs of the Beatles on 5 of their albums).