The Beatles: One Guy Standing There, Shouting 'I'm Leaving'

No matter who said it first, it was official: The Fab Four were no more

Paul and Linda McCartney on their lonely farm near the fishing town of Campbeltown, the day after McCartney started High Court proceedings to seal the final break-up of the Beatles, January 5th, 1970. Credit: Evening Standard/Getty

There is almost no attempt in this new set to be anything but what the Beatles actually are: John, Paul, George and Ringo. Four different people, each with songs and styles and abilities. They are no longer Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and it is possible that they are no longer the Beatles. — From the review of the "white album," Rolling Stone, December 21st, 1968

The status of the Beatles hasn't changed much since then. Only now, bitterness and mistrust have begun to set in. For if they have indeed "broken up," the break took place well before Paul McCartney released his new album, and announced he was leaving.

In the words of John Lennon, "We were long gone, a long time ago."

What has happened in the last few weeks — with the release of Paul's album, with the appearance in these pages of his only interview in a year, and the release to the press of some terse comments from a self-interview which is packaged with press and disc jockey copies of his album — is the public result of the bitter fight over Beatle business manager Allen Klein, and the formal end of the Lennon-McCartney song writing team.

And underlying that is the passage of time, in which boys turn into men, in which they marry, in which they grow up, in which they grow apart.

"The Beatles haven't had a future, for me, for the last two years," John said after all this hit the papers. "All of us are laboring under this delusion about Beatles and McCartney and Lennon and Harrison and Starr. But, you know, we all have to get over it, us and the public. It's a joke. What we did was what we did, but what we are is something different."

If there is a "reason" that the Beatles broke up, it goes back to a series of events which center around the formation of Apple. After Brian Epstein's death and the release of Sergeant Pepper's, the Beatles were set adrift to find their own direction without guidance. They started Apple, set up to be "run" by the Beatles as a collective, and in it they installed their long-time friends and associates to take care of the business.

They found out, however, that four musicians and their road managers do not a successful record company make, no matter who they are. John, George and Ringo, bored with the daily meetings over minor business hassles, soon drifted away from it, and it quickly became Paul's trip.

Paul — who in the meantime had married Linda Eastman, whose father and brother are music business lawyers — couldn't run it either. And it was a mess. Apple turned into a huge financial loss, draining like a sieve, under incompetent management, replete with freeloaders, hangers-on, loyal and loving Beatle workers, and all of it bogged by bickering among the people and the Beatles unable to resolve it.

John soon let it slip to the papers that the operation had bled the Beatles nearly dry. Then he brought in Allen Klein.

And the fight began: John and Yoko Lennon in one corner, Paul and Linda McCartney in the other. John with his clothes off and other weird trips, drifting further and further away from Paul, the "nice Beatle" repulsed by John's carryings-on. And John, with George and Ringo, wanting Allen Klein in to bring order to the chaos, versus Paul, whose new in-laws wanted to take over the Beatles.

So it went. And so, they "broke up."

When did the Beatles break up?
John: "The Beatles white album. Listen — all you experts listen, none of you can hear. Every track is an individual track — there isn't any Beatle music on it. I just say listen to the white album, I don't know what the album before that was, what was it, Pepper? Pepper was the one and only, you know, I don't think Paul ever liked the White album really. It was John and the Band, Paul and the Band, George and the Band, like that. Paul and the Band. What I did was sort of say 'Fuck the Band, I'll make John — I'll do it with Yoko,' or whatever. I put four albums out last year and I didn't say a fucking word about quitting."

The current reports of the break up were the result of a story released to wire services by McCartney's brother-in-law, New York attorney John Eastman, in which the new album was announced along with statements that Paul had formed his own production company and was planning to do more things on his own. The results were too predictable.

This was quickly followed by the release of a startling four-page question and answer interview in which Paul said he was not planning to make more records with the Beatles, disavowed Allen Klein, made a few "anti" remarks about John and Ringo, said he didn't foresee a time when he and John would write songs again, and announced that he had broken with the Beatles.

(This statement, which was accompanied by several photos, a lyric sheet and a booklet of recording information, originally intended by Paul to go with the album, is not distributed with the record in the United States, although it was inserted in reviewers and disc jockey copies which were sent out by McCartney's in-laws in New York.)

In both his Rolling Stone interviews and in the interview that was supposed to accompany the album, McCartney says that Allen Klein "does not represent me in any way." The truth is a little of everything: Klein does not represent McCartney as an individual, as he does not, in fact, represent any of the Beatles as individuals.

However, under the terms of a partnership agreement dated April 19th, 1967 among the Beatles and Apple Corp, all the Beatles are signed for a period of ten years to Apple for all activities in the entertainment business throughout the world (with the exception of movies and song writing, the latter covered under already existing agreements with Northern Songs, MacLen Music, etc.), both as the Beatles as a group and as individual entertainers. This covers appearances and records done as individuals, as a group, with other members of the group or with any other group.

And Apple is signed to Allen Klein's Abkco, headquartered in New York City.

This has led to some fairly petty sidelights: In review copies of the McCartney album mailed by the Eastmans under a Capitol Records mailing label from New York City, a tiny strip of black tape is affixed to the back of the album covering up the New York city address of Apple Records (and Klein's office) in the United States.

After the "break-up" announcements hit the press, stock in Abkco dropped $5.00 a share.

"I'm telling you," said John, "that's what's going on. It's John, George and Ringo as individuals. We're not even communicating with or making plans about Paul, we're just reacting to everything he does. It's a simple fact that he can't have his own way so he's causing chaos. I don't care what you think of Klein — call Klein something else, call him Epstein for now — and just consider the fact that three of us chose Epstein. Paul was the same with Brian in the beginning, if you must know. He used to sulk and God knows what. Wouldn't turn up for the dates or the bookings. It's always been the same only now it's bigger because we're all bigger. It's the same old game."

"You know, it's like this," John said, "when we read all this shit in the paper, Yoko and I were laughing, because the cartoon is this: four guys on a stage with a spotlight on them; second picture, three guys on stage breezing out of the spotlight; third picture, one guy standing there, shouting, 'I'm leaving.' We were all out of it."

Let It Be will be released on May 8th. What may or may not be the Beatles' last album has during the past month been reedited, remixed and overdubbed in London by Phil Spector.

The album was originally recorded and mixed in early 1969, during which time a film was made of the Beatles recording the album. This film, also titled Let It Be, premiering simultaneously in London and Liverpool, will be released two weeks after the album, and go on general theatrical release in the United States through United Artists. United Artists Record Company will also distribute the album in the U.S. and Canada — though still on the Apple label — because of a previous contractual commitment with the Beatles for film soundtracks. EMI will distribute it in the rest of the world.

Spector, who produced John Lennon's single, "Instant Karma," began work on the Let It Be album over a month ago. A completed album had already been edited and mixed last year. However it was something none of the Beatles were happy with, gave to the session engineer to do, and then never bothered with afterwards.

"Phil Spector came in and listened to every take," according to John Lennon. "He changed the takes originally used. He listened to about one thousand million miles of tape, none of which had been marked or catalogued. Which is why the Beatles couldn't face the album, because there was too much shit and nobody was interested enough to pull it together. And Phil pulled it together, remixed it, added a string or two here and there. I couldn't be bothered because it was such a tough one making it. We were really miserable then. Spector has redone the whole thing and it's beautiful."

Spector will also be producing George Harrison's first solo album, which is scheduled to start recording on May 20th. And he will also be working on John Lennon's first solo album. No date has been set yet for the Lennon album, although, according to John, "I've got all the material I need, it's really making a decision when to take all that much time out of my life.

"I think he's great, Phil Spector, you know...."