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The Beatles break up – forty years ago today

Written by admin on April 10, 2010 – 7:26 am -

It was forty years ago today that Paul McCartney announced he was leaving the Beatles, thereby bringing an end to the most successfull band of all time.

The Beatles - 1969 The announcement wasn’t a bolt out of the blue as there had been lots of speculation over the fate of the Beatles in the previous 12 months, in light of solo projects that were being undertaken and rumours of increasing disunity within the band.

Lennon had made his wishes to leave the band clear to the other members before McCartney’s announcement, so was annoyed when it appeared that Paul had taken the lead in dissolving the band. Paul’s announcement came via a press release for his first solo album “McCartney.”

At this point, it wasn’t clear whether McCartney was signalling a temporary or lasting split. When asked the reason for the split and whether or not it was permanent, he said:

“Personal differences, business differences, musical differences, but most of all because I have a better time with my family. Temporary or permanent? I don’t really know.”

After relations with other members of the band soured further, McCartney made his feelings more clear in a letter to Melody Maker on August 29:

“In order to put out of its misery the limping dog of a news story which has been dragging itself across your pages for the past year, my answer to the question: ‘Will the Beatles get together again?’ is no.”

Why did the Beatles break up?

It’s not uncommon for the finger to be pointed at Yoko Ono when this question is asked, but there was no one factor responsible for the breakdown of relations within the band. Ultimately, as happens with many bands, the members simply grew apart over time as their musical visions changed and their egos developed. It was time to move on. It’s probably fair to say that the three main factors that contributed to the disharmony within the group were:

  • George Harrison’s frustration at the continuing dominance of the Lennon and McCartney songwriting team. Harrison had grown as a songwriter since the early days of the Beatles and by 1969 was capable of producing songs that matched the quality of some of Lennon and McCartney’s finest efforts. He wasn’t as prolific as Lennon or McCartney, but with “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun” he wrote arguably the best two tracks on “Abbey Road”
  • the changing musical directions of the band members and particularly John Lennon becoming more influenced by Yoko Ono, and experimental and avant garde music. John had already released two studio albums with Yoko – “Two Virgins” and “Unfinished Music No.2: Life With The Lions.” He then released the single “Give Peace a Chance” in July 1969 and performed with the Plastic Ono Band in Toronto on September 13, which resulted in the album “Live Peace in Toronto 1969.” The band featured Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman, Alan White, and John and Yoko. This performance must have been perceived by the other Beatles as a declaration of independence by Lennon, given that they hadn’t toured together since 1966
  • the disagreement within the band over who should manage them following Brian Epstein’s death. Paul McCartney wanted his father-in-law Lee Eastmen and the rest of the band wanted Allen Klein. McCartney was outvoted and this led to a significant rift. After this, Paul was no longer the enthusiastic Apple executive that he had been.

Given the enormous ongoing popularity of the Beatles, the band perhaps called it a day at the right time. They went out on two good albums, “Abbey Road,” and “Let It Be,” and with their artistic reputation intact.

With the increasing lack of unity within the band, it’s hard to imagine that the quality of the music would have been maintained if they had recorded into the 1970s.

Abbey Road album cover - The Beatles

The aftermath

Here’s a quick summary of the first solo projects all four members of the Beatles released around the time of the break up. All were very active.

Paul McCartney

MCartney album cover Paul’s album “McCartney” was released just seven days after he announced his split from the Beatles. Paul performed the entire album by himself, apart from some backing vocals from his wife Linda. The most memorable track from the album is “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which McCartney still sings regularly in concert to this day.

The album went to number one in the US charts and number two in the UK charts – held off by Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

John Lennon

John Lennon had already released solo projects before the Beatles split up (as noted above) and would be back in the studio in September to record the Phil Spector-produced album “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.” Ringo took on drumming duties, Billy Preston was on piano, Klaus Voorman was on bass and Lennon played guitar and piano.

The album is regarded as one of Lennon’s finest solo efforts. Rolling Stone ranked it number 22 in their greatest album of all time list – that’s perhaps a little overzealous! Stand out tracks include “Working Class Hero” and “Mother.”

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

George Harrison

George Harrison - All Things Must Pass Not surprisingly, given the dominance of the Lennon/McCartney writing team, George Harrison had accumulated a lot of material by 1970. He took the unusual step of releasing a triple album, “All Things Must Pass,” in 1970, which included the hit singles “My Sweet Lord” and “What is Life.” Eric Clapton, Dave Mason, Billy Preston and Ringo Starr played on the album and Phil Spector produced it.

“All Things Must Pass” hit number one in the US and the UK.

Ringo Starr

As well as featuring on Lennon and Harrison’s solo efforts in 1970, Ringo Starr also found time to release two albums of his own by the end of the year. “Sentimental Journey” was an album of pre-rock standards, released shortly before the Beatles broke up, and “Beaucoups of Blues” was a country album released later in the year. McCartney worked as an arranger on the first album, as did Quincy Jones, Maurice Gibb and George Martin.

Ringo hit number four on the US and UK singles charts in 1971 with “It Don’t Come Easy” and had two number ones in a row on the US singles chart in 1973 with “Photograph” (co-written with George Harrison) and “You’re Sixteen.”

Ringo Starr - Sentimental Journey

Three Beatles classics

Let’s enjoy three tracks from very different periods in the Beatles’ career – a high-energy pop classic from “With the Beatles,” Lennon at his introspective best on one of the finest cuts from “Rubber Soul,” and a Harrison-penned beauty from the band’s final studio album “Abbey Road.”

The Beatles – “It Won’t Be Long”

The Beatles – “In My Life”

The Beatles – “Here Comes the Sun”

‘The Beatles Hello… Goodbye’

Beatles...Hello...Goodbye book A new book celebrating the Beatles’ career has been launched to coincide with the forty year anniversary of the group’s split. ‘The Beatles Hello… Goodbye’ tells the band’s story through rare pictures and reproduced articles from the 1960s.

Click here for a 25% saving on “The Beatles Hello… Goodbye”

You can still get last year’s brilliant remastered Beatles albums, either individually or in the box sets from Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK). If you haven’t picked them up already, they are highly recommended.

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