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The Real Story Behind the Beatles' Last Days

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April 1: Phil Spector, hired by Klein to finish Let It Be, overdubs strings, a harp, a choir and additional drums onto "The Long and Winding Road" without McCartney's knowledge.

April 7: Paul's lawyers announce the release of McCartney, and the four Beatles agree to meet for the first time in months on Friday, April 10, to discuss the Let It Be movie. The same day, Paul's statement – which the other Beatles are unaware of – is delivered to the Apple press office, for distribution with the first 100 press copies of McCartney.

April 8: Xeroxes of Paul's press release are hand-delivered to writers at the London Evening Standard and the Daily Mirror, who are told not to publish it for two more days.

Photos: Rolling Stone Readers Pick the Top 10 Beatles Albums

April 9: A day early, the Daily Mirror runs an article declaring Paul has left the Beatles. Paul calls John, who's already heard about the announcement from the Evening Standard's Ray Connolly. Beatle associate Mal Evans hears a radio report and tells George at his Friar Park home outside London.

April 10: Paul's announcement goes global and fans begin congregating outside Apple headquarters; a TV reporter on the scene declares, "The event is so momentous that historians may mark it as a landmark in the decline of the British Empire." Not surprisingly, McCartney's team sends a cable to Apple canceling the planned Beatles meeting that day.

April 16: Stung by the way the public is blaming him for the Beatles' breakup, Paul calls the Evening Standard's Connolly for an interview. Over lunch, Paul claims Yoko Ono's presence played a role in intragroup tensions and admits he threw Ringo out of his house. "I didn't leave the Beatles," he says. "The Beatles have left the Beatles. But no one wanted to be the one to say the party's over." When John reads the interview in print a few days later – especially the part where Paul complains about the female choir added onto "The Long and Winding Road" – he cracks, "Is that what this is all about—those bloody girls?"

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

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