Today, 9th April 2020, marks 50 years since the Beatles stopped making music together and split up. The band from Liverpool are still listened to by millions around the world. In 2013 the group made over $71 million. In this article, we’ll uncover the truth behind their break up and why they were, and still are, so popular.
600 million album sales and 1.6 billion single sales is quite a success, no matter which way you look at it. The Beatles reinvented popular culture and changed music forever. Their worldwide fame and success came over just an 8 year period after their debut single release, “Love Me Do” in October 1962. However, it only took a few words during a press conference in 1970 to end it all. Paul McCartney was asked by a journalist on April 9th 1970 if he would be releasing another album with The Beatles. He answered, “No”. McCartney, being questioned further by the journalist, “Do you foresee a time when Lennon-McCartney becomes an active songwriting partnership again?”. He again answered, “No”. This would be the beginning of the end for The Beatles. Why did such a successful band only survive 8 years at the top? The video below is one of The Beatles’ first performances in 1983.
On the 10th April, “Paul Quits The Beatles” was front-page news. The flower-power social activists were confused, in outrage, devastated, and in shock. The world was in shock. It seemed The Beatles were so much more than just a band. They were a form of religion and something fans really struggled to let go of.
Due to the huge backlash from fans and negative media response, the following interviews with the band members would add even more confusion to the mix. Paul backtracked claiming he was devastated his interview had been taken as a Beatles split, George Harrison refused to comment and Ringo said it’s all news to him. John Lennon responded jokingly, “He didn’t quit, I sacked him!”.
The band had high stresses and strains from years of dominating the music industry which involved everything from drug addiction to difficult managers (and relationships). After a few weeks passed, it would seem band members would feel Paul McCartney had betrayed them by using the break up of The Beatles to help promote his solo career. However, in 1969, John Lennon told his band members he had intentions to leave the band that year. John said, “I wanted to do it and I should have done it. I started the band, I disbanded it. It’s as simple as that.” In 1966, George Harrison didn’t want to tour anymore and planted a seed of doubt regarding his future with the band. In fact, by the time they finally split up, each band member had threatened to leave at least once.
Other lifestyle and musical frustrations sought to further push the band members apart. George Harrison’s songwriting was developing fast, writing awesome hits such as “Taxman”. He was feeling underappreciated alongside McCartney and Lennon saying, “We’d have to record maybe eight of theirs before they’d listen to mine”. The division kept growing and by 1968, whilst recording “The White Album”, they would often record their own songs in separate studios. Lennon said, “The break-up of The Beatles can be heard on that album.”
Yoko Ono, John Lennon’s girlfriend, would come to join recording sessions. John dubbed her a defacto Beatle much to the dislike of other band members. She would make suggestions during recording sessions as John encouraged her to participate. Her musical influence caused even more friction between the band, leading Paul McCartney to blame John for, “sabotaging The Beatles”.
The business-side of the band was also under pressure. After the death of manager Brian Epstein, The Rolling Stones manager, Allen Klein, would approach John Lennon seeking to manage his finances. Allen was being investigated by the US financial authorities at the time. John Lennon signed a contract with him on their first meeting, much to the disapproval of McCartney who refused to sign the deal.
Yoko Ono and Lennon were becoming quite spiritual and were now communicating without words. They called it “Heightened Awareness”. This created a huge miscommunication with other band members and an even bigger rift between the four.
Abbey Road was the final Beatles album to be recorded but not their last to be released. “Let It Be”, though mainly recorded in January 1969, was finally released in May 1970, alongside the film of the same name. They last played together on 18th August 1969, ironically recording “The End”.
Paul McCartney did an interview on The Howard Stern show about what happened during and previous to the disbandment. Check out the interview below.