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By 1969, Lennon was less interested in the Beatles'

projects than in prornoling

tong çhiPosoph[es such os Bagism the notion

lhal if per~ple climbed into

bags so Ihot they could be heard bur not seen, racista

and olher çrejudiçes çould

be overcome

The Dick Lester vemion of our lives in Hard Day's Night and Help! made ir look fun and

games: a good romp? That was fair in the films bur in the real world there was never any

doubt. The Beatles wem doomeeL Your own

space, man, it's so important. That's u,hy we

were doomed because we didt/t have any

George Harrison, in IMeMine. I98o


The Final Year 1969

The Beatles

For the most part, Harrison, Lennon and Starr were content with the

state the Beatles had reached. In the eyes ofthe world, the group

remained untouchable and untoppleable as pop musie royalty. Yet ar the same time, Apple gare them oudets for projects that did not fali

comfortably under the Beatlcs banner.

Lennon quic!dy beg'a n making use of this freedom, recording and

relea_sing bis experimental collaborafions with Ono. Harrison had brought out Wondenoall and would soon makc Electronic Sounc~ a

collection of Moog synthesizer practice tapes, recorded with the elec- tronic musiç composer Bernie Krause (whose name, to his consterna- dom, was hidden under a wash of silver paint on the album cover) and

other collaborators. Starr's interests, for the moment, were in film.

After his cameo in Candy, he would take on a more extensive role in

Tbe Magic Cbristia& with Peter Sellers, in February t969. McCarmey, however, missed the collective spirit ofthe group's

early days, and be was convinccd that giving a few concerts perhaps in a eontrolled environment would revive that spirit. Thc recording

studio, he believed, had liberated their imaginations, but had also

fostered ah unfortunate insularity, for which the discipline of rehears-

ing and playing for an audience was the logical antidote. The others

had their doubts, although in September 1968 Harrison mused in interviews about taking over a concert hall and giving performances

for a few months. The next month, McCarmey announced that once Tbe Beadeswas finisbed, the group would work up some ofthe new

songs for a television taping, and would then perform them live.

Soon there was talk ofa three-day booking in mid-Decembcr at the Roundhouse, with proeeeds from the sale of 4,5oo tickets going

to charity.

But true conscnsus within the Beatles was a slippery concept by the end oft968. As the concert date approacbed with no sign that

reheatsals might begin, the booking was scrapped, and a new date

(but no venue) was announced for mid-January. In fact, the plan had

The Final Year 1969


Ever sin¢e hi~ walkoboul in

A Hard Day's Nigfit Starr had been cansidered lhe

mo~t nalural actor among

the Beatles, and dur[ng the

9toup's final months he

lurned lo }ilm for a solo

oullet A}ter a bit part in Candy, he co-slarred wilh

Peter Sellers, rig ht, in Tfie

Magic Cfirittian, 1969

changed yet again. Now, still with ah eye towards giving a concert.

the Beatles would get ogether just af*er tbe New Year and begin preparing new material. The rehearsals would be filmed for a

television special, and then they would go to some exotic location

- a Roman amphitheatre in North Africa, the Sahara desert and even

a big ship in the Mediterranean were mendoned - to play a single concert, which would also be filmed. They hired Michael Lindsay-

Hogg, the director who had made their promotional films for 'Paperback Writer', 'Rain', 'Hey Jude' and 'Revolutioff, to film this

endeavour from start to finish. To an extent they carried out their

plan, except thac the exotic concert venue turned out to be the roofof


thcir new Applc ol~ces and r«cording studio in Savilc Row, London,

on a co]d January afiernoma.

With the tensions of thc 'Whitc Albtm~' sessimls still fresh ~n

thcir minds, and with the added pressure ora camela crew fu]luwing thcm around, the Bcatlcs began thcir rehcarsals at Twickcnlxam

Film Studios on z January. Because these were not proper recording

sessions, therc were no real studio facilities. But the cameras, and a

portable tape recorder used to make reference recordings, captured an extraordin0xy amount of detaii about the Beatles' working methods

anal interaction. Wc hear them, for example, limbering up un count

less oldies. Songs by Chuck Berry, Buddy Holiy, I ittle Richard, tlle

Drifiers, Bob Dylan, Carl Perkins, Smokey Robinson, the Rolling

Stones, the Temptations and even a few of rheir mvn hits are tuuçhed upon. Mostly, these are unbuttoned, unpolished pcrformanccs.

The real work at hand, uf course, was the new material, of which

there was plenty, with contributions from ali four Beatlcs. In fact, ifevery new song tried out at these sessions had gone through to

completion, the group coulcl easily have filled another double album.

Besides the songs induded on the Ler Ir Be album, these sessions

yieldcd rhc first workuuts uf mure than half the songs that would berecordedlaterintheyearfurAbbeyRoad induding Starr's

'Octopus's Garden', McCamley's 'Maxwcll's Silver Hammer', 'Oh!

Daxling', 'She Carne in Thmugh the Bathroom Window' and

'Her Majcsty', and Lcnnon's 'Sun King', 'Mean Mr Mustard' and 'Polythcnc Paro', and Harrison's 'Something' as wdl as q~te a tèw

songs that found homes on their post-Beatles solo alhures. The referente tapes made by the film crew capture the complete

development of several of the ncw songs, from the moment the com-

poser played it to the others through to the finished production. McCarmey is heard sitting at the piano or with bis ba-ss, singing og¢~

the choixls tu his songs whilc the others follo~v along, or scat-singing sections that hck lyrics, and sometimes adding vocal harmunies even before the lyrics are finished. Sulags are tried s]ow and fast, in

elcctric and acoustic versions, and with diRèrent kinds ofinrroduc- tions and solos.

Often, the lyrics come together gradually whilc the band is churn-

ing through the churds. 'Get Back', for example, bcgan life as 'No Pakistanis', a parody one ofseveral recorded during these sessions

The Finor Year 1969


of chc 'Britain for the Bridsh' stance taken by various right wing groups. The Pakistani notion was soon droppcd, bur thc refrain 'get

back to where you once belonged' - became the peg around which two scant ul~conncctcd fantmsies were spun. And ar one poiut, tbe

tapes capture McCarmey coming up with the line 'Jo Jo lefr his home

in Tucson, Arizona'. Lennon a~sks, 'Is Tucson in Arizona?' 'Yeah,' McCartney tells him, 'k's where tbey make High C]mpparal'.

There is a]so plenty of chat, which runs the gamut from hilarious

monologues by Lennon, to serious discussions ofthe feasibility of

various concert proposals. And there are fights. Harrison, at this

point, had the longest list of grievances. He objected to McCarmey's telling him when and how to play. And having become a more pro-

lific composer, be wanted his songs better represented on the Beatles'

albums. After a particularly tense session on Io January, he walked

out, dearly with the intention ofnot returning. The o~hers continued

without him; [.ennon wcnt as lar as to suggest tha~ they invite Eric

Clapton to sit in. Five days later, when ali four met to negotiate their future, Harrison made it clear that he would no longcr consider the

prospect of a live performance, bur would return ir they would leave Twickenham and begin work on an album. The fi}m was summarily

redefined as a t elevision programme about the making ofa new Beatles album, asld the musicians and film crcw moved to the group's

new Apple Studios, where mosr of the material on the Ler Ir Be album

was recorded in ten days of scssions. Evcntually, the television idea wa_s scrapped in favour ofa theatrical film.

Ali that makes the production ofthe album sound much more

clear-cut than it was. In fact, it ~;was a disaster, although in concept, ir

should have been quite easy. By thc rime thc sesdons moved to Apple,

the Beatles had announced that they were getting back to tbeir roots - that thcir new album would be recorded live in the studio, without

overdubbing or fancy tecbnology. Since they would not, after ali, per-

forrn live, this was the next best thing. And the album's tide, at lhis

stagc, was to be Get Back.

To make sure that the group's textural demands cou[d be met

without multitracking (they Iater did some slight touch-up overdub- bing), Harrison brought in Billy Preston, an American organist who tbe Beades had met ar the Star Club in I962, when he was pari of

Little Richard's band. Preston would soon become an Apple ardst in

Will ir be « live ¢on¢ert? A

I~l¢vis~on speciol? A film?

McCa«Pney, at the plano, leods bis fro¢tious

collmagçes in a rmh«arsal

during the Film;ng o[ Ler ft Be in January 1969

The Beofles

The Finol Year 1969

The Beatles

his own right, but for now be was a]most a fif~h Beatle. He playcd on

most ofthe sessions, took a few prominent solos (on 'Get Back' for

instance), and wa.s given a label credit for his pcrformance.

The formal sessions were as tmruly as those at Twickenham: jams and oldies performances punctuated attempts to record new material,

and the Beatles decided that some of these off-the-cuffperformances

should be included on the record. By 29 January, they had completed several new songs, and the next da)', in the hope ofg¢tting versions

tbat really did sound live, they clambered up to the windswept Apple

roof-top and gave a concert ~br the cameras while crowds gathered on

the street and on adjacent roof-tops. The police cvcnmally stopped lhe performance, but the Beades did get for ty-two minutes oftaping

done, which yidded the last twenty minutes of the La Zt Be film.

Back in their basement studio, on 31 January, they finishcd off three more songs, and then, considering their work done, they

washed their hands ofthe project, leaving George Martin and Glyn

Johns to sort out the audio recordings, and Michael Lindsay-Hogg to

make his way through a month's worth of film. The outcome was a confilsing raess. In early Match, Lennon and McCarmey asked Johns

to compile the Get Back album. He produced a sequence that ful~lled

the group's wish to mix impromptu material and between-songs chat-

ter with finished recordings ofthe new songs. Or so be thought. In tbe end, they refilsed to sign offon ir, and bis scqucnce was shelved.

Except for some minor tinkering, tbe tapes were untouchcd for the rest ofthe yealr.

A few ofhis selections, dropped from the finished album, are

worth noting, since they represent the free-wheeling atmosphere

ofthe project. One was an instrumental jam, provisionally tkled

'Rocker', which fades in on its final thirty seconds and then, after a btx~akdown and some discussion, goes into the Drifter's classic 'Sare the Last Dance for Me', which pivots briet~y into one of Lennon's

new songs, 'Don't Let Me Dowff. In the discussion that follows, one

can heat that they actually were thinking in terras ora conccrt ser. At

least, Lennon goes through the order that the songs are to be played.

Also dropped was McCarmey's 'Teddy Boy', and understandably:

clearly unfinished, it mcanders, with the others {bllowing McCartney

as he hums bis way througb it. And then there is Lennon's 'Dig It', one ofseveral jams in which the band played a slowly evolving vamp



while Lennon ad libbed lyrics. Aithough pari of the version Johns included on Get Back was shown in the fi]rn, only a few seconds of

the song made ir onto the final album a pity, becausc unpolished as it was, its word-play and name associations were amusing, and ir

showed that the band and Preston could cook when the mood was

right. Otherwise, Johns had only eight new songs to work with, plus

a quick rendefing ora Liverpool sldffte classic, 'Maggie Mae', which was also retained in the final sequence. He opened tfie album with

'One Afier 9o9', a Lennon antiquity, composed in the z95os and untouched since the abortive attempt to record ir in !963.

Len non's other contributions were 'Dig a Pony', a page of stream- of-consciousness lyrics set to a bluesy melody in three-quarter time,

and 'Don't Lct Mc Down', a more sophisticated ]ook ar the concerns

and insecurities he had explored in 'lfl Fell'. 'Don't Let Me Down'

has some interesting musical touches, lis verses are buih around a

vacillating E major and F sharp minor chord sequente - a representa-

tion, one cou]d argue, ofthe lyric's pñncipa[ concern, the mixture of

joyous optimism (E major) and doubt, fear and caution (F sharp

minor) that a new relationship brings. And as in 'Ali You Need is Love', the metre is governed by the shape ofthe ]yric, not by conven-

tional verse concerns. Thus, each stanza begins with a single tive-

beat bar. which leads immediately back to quarter rime, a lopsided

arrangement by conventional pop songwriting standards. Harrison carne to these sessions with a cart-]oad of songs, bur the

sessions yieldcd only onc finishcd one, "For You Blue', a straight

twelve-bar blues, embellished by a slide guitar solo by Lennon and ah

atmospherically tinkly piano accompaniment by McCarmey.

McCarmey dominated the rest ofthe ser. Along with the unfin- ished 'Teddy Boy', there was 'Get Back', which after ali its trans-

f'ormations ended up as a pleasant mid-tempo rocker. The image

McCartney used to describeit 'music to rollercoast by' captures

its spirit. There was the more hard-driving Tve Got a Feefing', to which a late I968 Lennon fragment, 'Everybody Had a Hard Ycar',

was grafted as a secondary melody, and 'Two of Us', a folksy tune that hearkened back to Til Follow the Sun'. And McCarmey sang two

piano-based ballads with lilting melodies that helped make them

immediate standards, 'Let It Be' and 'The Long and Winding Road'.

The Bec~tle s

As the first g]impse ofthe widely publicized and Iong-awaited Get

Ba«k project, 'Get Back' and 'Don't Let Me Down' were released is

a «ingle with due fanfare on li ApriL. In its adver tisements, Apple

emphasized the ]ive-in-the-studio aspect, declaring the recordings to be 'The Beatles as Nature Intended'. The album, it was announced, would be available in the summer.

Test pressings ofthe Glyn Johns sequente were made and widely distributed. And in May a cover photo was taken. Angus McBean, the

Co rnplica~ions thwarted

Lennon's arigin~ ideo of marrying Yako Ono in Paris,

bur eventually th¢y found a

registry they could call home irh Gibr«ff«r They

were wed Ihere on 20

Match 1969, and Flew~

Amsterdom for their 'Bed.ln

for Peoce' honeymoon.

Lennon catalog ued their travoils in "The Bollod o}

John and.Yoko'

photographer who had shot the cover ofPlease Please Me, was calted

back to recreate that photo, with the ]969 Beatles standing in exactLy

the same positions (leaning over a ba]cony ar EMI's headquarters in

Manchester Square) ~~ in 1963. Yet, the Beatles were unezsy about Get Back, and refused to approve its release. A revamped vers]on iàred

no better, and the summer relesse date carne and went.

Long the only unmarried Beafle, PauT McCart.ey is

flanked by Linda Easlman and her daughter Healher after their wedd[ng ot the

Marylebone Regiltry Office

in London, 12 March 1969

The Finaq Year 1969

Lenncn and Onc believed

thot they should use tfLeir cel~sbr p;y - and its

immediate media access

to compaign for peac~

They held a second 'Bed4n'

in Montceal from 26 May

to 2 June, during which 'Give Peace a Ck~nce'

was w«it~en and r~corded

The Beatles, actual[y, were on to oth« things. [n February, they

began a series of sporadic s~ssions, producing material that would find its way onto theA¿¿Ç Roada]bum. On iz Match, McCarmey

married IJnda Eastman, ah American photographcr whom he had

mct in t967. Eight days later, Lennon and Ono married roo. The

Lennons had undcrtakcn an aggressivc campaign for wofld peace,- and decided to use the natural publicity that a Beatle wedding was

likely to draw as a plafform for their new mission. Afier marrying in Gibraltar, they flew to Amsterdam for their honeymooa, which they

staged as a wcck-long 'Bcd-ln for Pcacc', inviting journalists to a series

of bedside interviews. They repeated this in Montreal in [ate May.

Lennon documented the wedding and ali the events surrounding

ir in 'Thc Bal[ad ofJohn and Yoko'. Perhaps as an offshoot ofhis

peace campaigning, Lennon began thinking of songwridng as a kind

o f journalism: he could write and produce recordings about whatever

was on his mind, and get them immediately into the storcs. This was

to be his first try at that, although as it turned out, six weeks elap*ed between the recording session and the release of the'disc. 'Give Peace

a Chance', similarly, was recorded in his Montreal hotel room and

released tive weeks later. The process wasn't really per fected until early

The Beot[es

t97o, when he wrote and recorded 'lnstant Karma? in a day, and had

it in the stores eleven days later. Only McCarmey was available when Lennon was ready to record

'Ballad', so on 14 April they divided the instruments between them

(Lennon p[ayed ali the guitar lines, McCarmey played bass, drums,

piano and maracas) and completed the recording themselves. The

song's salient feature was its refrain. Surely still mind fui ofthe com- motion his 'bigger than Jesus' statement had caused in t966, Lennon

mischievously ended each verse with the lines, 'Christ you know ir

ain't easy, you know how hard it can be. The way things are going, they're goktg to cr ucify me.' Sure enough, some radio srations played

an edited version.

For the flip side ofthe single, Harrison was agaiu givetl an oppor- tunity to shine, and supplied 'Old Brown Shoe', a song that had a

workout during the JanuatT sessions. Two days after the 'Ballad'

recording, the full group gathered to record this, with McCarmey

providing a jangly piano part and an urmsual[y rapid tandem bass

and guitar line. 'Ballad' and 'Old Brown Shoe' were recorded specificaliy for

relea_se a_s a single. What the group thought ir was up to ar its other

early ~969 sessioas is Imt clear. Get Backwas finished bur in limbo, and it was not until later in the year that they defi nitively decided to

pull together for another album. Yet on 22 February, the Beatles and

Billy Preston reconvened to work on Letmon's 'I Want You (Sh¿s So Heavy)'. They worked on it more in April, and finally finished ir

in August.

Hardly the most popular song on Abbey Road, ir is nevertheless

oae ofthe most innovative. Something ora Minimalist experiment, it owed something to 'Hey Jude', bur went lar beyond it. Ir is, in a way,

two musical[y disparate idea-s: an ititmductory section and refrain in

trip[e metre, and a verse in quarter time. This shift from three to four beat measures, as well as an accompanying sfiift from a kind oficy,

driving severity to a warm blues style, creates ah interesting tension

and keeps the |istermr slighdy off balance.

The introductory figure is a rising and falling guitar arpeggio, sup- ported by an almost Tchaikovskyesque bass line and an expanding

organ chord. Ir does not quite lead into the song proper: ir simply stops, and from the silence Lennon's voice emerges. The verse is an

Tbe Final Year 1969


expansion ofrhe title line, sung to a blues melody wirh the lead

guicar following in tandem, McCarmey's bass weaving around ir with increasing virtuosiry, and Presron's organ providing Stax-flavoured,

texrure-filling figuration. Yet after a few repetitions, Lennon shifis

gears again. Singing a dangling 'She's so - ", be leads the group back

into the music ofrhe introduction, finishing ~he lyric ('She's so heavy')

in two- and then three-part harmony with a passing dissonant touch. The song moves back and forth between rhese two ideas for just

aver four and a half minutes, eventually leaving d~e final 'She's so'

unresolved and heading into ah instrumentaJ rendering ofrhe intro-

ductory music. This rime the opening chord progression is repeated over and over, unchanging except in two details. McCarmey's bass

line darts freely around the chords, exploring different harmonic and

rhythmic possibilities each rime. And progressive layers af synrhesized

whire noise create the sound of arctic winds. After three minutes, I,ennon had ah engineer snip the tape, making for an abrupt ending.

The implication is that the guirar arpeggios and white noise would

otherwise have kept repeating forever,

Alsa in the warks by the end ofApril were McCarmey's 'Oh!

Darling', a Iove song in a raucous, updated ~95os' style, and Starr's

new children's song about ah aquatic utopia, 'Ocmpus's Garden'. Lennon's 'You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)', on the shelf

since t967, was taken down for some vocal overdubbing, bur was stil] considered unfinished. The fina[ touches were added seven months

later, and it was released in i97o as rhe B-side ofthe 'Ler Ir Be' single. Sessions for Harrison's graceful 'Something' gor under way in May.

|t was his most conventional Iove song, and his most successçul, being nat only bis first (and only) A~side ora Beatles single, but a song

widely covered by other musicians. These eady sessions ended on

6 Ma},, and work woutd not resume until July. Bur before the hiatus, one more song was tape& a gent[y plaintive McCarmey melody with

what under normal eircumstances mighr have seemed a peculiar title,

'You Never Gire Me Your Money'. The circumstances were anything bur normal, though. Since

February, the group's finances had been precarious. Lennon told the

press that Apple was almost bankrupt that ir had become an open

house for freeloaders, and that money was pouring out of it more quick[y than even the Beatles could coin ir. MeCarmey insisted tha~

Althaugh lhe Beal[es signed


the years, complete se~s withspecialchamcteristics

fo«[nstance, the


- are especially prized by colleclors


things were not so dire, but proposed hiring the New York law firm of Enstman and Enstman to sort things out. Eastman and Eastman

was a prestigious firm that had contacts in music and publishing

stretching back decades. The catch, from the other Beatles' point of

view, was that Eco Ea~stman and his son John were about to become McCarmey's father-in-law and brother-in-law.

Neverthc[ess, in ear[y February, ali four signed ah agreement

appointing Eastman and E.Istman as general counseI for AppIe. But Lennon, Harrison and evenmally Starr, had doubts about the

arrangement. Lennon had a competing proposa[. Allen KLein, a New

York music manager who had negotiated a fortune in royalties for the Rolling Stones, had flown to London to offer his services as soon as

Lcnnon's assessment ofApp[e's finances hit the papers. Brusque and

down to earth, exactly the oppositc ofthe Eastmans, Klein impressed Lennon, who signed him on as bis personal representative after a

single meeting. Harrison and Starr backed Klein too. McCartney

did not. So the others, with typical n~ivety, decided that both John Eastman and AIlen Klcin cou[d look after the group's interests.

Thcir first joint endeavour should have bcen to buy NEMS

Enterprises, Epstein's management firm, which took a twenty-five per cent commission on the Beatles' record royalties, and was now

Th~ Final Y~ar 1969

I ç9

for sale. Epstein's family said it would rather sell the company to the

Beatles rhan to the highest bidder, the Triumph Investment Group. Yet just as NEMS was within their grasp, managerial infighting ar

Apple scared rhe Epsteins into the arms of Triumph.

Eventually Klein managed to buy the Beatles out ofthe NEMS contract. Bur anather disappointment loomed. Dick James, the

publisher who signed Lennon and McCarmey in I963, and was the principal shareholder of Nofthern Songs, the company be creared to

handle their catalogue, was alarmed by Lennon's avant gardism and

had staunchly opposed their involvement with Klein. He had also

had enough ofthe group's increasingly high-handed treatment of

him. So when Lennon and McCarmey were on their honeymoons, in

Match, he sald his shares in the company to Lew Grade's ATV Music. Klein sought to seize conrrol of lhe company for the Bearles.

Complicared negotiations were undertaken with a consortium that

controlled the decisive shares, and which was inclined toward the Beatles. But at the last minute, Lennon publicly proclaimed bis

disinclination to deal with businessmen, and by late May, Grade

had won contro[ ofthe company. Ir was around the some rime that

Klein was formally installed as manager. He began dismantling Apple's staff forrhwith.


Ali these battles, to say nothing ofthe widening creative gulf

between the musicians, made the dissolution of the Beatlcs inevkable.

Starr and Harrison had already quit and come back. I.ennon was

making it clear that be saw bis destiny elsewhere. McCarmey, who

had been the de facto director of the band since Sgt. Pepper, had bccn

rebu~èd in his choice of manager. Aald so they went their separate ways in May. \V/hen they reconvened in July, ir was to record what

th¢y and everyone around them knew would be their final album.

It was, at first, to be called Everest. The name carne from the brand of cigarettes that one ofthe engineers smoked, bur the Beatles soon

scizcd on the idca that calling their final album Everestwas in itsdf a

statemel~t. They fiad confounded evcryone who had thmlgbt them

a passing fad in 1963 and 1964, and who thought they wou[d be

dcstroyed by controversy in I966. Now they were walking away fiom the Beatle myth wbile they were at their peak, mwcring ovcr ali thcir

competitors both creafively and as a popular phenomenon.

They even agreed to be t]own to Mount Everest to shoot a cover photo. But when the time carne to make arrangements for the trip,

aone of them could be bothered. In the end, one of'them suggested

goiI~g out into tbe road to sboot the cover. McCartney sketched out

a cover design, the photographer lain Macmillan was commissioned

to shoot the Beatles traversing the Abbey Road zebra crossing, and

suddcnly thc album becameAbbey Roa¿ Actua]l); the album wa~ not even recorded entirely ar EMl's Abbey Road studios. After the 6>t

Ba¢k sessions at Apple, the Beatles were eager to assert their inde-

pendence from EMI, so from February to May they visited o:her

London studios. Mostly, they did so without George Martin, who had found the tense January sessions unbearable. He returned for tl~e

July sessions only after McCarmey promised him that the Beatles

would work as they had in years past, and tfiat they would treat bim as a producer, not as a lackey.

Abbey Roadwas by no means a return to the experimentation of

Sgt. Pepperand Revolver, but every track was laboured over in gleat detail. EMI had upgraded to eight-track facilides, which again

doubled the Beat[es' overdubbing and balancing flexibility. Yet even

this relative opulence was insufficient, aud in several cases they filled eight tracks, mixed them down to two and then filled the tape again.

Orchestras sweeten severa] songs and sound efIècts were used freel);

The FinalYBor 1969


among them bubble-blowing on Starr's çOctopus's Garden' and a blacksmith's anvil la 'Ma»avell's Silver Hammer'. And heard for the

flrst rime 011 a Beade rccord was the Moog synthesizer, rhe ]atest electronic instrument, newly famous as the instrument on which

the American composcr Wahcr (now Wcndy) Carlos had produced Switched-On Bach.

Thc scssions began, fittingly, with McCarmey alone in thc studio, adding vocais to 'You Never Gire Me Your Money'. He a[so recorded

the twenty-three-second 'Her Majesty'. really just a throw-awa);

although ir had been germinating ar least since the January sessions.

Early July also saw work on McCar me)¿s 'Golden Slumbers/CarD"

That Weight', a setting ora poeta by rhe sixteenth-century playwright Thomas Dekkcr. Thcre was an immediatc philosophical disagrccmcnt

on how to proceed. McCartne); with encouragement from Martin,

wanted to link several songs together in a huge suite, with stretches

in which individual songs were inseparable from those around them. Therc was rcason to think in bigger terms. Around the time 'Get

Back' hit the charts, the X,Vho had wrested the spotlight from the

Beatles with Tommy, a rock opera in the truest sense of'the term, a

unified, dramatic whole in which each song advances the narrative. Lennon thought the McCarme~Martin suite idea was nonsense.

The main motivation, he argued, was to disguise the fact that so

rnany of thc songs they were considcring for inclusion bis own

'Mean Mr Mustard' and 'Polythene Pam', and McCartney's 'She

Carne in Through the Bathroom Window', çor example were merely fragments tried at the January sessions and never developed

£urther. They were obviously not promising enough to merit full- length development, and by Lennon's lights, weaving them toged~er

as a suite was a pretentious cheat. This was, in truth, a peculiar objection for Lennon, who had not

minded joining disparate fragments to produce 'A Day in the Life' or 'Happiness is a Warm Guia'. In any case, Martin mediated a compro-

mise. Thc first side ofche album, and the start ofside two, would have (ull-length, independent songs, as Lennon wanted. Bur the

album would end with the suite McCarmey proposed. Other than

this structural disagrcement, dle sessions wetar smoothly through July

and Augusr. The final touches were put on dle album on 25 August,


The Beatles

John Lennon~bag one

The Final Yeer 1969

Lef~, the «over of Leflflon's

Bag One colleclion oJ eroti¢ lithographs, e preject

wh[¢h, like lhe Two Vi«gins

album, celebrated Lennon's lave For Ono in a way thal

cour ted <antraversy


and ir was relcased thirty-one days latcr. The compromise, ir turned

out, was a good thing.

Lennon's contributions to the effort were few, but first rate,

Besides 'I Want You (She's So Heaw)', there was 'Because', a stun-

ningly harmonized melody woven around a lyric filled with natural

istic imagery and light puns. I.ennon aiways maintained the the chord sequente was derived from Beethoven's 'Moonlight' Sonata, which be

heard Ono play and asked her to play backwards. If tfie slory is true,

other harmonic alterations took place along the way, but certainly ~he

accompaaimeat owes something to the Beethoven work.

Lennon's other filll-leagt h offering, 'Come Togather', began life as a gift ~o Timothy Leary, ~he Americaa LSD guru. Visiting Lennon

during the Montreal Bed-In ar the end of May, Leary said that be was

planning to run for political ofl~ce and asked Lennon to write a song arouad his campaign slogan, 'Come Together'. Lennon ended up

keeping the song himself, bringing ir to lhe Beades' session in lale

July. 'Come Together' makes a superb opening track: it launches the

album with t.ennon hissing the word 'shoot', followed by a rising

guitar figure that obscures what he is actual]y saying 'shoot me'.

The song landed him in legal hot water. A typical Lennon lyric, ir interspersed nonsense phrases, outlandish wordphy and utopian

sendment. Bur as was Lennon's wont while composing, he used

another song as a templatc. This rime ir was Chuck Berry's 'You Can't

Catch Me', a~~d unfortunately, he retaiaed a line of Berry's lyric with

only slight alterations. Berry's publisher sued, and the case dragged on to the mi&197os, when Lennon agaeed to record 'You Can't Catch

Me" and a few more songs from the publisher's catalogue on Rode 'n'

RalL his 1975 oldies collection.

Also among rhe free-standing songs were Starr's 'Octopus's Garden' and McCarmey's 'Oh! Darling' and 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer', an

oddity with a [yric about a cranium-smashing, psychopathic medicai

student, ser to an incoagruously singsongy melody. The second side began with a second Harrison oflícring, 'Here Con/es the Sun', in

which a gracefully lildng melody supports a lyric about the arrival

of spring after a dismal winter. Harrisen's introduction is based on

variations ofa D major chord fingering, a trick he last used on 'Ir

1 Needed Someone'. The acoustic guitar holds centre sraga, with

drums, bass, and delicate syathesizer rracery added, ali making for

T~e ~~otles

a beautifully transparent sound. The melody is accented with judi-

ciously applied three-part vocal harmonies. The two 1 Iairison com positions incIudcd herc, together widl the earlier 'While My Guitar

Gently Weeps', show that Harrison had ar last found bis volte, and

cou[d write songs easily on a par with those I ennon and McCartney were producing. For that matter, 'Here Comes the Sun' is lar more

substantial than 'Ma.xwell's Silver Hammer'.

There is something to Lennon's complaint that the album's closing

s.ite is ah easy way of sweeping together the shards of unfinished

songs. Yet the construction was hardly slapdash, In some cases ('Sun King' and 'Mean Mr Mustard,' 'Polythene Paro', and 'She Carne in the Bathroom Window', and 'Golden Slumbers' and 'Carry

That Weight') fragments were fashioned into medleys before they were recorded. Others were fitted together like pieces ora jigsaw

puzzle. Experiments were tried and abandoned: 'Her Majesty' had been inserted between 'Mean Mr Mustard' and 'Polythene Pam', but

was sliced out when McCarmey realized that the suite flowed better

without it. And where the joins were rough, orchestrations smoothed

out the connections.

Granted, the fragments yoked together bear no relation to each other. But what a colourfial cast of characters they present. The ser begins with McCartney rooted firmly in the real wodd, complaining

about business in 'You Never Give Me Yoltr Money'. Bur ir quickly

drifts into the ffee-floating fantasy world of Lennon's 'Stin King', a land ofthree and four-part harmony with only a mildIy dissonant

sheen, where everybody is said to be laughing and happy. A drum fin from Starr introduces 'Mean Mr Mustard', a harmless

eccentric, and 'Polythene Paro'. with her curious sartorial speciaiities

(a polythene bag, and jackboots and a kilt). A guitar solo leads into 'She Came in Through the Bathroom Window', written by

McCarmey after a souvenir-hunting fan broke into his house. This brings the first part ofthe suitc to a close. And just as that section

began with McCartney's gentle piano chording, so does the con~intla

tion, 'Golden Slumbers' and its extension. 'Carry That Weight', which reprises the me[ody of'You Never Give Me Your Money', this

rime with move abstract lyrics. The fina[ section, 'The End'. is the Beades' self-conscious va]edic-

tory. As such, ir inc[udes something unusual for the Beatles, a jam in

The Final Yeaç 1969


which each takes the spoflight for a moment. McCarmey, Harrison

and Lennon altcrnatc brieflead guitar solos in a dialogue that high- lights their individual sities: McCarmey's playing is fleet and virtu-

osic, Harrison's is simpler, slinkier and more blues); and Lennoffs is a

chunky; chordal growh Evea Starr takes a solo. And as the song comes to a dose, McCarme); Lennon and Harrison harmonize on a single

line thar would seem to emhody thc cxpericncc thc Beat]es had come

through since I962. and a sentiment they had promoted since I965:

A nd in the etut

The love you mke

Is equal m the love you make

It was the perfect ending for the Beades' recording career. Or, it

x~ould have been. Bur real life is not so tid)~ Thc Bcatles' recognition of this is clear from the way the album actually ends: afier a long

silence, ~he brief'Her MajesiT' suddenly pops our ofthe speakers, los

appearance was an accident: after lopping it out ofthe medley, an

engineer aliixed ir to the end ofthe reeh When McCarmey heard ir

on a playback of tbe tinishcd suite, be decided to leave it there.

Ir also creates a circular effect that the Beatles cannot have inten-

ded, but which is interesting harmonicall)~ Because ofthe/vay it was cut from the medle); 'Her MajesiT' lacks irs final note, and so ends in

the middle ora chord sequente. As it turns out, it is is the same key

as 'Come Togerher', so ifrhe album is played again immediatcly affer

'Her Majesty' ends, the progression is resolve& Similarl); the sudden tape cut ar the end of "1 Want You (Shc's So Hca»T)' leaves the so~~g,

and side one ofthe album, unresolved. But sitie two begins with

'Here Comes the Sun', which starts with exactly the chord needed to

~nish the sequente. Whcn the Bcatles finishedAbbey Road. Lennon reasserted his need

for what he called a divorce from the Beatles. The others, and KIein,

persuaded him not to discuss these feelings publicly: EMI and Klein were negotiadng a revision of their eontract, which would provide

them with greater royalties on earlier albums, h would nol do for

EMI to know that the Beatles might no Ionger be a going concern. Lennon's interviews from the rime le~ the impression that be

was more incerested in his own projects ihan Beades endeavours, bur


The Beatles in lhe ~pring of 1969, in one of Iheir last publi¢ity photos as a band

The Bealles

The Final Y~or 1969


that the door to future collabora~on«w.s always open. In the mean-

time, despite his objection to perforrn]ng live when McCa.rtney suggested ir, he accepted ah invitation, on the spur ofthe moment,

to pcrform ar a rocl~ and roll oldics show in Toronto on ~3 September.

He brought the Plastic Ono Bartd, which in this case included Eric Clapton on guitar, Klaus Voorman ah ba_ss and Alan White on

drums. "!'he ser included oldies ('Blne Suede S!loes', 'Money', and 'Dizzy Miss Lizzy'), Lennon's I968 'Yer Blues'. a new, as yct unrclcased

song, 'Cold Turkey', and the anthemic 'Gire Peace a Chance', along

with two of Ono's extended avant-garde feedback-and-wailing pieces. Ali this was recorded, and released before the year's ~nd as Live Peace

in Toronto.

Meanwhile, ir was rime to settle the fate of Get Back. Lindsay-

Hogg had produc-ed.a cut ofthc film, which was naw callcd Ler Ir

Be. When the Beatles saw it, they realized that they had riever com- plcted two of thc songs thcy arc sccn working on HarrisoJl's 'I Me

Mine' and Lennan's 'Across the Universe' - and thaç recordings would be needed for the soundtrack album. For the Lennot~ sofig, thc 1968

recording was taken off the shel£ And on 3 January ~97o, ali but

Lennon gathered ar Abbey Road to recctrd '1 Me Mine'. This was the last session devoted to recording new Beafles material.

Johns produced another sequente using these new elements, but

like his earIier effort, it failed to please the Beatles. The album was

loosc, as they wantcd ir; bur ir was also sloppy. Lcl~non and Harrison had recently retlewed an old friendship with Phil Spector, the Amcrican producer known for bis grandiosc yet tightty controllcd

'wall of sound' production style, in late March, Spector was handed

t[~e tapes and given a tall order: the finished Ler It Be album had to reflect the contents ofthe film, and it had to at least allude to the

original 'as nature intended' idea, although Spector was free ta use standard post-production techniques. Lennon and Harrison reckoned

that whatever Spector did would bE ah improvement.

For lhe most part, they were wrong, although ir is an overstate-

ment to call Spector's Ler Ir Be a disaster ~rom start to finish[ Spector wisely left 'Get Back', 'For You Blue', 'Two of Us' and ~One After

909' alonc, simply crcating clean, crisp mixes from the eight track

sessions tapes. Like Glyn Johns, he included dialogue, count-ins and the off-the-cuffversion of 'Maggie Mae'. And by doing some


judicious editing and restructurhlg, he trans~brmed the 3 January

version of'i Me Mine', which lasted only a minute and a bal~, into a

full-length song. On tbc other hand, 'Dig It' was reduced to a snippet that scarcely

hinted at the free-wbeeling spirit oftbe original. And several songs were severely overproduced. The fact that 'Ler |t Be' had already been

released as a single, for example, did not stop him from entirely recasting it. He added echo to Starr's simple high hat taps, making

for a cascading cffect foreign to the feel ofthe song, With two guitar

solos to choose from, he suppressed tbe one heard on the single and used rhe other. And be restrucrured the song, editing in a repetition

ofone ofthe verses.

Far more egregious was his treaiment of'Tbe Long and Winding

Road' and 'Across the Universe'. Caning in the orchestrator Richard Hewson to create new arrangements, Spector layered an orcbesrra

and choir on both songs, transforming them into pompous goo. And

'Across the Universe', sped up in I968 to create the other-worldly vocal effect that Lennon liked, was now brought down to normal

speed, and sounded slow and draggy. 'I Me Mine' was given the

orchestral ireatment roo. but survived ir better than thc others.

Lennon thought Spector's work was tine. McCarmey was outraged

wben be he~trd ir, and was particularly incensed by what had become of 'The Long and Winding RoadL Whether hc nevertheless approved

ir for release is ah open question: McCarmey claimed that be did not

bear the album until its release, but Spector claimed that McCarmey sent his approval by telegram.

In any case, when the album was released on 8 May 5970, ir was

disappointingly anticlimactic. The material on it was already well

k.own, thanks to bootlegs ofthe Glyn Johns mixes, and most listen- ers agrced with McCarmey d~at Spector's transformations were

appallingly un-Beatles-like. And in iàct, by the time the album was released, the b,eakup had been made o~cial. On Io April, McCarmey

said as much while promoting his début solo albtim, McCartney. He

had played ali the instruments on this record, and as ah added display of independente, he includcd a selfdnterview with press copies,

Asking himselfif therc were plans for new Beatles recordings,

or whether he missed the o~her Beatles and Martin while recording

McCartney, his blunt answer was no. He gave the same response to a

The Final Year 1969


question about wherher the Lennon-McCarmey parmership might

be revived. To a question about whether the album represented a split with the Beatles or merely a rest, he said, 'time will reli'. And be

cl~aracterized his reasons for brcaking with the Beatles as 'persoi~al

differences, business differences, musical differences, bur most of ali

bccause I have a better time with my famil~ Temporary or perman- ent? 1 dofft know.'

The hopeful clung for a while to that '1 don't know' and 'rime will

tell', abbetted by interviews in which the others suggested that the

breach might not be irreparable. Yet, listening to Ler Ir Be aiongside McCartney and Live Peace in Toronto- or by the end of the year,

Harrison's All Things Must Pass and Lennon's Plastic Ono Band the real answer wa_s clear.

Only eight years earlier, the Beatles had venturcd forth from

Liverpool and quicldy conquered the music world with an original

amalgam of tock, rhythm and b[ucs, country, Eng[ish fo[k and tradi tional mtrsic, a touch of avant gardism and a healthy measure of

imagination. They loggcd tcns of thousands of milcs on tour, and

recorded thirteen albums and twenty-two singles for EMI - more

than 2oo songs, most[y their own compositions. They had broken the barriers between high and low art, and between different pop gentes,

in ways that no rock band before them had done. And now, because they felt that their individual mtrsical destinies lay in different

directions, the Beat[es era was over.



The Bealles

The rock world has produced many genuinely inventive, technically advanced composers, and it has produced superstars who have sold

more records than the Beatles did ar their height. Yet no group or solo

performer has attained the stature - the almost universal acceptance across musical boundaries, and rhe sense of being thc standard against which others are measured that the Beatles achieved.

By the rime ofthe breakup, Lennon, Harrison and McCarmey had

ali produced musical warks outside the group. McCarmey had com-

posed the soundtrack music for The Family Way, and Harrison pro- duced the Wonderwall soundtrack and Electranic Sound In October

I969, Starr began recording a collection of cabaret standards, and by the end of the year, McCarmey was working on his first collection of post-Beatles rock songs.

John Lcnnon, of course, was by then an experienced hand ar solo

projects - or really, coIlaborations with Ono. Their first joint project actually pre4ated rheir romantic involvement. Fascinated with Ono's

conceptua[ art projects after seeing her Unfinisbed Paintings and

Drawing«exhibition in November I966, he sponsored a London show called Yako Plus Mein October 1967. Ha[f a year later they rccordcd

UnflnishedMusicNo. 1: Two Virgins, and released ir around the rime ofthe 'White Album'.

In spring x968, now demanding recognition as soul mates, they began their campaign for world peace, staging events ofvarious kinds.

Acornsfor Peacewas unvciled (or p[anted) ar Coventry Cathedral in

]une, and in July, 365 message-bearing balloons were released over London as the inaugural event in Lennon's YouAreHereexh]bition.

At the end ofthe year, they documented Ono's hospital stay, during

her miscarriage, for one side of Unflnished Music Na. 2: Lifi, With the Lions. The other side was a recording of Lennon's first performance as

ah accompanist to Ono ar a concert in Cambridge in Match 1969. Scenes from their first Bed-In were included on The WeddingAlbum.

Yet another avant-garde pro)ect - a recording ofa studio full of people laughing wildly for h01f an hour was lefz unissued.

Besides ali this, Lennon and Ono produced numerous avant-garde

films in 1969 and r97o. Some were wbimsical. For Bottoms and ¿J59

Your Legs Pórever, they had visitors drop their trousers to be filme& F/y, with a suitable soundtrack by Ono, followed the painstakingly

filmed (with help of sugar water) traveis of a fly arotmd a woman's

body, and Smil~ was a study of Lennon smiling. Others were more

intense. In Rape, a camera fol[owed a woman through the streets and into her apartment (her sister collaborated by providing the key)

chronicling her changing response, from curiosity and humour at first to extreme irritation as the camera grew more intrusive.

Yet for ali this activity, the field in which Lennon w:ts most ar

home remained the pop song, and be did not neglect it. 'Give P«ace

a Chancd emerged from the Montreal Beddn of May and June i969.

'Cold Turkey' was an acknowledgement of some~hing the Beatles had

been keeping quiet: the fàct that Lennon and Ono had developed

a heroin habit by mid-t969. 'Cold Turkey' was about the painful

process of kicking that habit, and to make tbat pain tangible, in the record~s final moments, Lennon borrowed Ono's screaming tech-

nique. Even before the Beatles had ofl]dally broken up, Lennon had released these two songs as singlcs, as well as 'Instant Karma~ and the

Live Peace in Tomnto album.

In 197o, after months of pursuing Ono's ex husband, Tony Cox,

in the hope ofgaining custody ofher daughter, Kyoko, the Lennons

went to Los Angeles to vent tbeir frustrations at primal scream ther-

apy sessions with Dr Arthur Janov, ah experiente that yielded the

intensely personal (and often blisteringly angry) songs compiled on tbe Plastic Ono Band album. Among them was 'God', whicb includes

bis denial ofa list ofthe world's idols, from Buddha to the Beatles.

Plastic Ono Bandwas spare, almost Minima]ist in texture. Imagine, its successor in t971, hid its harshness under a sugar coating ofstrings

and production effects, lts title song, a utopian vision ora wor]d

without national boundaries or greed, joined 'Give IYace a Chance'

as ah idealist anthem. That song, along with 'Jealous Guy' and 'Oh My Love', is sweet[y lyrical. But there is unvarnished anger here roo.

'1 Dofft Want to Be a Soldier' and 'Gimme Some Tr tLth' are shots across the bow ofthe establishment, and 'How Do You Sleep?' is ah

The Beatles

undisguised attack on McCarmey (in responsc, Lcnnon said, to a somewhat subtler attack on McCar tncy's Raro album). Lcnnon and Ono moved to New York soon after Imagine was fin- ished, and forged links to the radical anU-war underground. This proved imprudent: once the Nixon administration got the idea ~hat Lennon would be the drawing card at ar* anti-Nixon demonstration, it moved to have him deported, claiming his I968 drug conviction as justification. Thus began a five-year battle to remain in the USA. During his 'radical' phase, Lennon slipped into his songwriter-as- joumalist persana, and with a Ncw York bar band caUed Elephant's Memory as his backing group, he recorded Some Time in New York Ci~y, a collection ofhis posiUons on everything flora Northcril Ircland to the uprising at Attica State Prison. Musical[y, these fo[ksy outpourings were the least inspired songs he had yet released, and even his most ardent fans were beginning to wonder if the creativc

well had run dry. Lennon no doubt sensed this. Mind Games, in I973, was an attempt to return to the spirit oflmagine. But here too, his inspiration was inconsistent. The pressures on him could not have helped. While he fended off the American government's harassment, his relationship with Ono foundered. The txvo separated in r973, and for a year and a halfLennon split bis time between New York

and LosAngeles. Lennan had two albums in the works concurrenfly during this periad. Thc first was Rock "n'Rol~ thc collcction of oldies he agreed to

record as the cost of settling the 'Come Together' plagiarism suit. The other was Walls and Bridges, a collection of autobiographical and self-analytical songs that was a decided improvement on Mind Games. He and Ono were reconciled in January ~975, whereupon Lennoix virtually dropped out ofsight for tive years, preferring to raise their son Sean outside the public cyc. Bur Lcnnon coatinued to compose, and in 198o, as his fortieth birtbday approached, he and Ono returned to the music wodd with Double Fanta~, a collection of songs about the joys and stresses of marital life, arranged as a dialogue. Lennon's return to public life would have galvanized the rock world even ifDouble Fantmy had nat had some of'his best post- Beatles music on it. Sudden[y be was availab]e for iengthy retrospcc- tive interviews, and was already at work on a follow-up, to be ca[led Milk andHoney. Bur ar nearly ii pm on 8 December, as he and Ono



walked from their limousine to the doorway ofthe Dakota Apartments, Lennon was shot dead by Mark David Chapman, a dcmented fan for whom he had autographed a copy of Doubl«

Fnnta¿? earlier in the day.

Lennon's death, and the manner ofit, shocked the world. But it

did not silence him, cntircly. In 1984, Ono relea.sed their work in

progress, Milk and tIoney, the first of several posthumous projects that

indude MenloveAvenue, a collection of unrdeased performances, and

Live in New York Ciry, a recording ofa ~97z concert with Elephant's Memory. Ono also provided several hundred hours of Lennon's

working tapes for use in a radio series, The Lost Lennon Tapes, and

al]owed her private film archive to be used in the making oflmagine:

John Lennon, a 1988 documentary film. Pau[ McCarmey's first post-Beatles album, McCartney, said a Iot

about its maker, lts cover photo, with its spilled bowl of cherries,

seemed a wistful comment on the Beadcs' brcakup, but then, so did

the other jacket photos, which depicted domestic tranquil]ity. By pLaying all the instruments himself, be made it c[ear that be was pre-

pared to stand on bis own as a one-man band. Whether he could

stand alone as a songwriter seemed less certain. He had, of course, done so already, with songs like 'Yesrerday'. ]n fact, he was extraord-

inari[y facile, able to produce songs out ofthin air on demand. Bur

this facility was a mixed blessing. Too often, bis thin-air creations remained vaporous, and without Lennon~ trus¢cd critica] voice, be

was unable to separam the wheat from the chafí[ M«Cartney points up

this problcm. First rate songs like 'Maybe I'm Amazed', 'EvetT Night'

and the lilting 'Junk' sir beside throwaways like 'The Lovdy Linda' and 'That Would Be Something'.

The consistency prob[em was more acure in bis second and third

albums, Raro and WildLife, both recorded in 197x, the latter with

McCarmey's new band, Wings. McCarmey hoped that Wi~~gs would be a stable group (hat could evolve from project to project. Bur except

for his wife Linda, who was imw playing kcyboards, and Denny Laine, a guitarist who had been in an early [ine-up ofthe Moody

Blues, Wings' personne] changed frequent]y Red Rose Speedway, in J973, was a distinct improvcmcnt, full of

beau¢ifuLly textured songs (bur also featuring the tready 'My lave').

And the same year saw further progress: the composition of 'Live and

The Beatles

Ler Die', a high-energy theme song for a James Bond fllm, and Band on the Rum, the album that would become a higb-water mark

of McCarmcy's solo carccr. Band on theRun was a triunlph snatched

from the jaws of disaster. HalfofWings resigned the day Paul and

Linda McCartney and Denny Laine [cft for Lagos, Nigeria, to begin

recording. McCarmey was mugged soon after his arrivaI. Yet the album was McCarmey's most consistent, and most spirited, since

the Beatles. [ts successor, Venus andMars, in I975, was cu~ from similar doth.

With irs release, McCarmey and a newly rcconstituted Wings

under took a world tour, stopping only to record Wings ar the J~oeed

of Soundin t976. The tour produced a triple ]ive album, Wings Over

America, and a film, Rockshow, which includcd McCarmey's remakes

ofa handful of Beatles songs, along with stage versions ofhis solo malerial.

The tour gare McCarmey a creative boost; yet Wmgs ar the Speed ofSoundand its z978 follow-up, London Town, were retreats flora the bright sound of Band on the Rum and Vemus and Mars. Now

McCarmey was lightening the textures, Iooking at music that prized melody, character and introspection over energy and drive. There

were also responses to the criticism he had earned so lar: in 'Silly Love Songs', he confronts those who objected to thc sappiness of

'My Love', but he is none roo convincing.

As in his Beatles days, McCarmey regular]y released singles thar did not appear on his albums. One of these, the singsongy 'Muil of

Kintyre' - a paean to the environs ofhis Scottish farto - proved to

be one ofthe best-selling records ofall time, eclipsing even 'I Want

to Hold Your Hand', though for no discernible musicaJ reason. McCarmey's luck changed for the worse with Back to the Eggin 1979,

a collection that explores a great many styles, from hard rock to I94os'

pastiche. Ir deserved better than the criticai thras}fing ic received. McCarmey undertook a tour of England, and was about m tour

Japan in 198o when he was arrcsted for marijuana possession a~ Narita Intemationa[ Airport in Tokyo. He spent eight days in jail,

and was deported. For ali practical purposes, Wings çel] apart then.

McCarmey did what he did when the Beades brokc up: be released

a one-man-band album, McCartney li. His ins~rumental arsenal had

grown, as had his performing ability, yet the aJbum had [ittlc to



recommend ir, and ir signalled the start ofan alarming desire to produce disco funk tracks, here embodied in 'Coming Up'. This

would join the composition of glutinous love songs as a continuirlg

current in McCarmey's work.

The Japanese fiasco, combined with Lennon's murder a~ the end of i98o, cured McCarmey ofbis desire to tour, ar least for the rime

being. Bur in I982, just as his listeners were about to write him off

once again, he produced anotber of his better solo effor ts, Tug of War. The album, which included some gorgeously lyrical songs and coI- laborations with Carl Perkins and Stevie Wonder, was the first of

several projects that reunited McCartney with George Martin. Pipes

ofPeace, released in 1983, was not quite as consistent. Bur ir roo had

some crossover appeal: a coup[e ofthe songs were collaborations with Michael Jackson, then ar the height ofhis fame. The McCarmey-

Jackson friendship was shattered in 1985, when Jackson paid

$47 million for the Lenno~McCarmey publishing catalogue, outbidding McCarmey and Ono.

Some of the War and Peace songs, along with a few Beat[es remakes

and a handful ofnew tunes, made up the soundtrack to GiveMy

Regards to Broad Stree~ McCartney's unsuccessful bid to both write and star in a film. Smarting from that fai[ure, he refashioned bis sound yet again, and produced the trendy and only fleedng[y satisfy-

ing Press to P/ay album in i986. By now the pop market had moved on to other things. A core of

ageing Beafles iàns continued to fo[low McCartney's work, and he

attracted some younger ]isteners roo; bur mostly, as lle approached bis

fi fties, be seemed to lose his ability to reach the top of Lhe pop charts,

even when bis work was ar its best. His Flowers in the Dirt, re[eased in r989, was a solid, durable album on a par with Band on the Run or

Tug ofWar, yet ir failed to make a dent in the American pop charts. Nor did the well-crafted O~the Groundfare well in 1993.

Yet his 1989 and I993 world tours proved that he could still draw

big audiences, even if they main/y wanted to hear Beades and Wings songs. Those were rhe centrepieces ofthe film and live ~bum each

tour produced - The Get Back film and the Tripping the Live Fantastic album in 199o. and the Paul Is Live album and video in I993. AIso of

interest among McCarmey's releases are Back in the U.X X R., an album

of rock o[dies, recorded in 1987 and original[y re[eased only in the

The Beatles

Sovict Union, and Unplugge~ an acoustic concert rccorded for MT~,

the American music vídeo station in ~99I. There are severa non-rock productions among McCarmey's post Beatles works. Thc most ambitious is a grandly-sca]ed classical work,

PaulMcCartney's Liverpool Oratorio, a collaboration with the London-

based Anaerican filmscore composer and conductor Carl Davis. The

Liverpoo[ Philharmonic commissioned it as part ofits Isoth annivers-

ary celebration, and would have been happy with a ten minute overture, Bm McCarmey, with Davis providing technical support,

composed a quasi-operatic work for full orchestra, mixcd choir, boys choir and vocal soloists, in eight movemcnts that clocks in ar about ninety minutos.

Ir is, to be sure, a straight forwardly tona] piece, and its Achilles

heal as is so ofien the case in McCarmey's work - is its text. lts hero

is a Livcrpool Everyrnan who wrestles with his Muse before coming

to terms with it. Along the way, conservative family va]ues are cele- brated, sometimes touchingly, sometimes mawldshly. Bur whatever

the flaws ofthe text, the work does inc[ude some truly beautiful chorai and vocal writing. And a lengthy violin solo suggested tbat

McCartney might have a concerto in him. The première performance

ar the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool on z8 June ~99~, with Davis

on the podiu!n, was recorded and releascd by EMI's classica] arre.

A more recent non-rock project is Strawberries Oceans 5hips Forest a

1993 collaboration with a producer known as Youth, re]eased under the name the Fireman. Here McCaxmey experiments with ambient

techno«pop, and presents nine pieces - or, act ually, trine versions ora

single piece, each using different synthesizer coloration and effects, For George Harfison, the breakup ofthe Beatles was a golden

opportunity. He had come ofage as a songwriter, and his contribu-

tions toAbbey Roadwere among that album's highlig[lts. He had a]so become quite prolific, and now he could record his songs without

competition or criticism from Lennon and McCarmey. His first col

lection, All Things Must Pass. was a triple album - two discs of new songs plus a collection ofsession jams.

Harrison began explalning bis interest in Hinduism here, offering

songs about the transitory nature oflife and the trivia]ity of mundane struggle compared with the quest to be one witb the Godhead. 8ongs

about more worldly matters were interspersed, and the album was



rapturously received. But his first single, 'My Sweet Lord', landed him

in earthly trouble: just as Lennon had been sued by Chuck Berry's

publisher for lifting a line from 'You Can't Catch Me', the publisher ofthe old Chiffons hit, 'He's So Fine', sucd Harrison on the basis of

melodic similarities in the chomses ofthe two songs. Harrison lost

the suit, which dragged on for two decades.

in 1971 Harrison hdped arrange an all-star benefit concert ar Madison Square Garden, in New York, to raise relief money for

Bangla Desh. Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Pingo Starr, Billy Preston and dozens more musicians played in this precursor of Live Aid and

other rock charity concerts, and the performance yielded an album

and a film, The Concertfor Bangla Desh. Disputes over everything

ffom distribution rights to taxes kept the proceeds from being put immediateiy toward the reliefe/~òrt.

The songs Harrison recorded forLivirlgirl theMaterial Worldin

w973 filrthcred his Eastern rdigious agenda, and a]though thc album

reached the top ofthe American charrs, there was growing resistance to what many listeners considered Harrison's preachy tone. Still, as on

Al[ Things Must Pas4 the material was by no means exclusively spir-

itual: 'Sue Me Sue You Blues', for example, offers a glimpse into the

legal infighting among the former Beatles.

Harrison's s[ide ffom pop chart grace began with Dark Horse, in

I974, which was perceived as more preaching and whining. A tour ofthe USA, undertaken to promote the record, was disastrous:

Harrison, unused to singing more than a song or two in an evening,

did nothing to preparo himself vocally, and had sung himself hoarse

before the show got on the road. k3ctra 7éxture, in t975, was ah improvement, and boasted a few appealing songs in the ruminative

style that Harrison had been drawn to since his Beatles days. ThirÇ-

Three and a Third, released in 1976, was notably more upbeat, the

sermonizing replaced by some satirical comment on tbe ways of the

material world. Specifically, his 'This Song' commented on the 'He's So Fine' lawsuit, and a vídeo clip made to promote the song parodied

the trial. Stylistically, Harrison's reach was fairly broad here: ot~e hcars

everything flora traditional blues to light jazz, along with Harrison's own recognizable style.

Harrison took a three-year break flora the music wodd after ThirÇ

Three anda Third. He had been estranged flora bis wife Pattie for


The Beotles

some rime; she had, in fact, become romantically involved witH Eric

Clapton. whom she later married. The Harrisons' divorce was final-

ized in 1977, and in 1978 Harrison married Olivia Arias. He also

began to dabble in the tilm world, baili.g out Monty Python's

troubled Life ofBrian. Because this first experience as a film producer proved both pleasing and lucrative, he formed his own company,

HandMade Films, which made twenty-seven films be(ore Harrison so[d his interest in 1994.

Harrison's t979 return to recording. George Harrisan, was lighter in spirit thal~ its predecessors, with songs about everything ffom

automobile racing to psychotropic mushroouas, aiong with a rework ing of'Not Guilw'. bis defe.sive response to the inter-Beatle squab-

bling during the 'W~aite Album' sessions. Bur his audience, like

McCarmey's, had dwindled by ~979, and when be submitted his

next album, Somewhere in England, at the end of i98o, he had to face something unthinkable for a former Beatle: his record company demanded changes. He complied, defiantly adding 'Blood from a

Clone', a song about record company interference in artistic endeav-

ours~ to a line-up that a[ready induded 'Unconsciousness Rules', a swat ar disco. The request for a revamp did, however, afibrd Harfison

ah opportunity to add 'Ali Those Years Ago', a touching, upbeat

tribute to Lennon. on whÍch McCarmey and Starr overdubbed instrumental contributions.

By I982 ir seemed as thollgb Harrison was finding his battles in the

music business utterly dispiriting. When he released Gone Troppo that year. he did nothing whatsoever to promote k, and it barely registered in the charts - a pity, really, since it was full of'bright, bumorous,

energetic songs, rich in melodic charro. Once again, be stepped away from music, not returning unti[ 1987, when Cloud Nine brought him

his bÍggest success since Ali Things Must Pass. Recorded ar his home studio, with contribtitions from Starr and C]apton, and co-produced

by Jeff I.ynne ofthe Beatles-influenced Electric Light Orchestra, the

album was refreshingly spirited, and included a imstalgic skewering of

the Beatles myth, 'When We Was Fab'. Now back i/i the limelight, he teamed up with Dylan, Lynne, the I95OS' legend Roy Orbison and a younger rock star. Tom Petv/. to record The Traveling Wilburys in

1988. The album, collaborativaly composed and recorded in short order, was brimming with spontaneitT and humour. Orbison died

soon after the record was rdeased, bur others kept the Wilburys alive,

recording a second album, quirkily named Volume3, in 199o. Harrison has remained the most reclusive ofthe former Beatles,

bui in 1991 he made a tentative remrn to the stage, touring 3apan with

the support of Eric Clapton and his band, singing a combination of bis Beades-era compositions and selections from his solo work. A

sampling ofthe performances can be heard on the Live inJapan album, released in 1992

It seemed likely that Ringo Starr would devote himself to films

afrer rhe breakup ofthe Beatles, and to an exrent he did, appearing in several films and cven doing some directing. Yet he had musical

ambitions roo. In late 1969 and early 1970 be recorded Sentimental

Journey, a co[lectio n of cabaret standards. He worked with some starry

arrangers - Quincy Jones, John Dank~vorth and Paul McCarmey,

among them and the music was so[id enough. Bur Starr proved no

competition for Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald. He next turned his

hand, without greater success, to country and western music, travelling to NashvilIe to record rhe homely Beaucoups of Blues.

Starr had better luck when he returned to rock and roll. As the

only one ofthe forme, Beatles who enjoyed wafm relations with ali

the others, he was able to draw on the songavriting t;dents of ali thrce when he recorded Ringo in 1973- The others plaved on tbe recording

roo, making ir as alose to a reunion project as the group would come. Ringo showed that with the right material, Starr's plalntive baritone

had an appea]. He sought to create the same effect on Goodnight

~qenna in 1974, bur despite contributions from Lennon and o~her rock stars, the record lacked the dazzle ofits predecessor.

In 1975 Starr's mairiage fel] apart, and he began a jet-setting life- style that exacerbated a drinking problem which, be later sald, had

developed during bis years as a Beatle. Lennon, McCarmey and

Harrison each contributed a song to Rotogravure, which feamred the graffiti covered door ofthe former Apple offices on its cover. Bur by

I976, Beatles connections were not enough to buoy up a badly~sung,

bored-sounding per formance. Ringo the 4th fared no better in 1977,

and although Starr participated in a likeable promotional television

Th~ Bearles

special co-starring Carrie Fisher and Art Carney to promote BadBoy

in 1978, that album roo proved unsaleable.

Poor record sales were hardly the worst of Starr's problems at this time. He nearly died of ah intestinal ailment in April I979, and a

fcw months later bis bouse in Los Angeles burned to thc ground.

Lennon's death a]so hit him hard. By eady 198I, be had recorded most

ora new album, with contributions from McCarmey and Harrison, but be did not have the heart to record the new songs Lennon had

sent along. Never theless, Stop and Smell tbe Roses was surprisingly

upbeat, and had something that had been missing since Ring~ a sensc ofhumour.

Bur although Starr's wedding to the actress Barbava Bach (with

whom he had starred in Caueman, a film about prehiszoric rimes, in z98o) rated international news coverage, partly becausc McCartney and Harrison attended (and participated with Starr in a jam session),

the album barely cracked the charts. His next, O/d Wave, recorded in

1983, suffèred a worse late: ir was released in only a handful ofcoun- tries, the USA and Britain not among them. With his musical career

seemingly over, Starr dropped out of sight, making occasional appear-

ances on television and on stage, and recording songs for various benefit and compilation albums. Late in 1988, he recognized that

alcoholism had become ah impediment in both his private and professional life. He checked into a rebabilitation center in Arizona,

and when he emerged he began making plans for a comeback. He assembled a solid, supportive band of ageing stars and almost-stars

from the ~96os and ~97os, and under took a tour, taking turns singing oldies with bis bandmates.

He toured again in I99z, this time with a new album, Time Takes Time. The record was Starr's best: more consistently ple~sing than

Ringo, ir showed him es an assured pertCormer and songwriter, mld ser

his modest voice within a Beadesque backing. But be was unablc to persuade the rock world of the t99os that his work merited attention, and the album went large~y ignored.

When tbe Beatles were together and ar thc height oftheir fame,

the press regularly published reports saying that a breakup was

imminent. Once the Bearles did separate, the press reversed polarity

and began claiming, year in and year out, that they would get back together. The ¡Corroer Beatles themselves of~en fanned those rumours:

at vaxious points in the 197os. each of them hint¢d that perhaps a reconciliation might be fun. Bur ali four never said so ar the same

time. The death ofJohn Lennon should logieally have ended hopcs

for a Beat]es rcunion; yct rcports persisted through rhe 198os, with

Julian Lennon supposedly sitting in for his father.

Thcn suddcnly, in 1989, a thrce way collaboradon ofthe surviving Beatles began to seem plausible. That Novem0er, a eomplex web of

lawsuits the Beatles and Apple against EMI. thc Bcatlcs against each

other - was settled afier twenty years of wrangling. With relations

between the surviving former Beafles again amicabte, Apple revived a

project that had been shelved since 197o, a film documentary in which the Beatles would tell their own stor)~ Over the next few years,

McCarmey, Harrison and Starr sat for interviews as Apple collected

film footage from television archives around lhe world. From the

start, McCarmey spoke about getting together with his old

bandmares to record soundtrack music for what was turnillg into a ten- or fifteen-hour series. Ir took him tive years to persuade the

others, bur in February 1994, they assembled ar McCartney's studio in

East Sussex, and turned on the tape machines. What they did during those sessions, and during further sessions

in February I995, was collaborat¢ with Lennon on two new songs. On a visit to New York in Janua~ 1994, McCanney obtained some

ofLennon's unfinishcd work tapes from Ono. Back in England,

McCartne),, Harrison and Starr listened to three or four songs before

setfling on two lilting ballads, "Frec ~s a Bird' and 'Real Love.' They added new instrumental lines and vocal harmonies, and McCarmey

wrote new lyrirs for sections that Lennon had left unfinished, utte;ly

transforming Lennon's rough, home-made recordings. For a few moments, ifonly in ah electronieu]ly enhanced reality, the Beatles

were back rogether making new music.