The four Beatles — John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr — changed music forever in a relatively short period of time, bursting onto the scene in 1963 with “Please Please Me” and recording their last albums, ” Let It Be “and” Abbey Road “, in 1969. The quartet reunited in their teens and became superstars in their early twenties, sharing a unique set of experiences and, naturally, forming a unique set of rivalries and grievances. But why did the most influential band of the 20th century split up seven years after the release of their debut album? The answer is as complex as the relationships between men themselves.
Many trace the Beatles’ break-up to the death of their manager, Brian Epstein, on August 27, 1967. A record store owner with no experience in band management, Epstein had nonetheless played a crucial role in their ascent to worldwide fame. Epstein also co-founded Northern Songs Ltd. to publish Beatles music, giving Lennon and McCartney a 15 percent stake each.
Exhausted from their long tours, during which they couldn’t hear themselves playing to the roar of their fans, the Beatles decided to stop performing live in 1966. Epstein objected to the decision, which the quartet felt necessary in order to focus on the quality of their music. Over the next several years, The Beatles redefined pop music with the seminal “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and became global icons of counterculture. But they also made less money and moved away from Epstein.
When Epstein died of a drug overdose, The Beatles lost a man who expertly managed both their finances and their ego. While Lennon, Harrison and Starr wanted Rolling Stones manager Allen Klein to take over, McCartney preferred Lee and John Eastman, the father and brother of his future wife Linda.
“I think it was Paul’s giant miscalculation,” says Tim Riley, a journalism professor at Emerson College and author of several Beatles books. “Look at the other way around, he would never have let John Lennon bring his in-laws [into the business]. “
Without the reliable income that touring had provided, the Beatles became increasingly desperate for income. The “Magic Mystery Tour” the film blew people’s minds, but didn’t break any box office records. They ventured into retail with Apple’s psychedelic store, but it closed after eight months with a loss of around £ 200,000.
During the years 1968, 1969 and 1970, The Beatles spent hundreds of hours in often controversial business meetings at the headquarters of their label, Apple Records. Financial worries even crept into their music: the song “Abbey Road”, “You Never Give Me Your Money”, for example, describes a love affair as a “negotiation” in which the two partners “break up. “.
The possible dissolution of the group occurred during one of these appointments. Lennon officially told McCartney and Starr that he was leaving the group during a meeting with Klein on September 20, 1969. Klein persuaded Lennon to keep his departure a secret, so as not to scuttle a lucrative deal that would give Apple ownership. with all their backs. catalog. The Beatles signed the deal, which significantly improved their financial situation, the day Lennon left the band for good.
Throughout the “Let It Be” sessions at the end of 1968, Yoko Ono was constantly by Lennon’s side. Lennon had met the Concept Artist in 1966 and by 1969 they had become inseparable, Ono greatly influencing Lennon’s songwriting and even appearing on several Beatles tracks. Ono’s presence and the surreal, experimental direction it pushed him into have led many observers from the 1960s to the present day to conclude that Ono was responsible for breaking up The Beatles.
In recent years, however, a growing number of critics have argued that this might not be an adequate explanation.
“I think this idea of Yoko breaking up the group is one of the most racist, insidious and stupid things you can say,” Riley said. He claims that Lennon himself “hid behind” this idea in order to distance himself from the group.
Per Riley, bringing his girlfriend into the group sent the message that Lennon was going beyond the partnership he had formed with them. Ono served as a lightning rod to their frustrations with Lennon, masking other tensions like Lennon’s financial situation, creative differences, and worsening heroin addiction.
In April 1969, shortly after the end of the sometimes stormy “Let It Be” sessions, Lennon arrived at McCartney’s house eager to work on a new song. One would have expected McCartney to poke his nose at the composition, titled “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” in which Lennon bemoans the media attention he and Ono wooed while comparing themselves (not for the first times) to Jesus Christ. Instead, he helped Lennon finish the song. The two then rushed to their Abbey Road studio, where they recorded it all in one evening.
“I was happy to help,” McCartney later wrote. It’s a very good song; it always surprised me how with just the two of us on it it ended up looking like the Beatles. “
Lennon and McCartney would end up using Ono as a simple explanation for their partnership breakdown. (Lennon said Rolling stone in 1970, “I either had to be married to them [the band] or Yoko, and I chose Yoko. “) But, having met at the age of 16 and 15, respectively, the two shared a famous and complex relationship, and their rivalry predated the arrival of Ono.
In the beginning, every Beatles song was a true collaboration between Lennon and McCartney. Even as they grew up and went their separate ways, Lennon and McCartney were known to lovingly imitate each other’s style, and they rarely finished one song without taking part in the other. Nonetheless, resentment grew between them, with Lennon belittling McCartney’s more old-fashioned songs (he calls “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da” “grandma’s music”) while McCartney tries to assert himself as the group leader. Lennon often complained that McCartney compositions that appealed to everyone like “Hello, Goodbye” were chosen as the A-side of the singles, while Lennon’s more introspective works (in this case, “I Am the Walrus”) were relegated to the B side.
The animosity between them became public following the Beatles’ break-up. McCartney shot Lennon and Ono on his song “Too Many People”, leveling the load that Lennon “took [his] stroke of luck and snapped it in half. Lennon responded, a little more viciously, with “How do you sleep?” “The only thing you ever did was ‘Yesterday,’ and since you’ve been gone you’re just ‘Another Day’,” Lennon sang, comparing a recent McCartney single to his Beatles classic unfavorably. .
It was while promoting “McCartney,” his first solo album and the first album he ever wrote without Lennon, that McCartney told the world about the Beatles’ breakup. Although Lennon left the group the previous September, his departure was kept secret until April 10, 1970, when McCartney said in a promotional “self-interview” that his partnership with Lennon was over. Lennon later denied leaving the group, blaming McCartney.
Despite the tensions that lurked just below the surface, “Let It Be” and “Route de l’Abbaye” contain many examples of Lennon, McCartney and the other Beatles working in perfect harmony. “Two of Us” may have been inspired by the road trips Paul took with Linda, but it’s hard not to imagine that he and John were talking to each other while singing “memories longer than the road that s’ extends in front of “. McCartney’s “I’ve Got a Feeling,” a track, seemed incomplete until the incorporation of Lennon’s unfinished “Everybody Had a Hard Year”.
Lennon reportedly requested that his songs be placed on one side of “Abbey Road”, with McCartney’s on the other, but it was the mix of their music that made the album iconic. The medley for the second half of “Abbey Road” contains a mix of songs from Lennon and McCartney, each linking into the next. The climactic track, “The End,” demonstrates a singular balance, as the only Ringo Starr drum solo ever included on a Beatles album leads to a three-part guitar solo between Lennon, McCartney and Harrison.
“The music is full of affection, good humor and also very complicated and gnarly emotional issues,” Riley said of the latest Beatles albums. “Groups aren’t straightforward, so I think we should be wary of straightforward explanations.”
READ MORE: When Beatlemania swept across the United States
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