PAUL: We started Let It Be in January 1969 at Twickenham Studios, under the working title Get Back. Michael Lindsay-Hogg was the director. The idea was that you'd see The Beatles rehearsing, jamming, getting their act together and then finally performing somewhere in a big end-of-show concert. We would show how the whole process worked. I remember I had an idea for the final scene which would be a massive tracking shot, forever and ever, and then we'd be in the concert.
The original idea was to go on an ocean liner and get away from the world; you would see us rehearsing and then you'd finally see the pay-off. But we ended up in Twickenham. I think it was a safer situation for the director and everybody. Nobody was that keen on going on an ocean liner anyway. It was getting a bit fraught between us at that point, because we'd been together a long time and cracks were beginning to appear.
GEORGE: I think the original idea was Paul's - to rehearse some new songs, pick a location and record the album of the songs in a concert. We would learn the tunes and record them without loads of overdubs: do a live album.
PAUL: I don't think we were consciously going for live feeling in those sessions. I'd say that's probably true, but I don't remember being conscious of trying to make it live. They were quite good sessions once we got into Apple Studios later on, and I remember sitting round quite enjoying the music. It was interesting music to play.
GEORGE MARTIN: They were going through a revolutionary period at that time, and were trying to think of something new — and they wanted a new engineer. They have Geoff Emerick, so Glyn Johns came in. I guess basically they wanted a new producer, but they never actually said that to me. So I was still there.
At the same time, they did actually come up with a very good idea, which I thought was well worth working on. They wanted to write a complete album and rehearse it and then perform it in front of a large audience. A live album of new material. Most people who did a live album would be rehashing old stuff, but they thought: 'Let's have a completely new album that nobody has ever heard, and put it in front of an audience.'
It was a great idea, except that you couldn't have an open-air concert in England in February and there was no venue available that would take The Beatles and their crowds. So we then started thinking about staging it abroad, we thought about doing it in California, but that would have been too expensive. We thought of going to Marrakech and importing people – but that fell through. In the end, because there was so much vacillation, there was nowhere left at all. So they started rehearsing down in Twickenham Film Studios, and I went along with them.
But there was a lot of dissension and lack of steering. Really, they were rudderless at this time. They didn't like each other too much and were fighting amongst themselves.
JOHN: What can’t we do if we can’t think of any sport of gimmick? Well, the worst that we have is a documentary of us making an LP, if we don’t get into a show. All the things we do, the whole point of it is communication. And putting in on TV is communication, and we’ve got a chance to smile at people, like ‘All You Need Is Love’. So that’s my incentive for doing it.69
JOHN: I wasn't consciously making any decisions. It was all sort c subconscious and I just made the records with The Beatles like one goes to one's job at nine in the morning. Paul or whoever would say, 'It's time to make a record.' I'd just go in and make record, and not think too much about it. Always I've enjoyed the session if it was a goo session. If we got our rocks off playing, it was fine. If it was a drag, it was a drag. But it ha become a job.80
PAUL: I remember once, at a meeting to discuss Let It Be, John saying, 'Oh, I get it. He wants a job.' And I had said, 'I suppose that right, yeah. I think we should work. It would be good.' They had all been quite happy to have the summer off, and I had felt we ought to do something.
As time went by, I'd talked them into Let Be. Then we had terrible arguments - so we get the break-up of The Beatles on film instead of what we really wanted. It was probably better story - a sad story, but there you are.
NEIL ASPINALL: I'm not sure whether everybody was behind the idea of going to Twickenham. They'd decided to film whatever the were doing. It was the producer Denis O'Dell's idea that, if you were going to film it, you needed space for cameras. They had used Twickenham Film Studios before for Help! and A Hard Day’s Night, so they ended up out there.
Twickenham was very cold in January, and a strange place to fee making an album. It was like half recording am half filming. It didn't really feel right. Nobody was that comfortable out there. It was a big sound stage in a film studio - and they were working on portable equipment because it wasn't equipped as a recording studio. Trying to work creatively, with every single moment of what they we doing being filmed, was not ideal for making a record.
PAUL: IN FACT WHAT HAPPENED WAS, WHEN WE GOT IN THERE, IT SHOWED HOW THE BREAK-UP OF A GROUP WORKS. WE DIDN'T REALISE THAT WE WERE ACTUALLY BREAKING UP AS IT WAS HAPPENING.
JOHN: It was hell making the film Let It Be. When it came out a lot of people complained about Yoko looking miserable in it. But even the biggest Beatle fan couldn’t have sat through those six weeks of misery. It was the most miserable session on earth.70
GEORGE: I had spent the last few months of 1968 producing an album by Jackie Lomax and hanging out with Bob Dylan and The Band in Woodstock, having a great time. For me, to come back into the winter of discontent with The Beatles in Twickenham was very unhealthy and unhappy. But I can remember feeling quite optimistic about it. I thought, ‘OK, it's the New Year and we have a new approach to recording.’ I think the first couple of days were OK, but it was soon quite apparent that it was just the same as it had been when we were last in the studio, and it was going to be painful again. There was a lot of trivia and games being played.
As everybody knows, we never had much privacy - and now they were filming us rehearsing. One day there was a row going on between Paul and me. It's actually in the film: you can see where he's saying, 'Well, don't play this,' and I'm saying, 'I'll play whatever you want me to play, or I won't play at all if you don't want me to play. Whatever it is that will please you, I'll do it...'
They were filming us having a row. It never came to blows, but I thought, 'What's the point of this? I'm quite capable of being relatively happy on my own and I'm notable to be happy in this situation. I'm getting out of here.'
Everybody had gone through that. Ringo had left at one point. I know John wanted out. It was a very, very difficult, stressful time, and being filmed having a row as well was terrible. I got up and I thought, 'I'm not doing this any more. I'm out of here.' So I got my guitar and went home and that afternoon wrote 'Wah Wah'.
RINGO: George left because Paul and he were having a heated discussion. They weren't getting on that day and George decided to leave, but he didn't tell John or me or Paul. There'd been some tension going down in the morning, and arguments would go on anyway, so none of us realised until we went to lunch that George had gone home. When we came back he still wasn't there, so we started jamming violently. Paul was playing his bass into the amp and John was off, and I was playing some weird drumming that I hadn't done before. I don't play like that as a rule. Our reaction was really, really interesting at the time. And Yoko jumped in, of course; she was there.
PAUL: If I made a suggestion and it was something that, say, George didn't want to do, it could develop quite quickly into a mini-argument. In fact George walked out of the group. I'm not sure of the exact reason, but I think that they thought I was being too domineering.
It's easy for someone like me, who likes to get stuff done, to come on too strong. I get excited and I get too keen about something, and talk too fast - 'Oh, we could do that and we'd be there on Monday morning - Twickenham - we'll do it - it's great...' And then it got a bit difficult. I would say, 'It would be great if we could film The Beatles working. It would be fabulous.' And they'd be like, 'Well, are you sure you want to do it that way?' It was getting a very lukewarm reception - and I didn't quite realise how I was.
Looking back at the film now, I can see it could be easily construed as someone coming on a bit too heavy; particularly as I was just a member of the band and not a producer or director. For my part it was just enthusiasm, and I'd sit and talk with the director. But I think it led to a couple of barneys, and in one of them George said, 'Right. I'm not having this!' I think I was probably suggesting what he might play, which is always a tricky one in a band.
On 'Hey Jude', when we first sat down and I sang 'Hey Jude...', George went 'nanu nanu' on his guitar. I continued, 'Don't make it bad...' and he replied 'nanu nanu'. He was answering every line - and I said, 'Whoa! Wait a minute now. I don't think we want that. Maybe you'd come in with answering lines later. For now I think I should start it simply first.' He was going, 'Oh yeah, OK, fine, fine.' But it was getting a bit like that. He wasn't into what I was saying.
In a group it's democratic and he didn't have to listen to me, so I think he got pissed off with me coming on with ideas all the time. I think to his mind it was probably me trying to dominate. It wasn't what I was trying to do - but that was how it seemed.
This, for me, was eventually what was going to break The Beatles up. I started to feel it wasn't a good idea to have ideas, whereas in the past I'd always done that in total innocence, even though I was maybe riding roughshod.
I did want to insist that there shouldn't be an answering guitar phrase in 'Hey Jude' - and that was important to me - but of course if you tell a guitarist that, and he's not as keen on the idea as you are, it looks as if you're knocking him out of the picture. I think George felt that: it was like, 'Since when are you going to tell me what to play? I' in The Beatles too.' So I can see his point of view.
But it burned me, and I then couldn't come up with ideas freely, so I started to have to think twice about anything I'd say - 'Wait a minute, is this going to be seen to be pushy?' - whereas in the past it had just been a case of, 'Well, the hell, this would be a good idea. Let's do this song called "Yesterday". It'll be all right.'
GEORGE: Personally I'd found that for the last couple of albums – probably since we stopped touring – the freedom to be able to play as a musician was being curtailed, mainly by Paul. There used to be situation where we'd go in (as we did when we were kids), pick up our guitars, all learn the tune and chords and start talking about arrangements.
But there came a time, possibly around the time of Sgt Pepper (which was maybe why I didn't enjoy that so much), where Paul had fixed an idea in his brain as to how to record one of his songs. He wasn't open to anybody else's suggestions. John was always much more open when it came to how to record one of his songs.
With Paul, it was taken to the most ridiculous situations, where I’d open my guitar case and go to get my guitar out and he'd say, 'No, no we're not doing that yet. We're gonna do a piano track with Ringo, and then we'll do that later.' It got so there was very little to do, other than sit round and hear him going, 'Fixing a hole...' with Ringo keeping the time. Then he'd overdub the bass and whatever else.
It became stifling, so that although this new album was supposed to break away from that type of recording (we were going back to playing live) it was still very much that kind of situation where he already had in his mind what he wanted. Paul wanted nobody to play on his songs until he decided how it should go. For me it was like: 'What am I doing here? This is painful!'
Then superimposed on top of that was Yoko, and there were negative vibes at that time. John and Yoko were out on a limb. I don’t think he wanted much to be hanging out with us, and I think Yoko was pushing him out of the band, inasmuch as she didn't want him hanging out with us.
IT'S IMPORTANT TO STATE THAT A LOT OF WATER HAS GONE UNDER THE BRIDGE AND THAT, AS WE TALK NOW, EVERYBODY'S GOOD FRIENDS AND WE HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PAST. BUT TALKING ABOUT WHAT WAS HAPPENING AT THAT TIME, YOU CAN SEE IT WAS STRANGE.
RINGO: George was writing more. He wanted things to go his way. When we first started, they basically went John and Paul's way, because they were the writers. But George was finding his independence and he wouldn't be dominated as much by Paul - because in the end Paul wanted to point out the solo to George, who would say, 'Look, I'm a guitarist. I'll play the solo.' And he always did; he always played fine solos. It got a bit like, 'I wrote the song and I want it this way,' whereas before it was, 'I wrote the song - give me what you can.'
PAUL: After George went we had a meeting out at John's house, and I think John's first comment was, 'Let's get Eric in.' I said, 'No!' I think John was half joking. We thought, 'No, wait a minute. George has left and we can't have this – it isn't good enough.'
RINGO: We all went to visit George at his house and we told him we loved him, and it got sorted and then he came back.
JOHN: Paul had this idea that we were going to rehearse, more like Simon and Carfunkel, looking for perfection – and then make the album. And of course we're lazy fuckers and we've been playing for twenty years, for tuck's sake – we're grown men, we're not going to sit around rehearsing. And we couldn't get into it, and we put down a few tracks and nobody was in it at all.
It was just a dreadful, dreadful feeling and, being filmed all the time, I just wanted them to go away. We'd be there at eight in the morning and you couldn't make music at eight in the morning, or ten, or whatever it was, in a strange place with people filming you, and coloured lights.
It was another one like Magical Mystery Tour. In a nutshell, Paul wanted to – it was time for another Beatle movie or something – he wanted us to go on the road, or do something. And as usual George and I were going, 'Oh, we don't want to do it,' and all that. And he sort of set it up. There was all discussions about where to go and all that. I would just tag along, and I had Yoko by then, and I didn't even give a shit about nothing. And I was stoned all the time, too, on H, etc. I just didn't give a shit – nobody did. Like in the movie, when I got to do 'Across The Universe', Paul yawned and plays boogie, and I immediately say, 'Oh, does anybody want to do a fast one?' That's how I am. So year after year that begins to wear you down.70
PAUL: These things had been going down in Let It Be: George leaving because he felt he was being told what to do (I think that's why he left). Ringo had earlier left because he didn't think we liked him as a drummer. That wasn't as difficult to solve as maybe George's thing was, but at the same time John was looking to get out of the situation, and I think we were all really feeling that some cracks were appearing in the whole edifice.
JOHN: By the time The Beatles were at their peak we were cutting each other down to size. We were limiting our capacity to write and perform by having to fit it into some kind of format, and that's why it caused trouble.71
It's not that we didn't like each other. I've compared it to a marriage a million times, and I hope it's understandable for people that aren't married or in any relationship. It was a long relationship. It started many, many years before the American public or the English public knew us. Paul and I were together since he was fifteen and I was sixteen. It's a long, long time that the four of us have been together. And what happened was, through boredom and too much of everything – Epstein was dead, and people were bothering us with business – the whole pressure of it finally got to us. So, like people do when they're together, they start picking on each other. It was like 'It's because of you – you got the tambourine wrong – that my whole life is a misery.' It became petty, but the manifestations were on each other because we were the only ones we had.
Maybe it was the camera of Let ft Be - the idea that we were going to try and create something phoney. The camera went on and it almost happened in Magical Mystery Tour, but we'd managed to just pick a little magic out.
BY THE TIME WE COT TO LET IT BE WE COULDN'T PLAY THE CAME ANY MORE. WE COULD SEE THROUGH EACH OTHER, AND THEREFORE WE FELT UNCOMFORTABLE, BECAUSE UP TILL THEN WE REALLY BELIEVED INTENSELY IN WHAT WE WERE DOING AND THE PRODUCT WE PUT OUT, AND EVERYTHING HAD TO BE JUST RIGHT. AND WE BELIEVED SUDDENLY WE DIDN'T BELIEVE. IT'D COME TO A POINT WHERE IT WAS NO LONGER CREATING MAGIC.76
GEORGE MARTIN: Paul was trying to keep things together by bossing people around because he’s quite good at that, but John and George didn't like it at all.
John was being more difficult because he was always with Yoko, and he would turn up very late or not at all – and it got into very awkward circumstances. John was going through a very problematic period when we were making the record. He actually said to me: ‘I don't want any of your production shit. We want this to be an honest album.' I said, 'What do you mean by an honest album?' He said, 'I don't want any editing. I don't want any over-dubbing. It's got to be like it is. We just record the song and that's it. I answered, 'OK, if that's the way you want to do it' that's what we'll do.'
We would start a track and it wasn't quite right, and we would do it again... and again... and then I'd get to Take Nineteen: 'Well John, the bass wasn't as good as it was on Take Seventeen, but the voice was pretty good, so let's go on again.' Take Forty-Three: 'Well, yes...' So you go on forever, because it was never perfect – and it got very tedious.
GEORGE: I was called to a meeting out in Elstead in Surrey, at Ringo’s house that he bought from Peter Sellers. It was decided that it would be better if we got back together and finished the record. Twickenham, Studios were very cold and not a very nice atmosphere, so we decided to abandon that and go to Savile Row into the recording studio.
NEIL ASPINALL: By January 20th they decided to move to Smile Row. Alexis Mardas was building a studio there, although it wasn't finished. The control room and the console had wires everywhere, so they had to take the portable equipment in there. But the studio itself, the actual room to play in, was much nicer, much cosier and they were much more at home.
RINGO: The days were long, and it could get boring, and Twickenham just wasn't really conducive to any great atmosphere. It was just a big barn. Then we moved to the new studios in the basement of Apple to carry on.
The facilities at Apple were great. It was so comfortable, and it was ours, like home. It was great to go to, and when we weren't working we could sit round the fire, which we'd had put in because we wanted it really cosy.
It was only at the playback we realised that we couldn't have the fire, because when we listened we heard 'crack, crack, crack.' We'd say, "What the fuck is that?' and then we all worked out that it was the firewood crackling in the fire! We'd spent so long in studios that we wanted to be cosy, but it didn't work, of course. We had to put the fire out when we were recording.
Glyn Johns was working with us on the album and it didn't seem to work out, so we went back to George Martin.
GEORGE: I don't know why George Martin had not been involved at that time. Somebody had the idea of having Glyn Johns, maybe just for a change. It was definitely nothing personal.
Savile Row was a nice building before the builders got in there and turned it into Tesco's. I remember going round there when we were thinking of buying it, and the basement was fantastic. There was a huge fireplace and oak beams, and somebody said it was where Jack Hylton used to have his nightclub. We thought, This is great! We'll be down here writing and making records.'
By the time it had been made into a studio, it was covered all over, and made into a crappy place with polystyrene ceilings. The original culprit was Alex, who 'built' the sixteen-track studio with the sixteen speakers, which they had to rip out and redo. You only need two speakers for stereo sound. It was awful.
But even with the alterations, it was a better place to be.
GEORGE MARTIN: Magic Alex said that EMI was no good, and he could build a much better studio. Well, he didn't, and when we recorded in Savile Row I had to equip it with EMI gear.
The Apple offices were pretty sparse at trial time, clinical and groovy with white paint – a nice place to be – but the studios were hopeless, because they were just empty rooms. In fact Magic Alex, for all his technical expertise, had forgotten to put any holes in the wall between the studio and the control room, so we had to run the cable out through the door, and we had a nasty twitter in one corner that came from the air-conditioning which we had to switch off whenever we made a record. Apart from that, it was ideal!
RINGO: I THINK EVERYONE WAS GETTING A LITTLE TIRED OF US BY THEN, BECAUSE WE WERE TAKING A LONG TIME AND THERE WERE MANY HEATED DISCUSSIONS GOING ON. ABOUT LIFE. ABOUT EVERYTHING.
PAUL: Facilities were OK at Apple because George Martin did what he'd done out at the Twickenham Studios: a bit of a 'lash-up so it was good. The studio wasn't finished, but it was perfectly good technically.
DEREK TAYLOR: There was a central beating boiler in the studio and it was not soundproofed. So somebody pointed this out: 'There's the central heating making a din,' and The Beatles said: 'We'll turn it off when we're in here. We'll just have quiet fires.' The rest of the building could go to hell – they were just ordinary people, little people. So it wasn't only in the press office that people were making wrong decisions.
Anyway, there was a studio of a sort – but in the end, when they made Let It Be down there, a portable recording system had to be brought in, so really it was like cooking with a primus stove on top of a big expensive gas cooker because the gas wasn't connected.
But all those albums followed! In that period, in the crazy Apple time, there was the 'White' album and the finishing of Yellow Submarine, Let It Be and Abbey Road – all made in the mad days.
GEORGE: When I went with Eric Clapton to see Ray Charles play at the Festival Hall, before Ray came on there was a guy on stage playing the organ, dancing about and singing 'Double-O Soul'. I thought, That guy looks familiar,' but he seemed bigger than I remembered. After a while Ray came on and the band played for a few songs and then he reintroduced... Billy Preston! Ray said, 'Since I heard Billy play I don't play the organ any more – I leave it to him.' I thought, 'It's Billy!' Since we had last seen him in Hamburg in 1962, when he was just a little lad, he had grown to be six foot tall.
So I put a message out to find out if Billy was in town, and told him to come into Savile Row, which he did. He came in while we were down in the basement, running through 'Get Back', and I went up to reception and said, 'Come in and play on this because they're all acting strange.' He was all excited. I knew the others loved Billy anyway, and it was like a breath of fresh air.
It's interesting to see how nicely people behave when you bring a guest in, because they don't really want everybody to know that they're so bitchy This happened back in the 'White' album when I brought Eric Clapton to play on 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. Suddenly everybody's on their best behaviour.
Billy came down and I said, 'Remember Billy? Here he is – he can play the piano.' He got on the electric piano, and straight away there was 100% improvement in the vibe in the room. Having this fifth person was just enough to cut the ice that we'd created among ourselves. Billy didn't know all the politics and the games that had been going on, so in his innocence he got stuck in and gave an extra little kick to the band. Everybody was happier to have somebody else playing and it made what we were doing more enjoyable. We all played better and that was a great session. It was more or less just as it is on the record.
RINGO: I don't think Billy Preston made us behave a bit better. I think we were working on a good track and that always excited us. His work was also a part of it, so suddenly - as always when you're working on something good - the bullshit went out of the window and we got back down to doing what we did really well.
'Get Back' was a good track. I felt, This is a kick-ass track.' 'Don't Let Me Down' also. They were two fine tracks. Quite simple and raw – back to basics. I'd done a hook to the track in 'Get Back' which sounded good and it's been copied since – by myself, in fact, in 'Back Off Boogaloo'. That's perfectly allowed by me!
PAUL: Billy was brilliant – a little young whizz-kid. We'd always got on very well with him. He showed up in London and we all said, 'Oh Bill! Great – let’s have him play on a few things.' So he started sitting in on the sessions, because he was an old mate really.
It might have helped us all behave better with one another on the sessions. I think it also created problems, because as The Beatles we'd always just been four people in the band. We were very much a unit – the Four-Headed Monster, I've heard us referred to.
So when Billy came in, I think that though we did have to behave ourselves a bit – because it was like having a guest in the house, someone you put your best manners on for – there was a slight worry in the background also that maybe he was joining the group. That kind of thing was happening. So we couldn't tell whether it was a crack in the whole thing, or whether it was going to be good. It was a little bit puzzling.
But he played great and we all had a great time, so it worked out fine in the end.
GEORGE MARTIN: Billy Preston was a great help and a very good keyboard guy, and his work on 'Get Back alone justified him being there. He was an amiable fellow too, very nice and emollient. He helped to lubricate the friction that had been there.
JOHN: 'Across The Universe' was first recorded at the end of the 'White' album. I couldn't get it on because we'd done so much material. It wasn't a very good recording. By the end of the double album we were really sick of recording. It was a shame because I liked the song.71
I was lying next to my first wife in bed and I was thinking. It started off as a negative song and she must have been going on and on about something. She'd gone to sleep and I kept hearing, 'Words are flowing out like endless streams...' I was a bit irritated and I went downstairs and it turned into a sort of cosmic song rather than, 'Why are you always mouthing off at me?'
But nobody was interested in doing it originally; everyone was sickened. The tune was good, but subliminally people don't want to work with it sometimes. I was so disappointed that it never went out as The Beatles. I gave it to The Wildlife Fund of Great Britain and it went out.80
And then I tried to do it again when we were making Let It Be, but anybody who saw the film saw what reaction I got with it when I tried to do it. Finally Phil Spector took the tape, and did a damn good job with it and made a fairly reasonable sound out of it, and then we released it again. 71
The words are purely inspirational and were given to me – except for maybe one or two where I had to resolve a line or something like that. I don't own it; it came through like that.80
GEORGE: 'I Me Mine' is the ego problem. There are two ‘I’s: the little 'i' when people say, 'I am this'; and the big 'I' – i.e. Om, the complete, whole, universal consciousness that is void of duality and ego. There is nothing that isn't part of the complete whole. When the little 'i' merges into the big ‘I’ then you are really smiling!
After having LSD, I looked around and everything I could see was relative to my ego - like, That's my piece of paper,' and, That's my flannel,' or, 'Give it to me,' or, 'I am.' It drove me crackers; I hated everything about my ego – it was a flash of everything false and impermanent which I disliked. But later I learnt from it: to realise that there is somebody else in here apart from old blabbermouth (that's what I felt like – I hadn't seen or heard or done anything in my life, and yet I hadn't stopped talking). 'Who am I?' became the order of the day.
Anyway that's what came out of it: 'I Me Mine'. The truth within us has to be realised: when you realise that everything else that you see and do and touch and smell isn't real, then you may know what reality is, and can answer the question 'Who am I?'
Allen Klein thought it was an Italian song – 'Cara Mia Mine'.
DEREK TAYLOR: During the Let It Be sessions I went to the studio at Apple a couple of times for a few minutes and saw how happy that was. Billy Preston had then arrived in the session, and there was a very good atmosphere down there. It was quite fun – but it hadn't been fun at Twickenham, and reports had been coming back that there'd been endless talking about what they were going to do. Being of a suitably paranoid cast of mind by then, I assumed they'd been saying, 'What are we going to do about Derek and that bloody office?' So I was pretty anxious to be in denial about Let It Be – but glad when they came back to Apple, and were inside the building again. There was a two- or three-week period at the end of January when it was nice.
GEORGE: On the Let It Be project we were originally going to rehearse all the new songs and then make an album in a live show. That never really happened because the album became us in the studio. As we rehearsed the songs, they were recorded, and the film of us recording them was really a film of us rehearsing.
NEIL ASPINALL: They were still talking about playing a concert on a boat, or in an amphitheatre in Greece, or maybe at the Roundhouse in London. There were lots of different ideas about where they might do a concert, and nothing was ever agreed.
PAUL: We'd been looking for an end to the film, and it was a case of, 'How are we going to finish this in two weeks' time?' So it was suggested that we go up on the roof and do a concert there; then we could all go home. I'm not sure who suggested it. I could say it seems like one of my half-baked ideas, but I'm not sure.
RINGO: There was a plan to play live somewhere. We were wondering where we could go – 'Oh, the Palladium or the Sahara.' But we would have had to take all the stuff, so we decided, 'Let's get up on the roof.' We had Mal and Neil set the equipment up on the roof, and we did those tracks. I remember it was cold and windy and damp, but all the people looking out from offices were really enjoying it.
GEORGE: We went on the roof in order to resolve the live concert idea, because it was much simpler than going anywhere else; also nobody had ever done that, so it would be interesting to see what happened when we started playing up there. It was a nice little social study.
We set up a camera in the Apple reception area, behind a window so nobody could see it, and we filmed people coming in. The police and everybody came in saying, 'You can't do that! You've got to stop.'
PAUL: It was good fun, actually. We had to set the mikes up and get a show together. I remember seeing Vicki Wickham of Ready, Steady, Go! (there's a name to conjure with) on the opposite roof, for some reason, with the street between us. She and a couple of friends sat there, and then the secretaries from the lawyers' offices next door came out on their roof.
We decided to go through all the stuff we'd been rehearsing and record it. If we got a good take on it then that would be the recording; if not, we'd use one of the earlier takes that we'd done downstairs in the basement. It was really good fun because it was outdoors, which was unusual for us. We hadn't played outdoors for a long time.
It was a very strange location because there was no audience except for Vicki Wickham and a few others. So we were playing virtually to nothing – to the sky, which was quite nice. They filmed downstairs in the street – and there were a lot of city gents looking up: 'What's that noise?'
In the end it started to filter up from Mal (who would come creeping in, trying to keep out of camera range) that the police were complaining. We said, 'We're not stopping.' He said, The police are going to arrest you.' – 'Good end to the film. Let them do it. Great! That's an end: "Beatles Busted on Rooftop Gig".'
We kept going to the bitter end and, as I say, it was quite enjoyable. I had my little Hofner bass – very light, very enjoyable to play. In the end the policeman, Number 503 of the Greater Westminster Council, made his way round the back: 'You have to stop!' We said, 'Make hi' pull us off. This is a demo, man!'
I think they pulled the plug, and that was the end of the film.
RINGO: I always feel let down about the police. Someone in the neighbourhood called the police, and when they came up I was playing away and I thought, 'Oh great! I hope they drag me off.' I wanted the cops to drag me off – 'Get off those drums!' – because we were being filmed and it would have looked really great, kicking the cymbals and everything. Well, they didn't, of course; they just came bumbling in: 'You've got to turn that sound down.' It could have been fabulous.
GEORGE: We recorded four or five tunes and we might have played a lot more if they hadn't switched us off – but that was enough. The Rutles did a good version of that as well.
DEREK TAYLOR: On January 30th, at the time of the concert on the roof, I remember I heard music upstairs. I'd been so very busy with the usual business, arriving at work to find things happening. I knew there was going to be something on the roof, but it was not my business. I had other things going on and I saw people outside in the street and heard the concert starting, and I thought it was wonderful to hear this music.
I didn't go on the roof because I was busy with the press. Fielding the calls. The phones started to ring off the hook because everyone in London, in no time, knew The Beatles were performing on the roof, and it was fabulous. It was the first good, big, positive story without any snags for months and months.
Admittedly they were being a 'nuisance to some people, as the film shows, but by and large the calls were just from the press who were thrilled the boys were out playing music again. It was good – and it still is.
NEIL ASPINALL: I don't know who our neighbours were. I don't think we got on badly with them but I don't really think they liked the fans being around all the time. And some of them didn't like the concert on the roof. I wasn't there, though. I was in hospital having my tonsils out – so I missed the show!
GEORGE MARTIN: I was downstairs when they played on the roof, worrying like mad if I was going to end up in Savile Row police station for disturbing the peace.
DEREK TAYLOR: When they did the concert on the roof it opened up possibilities. That was the situation. Nobody had ever thought they would perform live, except that we kept saying things like, They may be doing another concert.' There was talk all through the back end of 1968 about doing ad hoc concerts, so after they'd done the concert on the roof everything was up in the air again. 'They may perform again,' we said – because it did go well.
JOHN: We've finished it and the most finished number on it was 'Get Back'. We were doing this rehearsal for a show which we never finished so we got fed up and put the rehearsal out. There's chatting and messing about and all sorts on it. And then we got halfway through another album so we stopped that, and we got tired and took a break. It'll be a single LP, but this one's got a book with it – a whole book of making the LP – and we also made a film of it at the same time, so we've got to get that together. We made a sort of documentary of us making the album. We've got sixty-eight hours of film there, so we've got to do a bit of work with it. All the traumas and the paranoia, all the different things that happen to you when you try and make a record.69
PAUL: THE BASIC THING IN MY MIND WAS THAT FOR ALL OUR SUCCESS THE BEATLES WERE ALWAYS A GREAT LITTLE BAND. NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS.
When we sat down to play, we played good – from the very beginning. From when we first got Ringo into the band, and before. But when we got Ringo into the band it really gelled. We'd never had too many of those times where it was not working – though like any other band we did have them.
So that was the main thing – live we were a great band. Forget about all your MBEs and recording careers and all this sort of stuff; it was really down to being a good band. I'd hoped that by playing like this in live performance, it would get us all to realise that maybe we didn't need all the highfalutin stuff. We could just keep playing and everything would sort itself out.
JOHN: The thing I miss most is just sitting down with a group and playing. With The Beatles it got less group-like. We stopped touring and we'd only get together for recordings, so therefore the recording session was the thing we almost rehearsed in as well. So all the playing was in the recording session. Sometimes it would be a drag – it's like an athlete: you really have to keep playing all the time to keep your hand in. And we'd be off for months and we'd suddenly come into the studio and be expected to be spot on again. It would take us a few days getting loosened up and playing together and so therefore The Beatles musically weren’t as together in the last few years. Although we’d learnt a lot of technique where we could produce good records, musically we weren’t as together as some of the earlier years and that’s what we all missed.70
GEORGE MARTIN: In the end, of course, a documentary was made – with warts and all – of the Let It Be album. Glyn Johns and I put the music together, and it was an honest album, which they wanted. But it lay fallow for a long time because nobody seemed to like the documentary that had been done, with all the mistakes. They were used to the polished, production job – and I think it was because of this that it wasn't released.
JOHN: The tape ended up like the bootleg version. We let Glyn Johns remix it – we didn't want to know. We just left it to him and said, 'Here, do it.' It's the first time since the first album that we didn't have anything to do with it. None of us could be bothered going in Everybody was probably thinking, 'Well, I'm not going to work on it. There was twenty-nine hours of tape. It was like a movie, just so much tape. Twenty takes of everything – because we were rehearsing and taking everything. Nobody could face looking at it.
I thought it would be good to go out – the shitty version – because it would break The Beatles. It would break the myth: That's us, with no trousers on and no glossy paint over the cover and no sort of hope. This is what we are like with our trousers off, so would you please end the game now.' But that didn't happen. We ended up doing Abbey Road quickly, and putting out something slick to preserve the myth.70
NEIL ASPINALL: They waited for the film to be edited and graded and for a deal to be done with United Artists. The album Let It Be was the soundtrack to the movie – so it was really waiting for the movie. That's why it came out after Abbey Road.
GEORGE MARTIN: Abbey Road was a kind of afterthought – an encore, if you like. Let It Be was only released when it was because John had asked Phil Spector to work on it.
GEORGE: I think that Phil Spector approached Allen Klein and was trying to get some work, or somehow he was hanging out with Klein – probably because he knew Klein was in with The Beatles. I think Klein suggested to us that we should get Phil Spector to come and listen to the tapes of Let It Be.
Phil Spector made the kind of records that I like; the wall-to-wall sound. I was a big fan of his, and we had spent some time with him in the early Sixties, when he was in London. So I was all for the idea of getting Phil involved. Also, he'd been through a bad patch and he'd given up making music, and I think he was trying to get back into it. I saw it as a way of helping him back on his feet.
RINGO: He's as mad as a hatter. The first time I met Phil, we were all on a plane going to New York and that's when we realized how crazy he was because he 'walked to America'. He was so nervous of flying he couldn't sit down, so we watched him walk up and down the length of the plane all the way.
Another time I spent with Phil was much later on when John and Yoko had an exhibition in Syracuse, New York State. A crowd of us were flying up there and we all started off in the bar. They called our flight, and as we walked to the plane Phil decided that this particular plane wasn't safe, so we all walked back to the bar. That was a good enough reason for us, and we got the next one. Phil was crazy with planes.
We like to say he's eccentric. He was pretty strange anyway, but he was a good guy – and when it came to music, he knew what he was doing.
JOHN: He really can play a control board. He just plays it. He can make any sound you like within seconds. His knowledge is incredible. I learnt a lot from him. Phil leaves you to present him with a picture you think you want, and then he'll take the best shot of it with his camera sort of thing. You present him with the stage set and he'll make sure you get a good picture out of it, a good sound. You get what you're making. The usual trouble is the person's interpreting all the time on the other side. Phil could have been on either side of the board. He's like one of the band, not like an A&R man. He likes the same old kind of rock crap that I like. When we did 'Instant Karma!' together he said, 'What do you want?' I said,' 1950s – now.' And he did it.70
DEREK TAYLOR: I met Phil Spector when be arrived around the time of Let It Be. I thought be was crackers – and I liked him. Phil was my kind of madman. I wouldn't want to go on holiday with him because he was too 'out there even for me. I was basically the boy from West Kirby, who had a decent sober wife who had kept me from being Phil Spector or Allen Klein or any of those out-there men – but I felt at least that I could handle him.
JOHN: The least you could call him is eccentric, and that’s coming from somebody who’sbarmy.75
GEORGE: Paul has been quoted as saying that he didn't want Phil Spector involved, or didn't like him overdubbing orchestras on ‘The Long And Winding Road’ and other tracks. But I personally thought it was a really good idea.
PAUL: To me, it was really because Let It Be was the bare record that Glyn Johns had mixed – with no overdubs on it, no orchestras, no nothing. It was very, very simple. It was just a band, very live sounding – in a room or on a roof – and I really liked that. Maybe it was a bit tough to take. Maybe it wasn't that commercial, but anyway these were the kind of things that were starting to go wrong.
GEORGE MARTIN: I didn't like Phil Spector's Let It Be at all. I'd always been a great admirer of him. I always thought his recordings were fantastic – and he actually created some great sounds. But what he did with Let It Be was to do all the things (and not so well] that we hadn't been allowed to do, and I kind of resented him for it, because to me it was tawdry. It was bringing The Beatles' records down a peg – that's what I thought. Making them sound like other people's records.
PAUL: I heard the Spector version again recently, and it sounded terrible. I prefer the original sound that's shown on Anthology 3.
RINGO: I like what Phil did, actually. He put the music somewhere else and he was king of the 'wall of sound'. There's no point bringing him in if you're not going to like the way he does it –because that's what he does. His credentials are solid.
JOHN: He'd always wanted to work with The Beatles, and he was given the shiftiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever, and he made something out of it. He did a great job.70
RINGO: In May 1970 Let It Be came out as the last album, though Abbey Road was, of course, the last to be recorded. It goes to show how quirky the world is – that the next to last album comes out as the last album, and the last album came out before it. But we split up after Abbey Road and weren't really thinking about splitting up on the one before. It's all very strange.
My cut of the movie would have been different. And I'm sure John's cut at the time would have been different – and Paul's cut. I thought there was a lot more interesting stuff than Michael Lindsay-Hogg put in.
JOHN: We haven't got half the money people think we have. We have enough to live on, but we can't let Apple go on like it is. We started off with loads of ideas of what we wanted to do – an umbrella for different activities. But like one or two Beatles things, it didn't work because we aren't practical and we weren't quick enough to realise that we need a businessman's brain to run the whole thing.
You can't offer facilities to poets and charities and film-makers unless you have money definitely coming in. It's been pie-in-the-sky from the start. We did it all wrong – Paul and me running to New York saying, 'We'll do this and encourage this and that.' It's got to be a business first; we realise that now. It needs a new broom and a lot of people there will have to go. It needs streamlining.
IT DOESN'T NEED TO MAKE VAST PROFITS, BUT IF IT CARRIES ON LIKE THIS ALL OF US WILL BE BROKE IN THE NEXT SIX MONTHS.69
RINGO: Apple wasn't being run; it was being run into the ground, really. We were all doing this, that and the other. I was in charge of Apple Films – after I did Candy in 1967 I thought I'd run it. So we were all running pieces of Apple, and we finally wanted some really heavy dude to put it all together. That was going to be Allen Klein's job.
JOHN: I got a note from an accountant saying, 'You're broke and if you go on it's going to all go, whatever you've got left.' He laid it out to all of us but I think I was the only one that read it. And then I announced it in the press and I said, 'We're going to be broke if they don't stop this game, this Apple business.'
But everyone wants to say, 'No, no, it's all wonderful.' Like the Royal Family: they're always pretending they never cry and they never go to the toilet, nothing ever happens to them. But they're just like anybody else – they cry and they go to the toilet.
I'm sure the others wanted it tightening up, but I don't think they were really aware of it. I mean, they could all tell. Sometimes George would go in and go crazy because of how many people were just lying around drunk there and living on the company. But you couldn't stop it. Somehow it needed a firm hand to stop it.71
NEIL ASPINALL: The Beatles weren't businessmen, and trying to run shops and record companies and artists and publishing and buildings, as well as doing their own things, did become very chaotic. A lot of money was being spent without people really knowing what it was being spent on.
So it was a question of, 'Who is going to do it?' I was running it on the basis of, ‘I’ll do it until you find somebody who you want to do it.' I didn't want to do it myself.
DEREK TAYLOR: The Beatles had been looking for a 'leader with some status in either the music business or the City. They were looking for someone who could get a grip of it. They were looking for 'the man all the time.
One night John and I had some LSD down at my house – Neil was also there, and he'd had some too, I'm sure – and we came up with a wonderful ruse: we would go to the local bank manager in Weybridge and to the local solicitor and say, 'Listen, Apple is in a mess but we need a simple solution: a simple bank manager who is reliable and a simple solicitor who can see their way through all this mess.' This was the LSD solution.
It all died a death the next day. I still believe it would have been better than what actually happened, when we got into the hands of real 'money men' – but in the absence of the solicitor, the bank manager and all those other saviours...
JOHN: It's easy after the fact – people are always saying about Apple and The Beatles' business; 'Why didn't you? Why didn't you?' You sit there with millions and millions of dollars floating around and try and work it out.74
GEORGE: To sort out Apple there were a number of people who were interviewed at the time. I remember the story about Dr Beeching, who shut down the railways of Britain – so they tried to get him to come and see if he could shut down The Beatles as well. But he didn't want the job so Klein got it instead.
GEORGE: Apple has, to a certain extent, been a haven for drop-outs, but some of our best friends are drop-outs.69
DEREK TAYLOR: I got a call one morning that Allen Klein thought I was in his way – that was why he was unable to reach The Beatles. He wanted to come and save them, and he believed that I was blocking his way for some reason. I thought, 'I'm not blocking his way – I never even think about him.' So a contact, Tony Colder, said: 'Well, if he puts a call through would you see that it gets through to Peter Brown?' and I said, 'Certainly, yes.'
So when he called and, sure enough, somehow his call was blocked, I removed the blockage, because my game was always removing blockages. I didn't believe in that who's in and who's out' thing. Unless people were actually known to be bad for Apple, I always made people available. I said: 'Look, he's got a bad reputation but have a look at him. You don't have to commit yourself.' So I told Peter Brown, 'Allen Klein is trying to reach you – take his call.' So he did, and then the boys (so-called) met him.
NEIL ASPINALL: Allen Klein was an American accountant/businessman/manager who was really the manager of The Rolling Stones. I know that John and Yoko met with him and decided that he would be a good manager for them.
JOHN: Klein and Apple were bound to meet sooner or later. We were impressed by the way he handled the business deals for The Rolling Stones. Besides, he has some of the cleanest polo-necked sweaters I’ve ever seen. He's the only businessman I've met who isn't grey right through his eyes to his soul.69
RINGO: There was a whole lot of action going on at the time. Besides Allen Klein, there was John Eastman (Paul's brother-in-law) who was also looking to be the manager.
Anyway, we met with Allen Klein and we were convinced by him. Well, I was convinced by him, and John too. My impression of him when I first met him was: brash – 'I'll get it done, lads.' Lots of enthusiasm. A good guy, with a pleasant attitude about himself in a really gross New York way. So the decision was him or him – and I picked him. That was two of us – and George did the same.
PAUL: Eventually, after the show on the roof, it came down to a meeting. I was about to suggest to everyone that we might go back to doing even smaller gigs to really find our spirit again and get back what we were. Then maybe from there we would have more big plans, if that's what we wanted.
But John and Yoko had had a meeting the night before with Allen Klein, and John reckoned Allen was going to be his manager. He sent the word round the business: 'As from now – Allen Klein is representing me.' When we asked him why, he said, 'Well, he's the only one Yoko liked.'
GEORGE: John came in and said, 'Well, I'm going to get Klein to manage me, and that's what's happening.' He asked us if we would like to meet him and give him a chance to talk to us – so Ringo and I went to talk to him.
After that, there was no alternative, really. There was nobody managing Apple. It was wasting away all this money, and nobody had any ability to be a business manager in our party. We needed somebody at that time.
Paul had met Linda and he wanted her brother, John Eastman, or her father, Lee Eastman, to become involved. We met Lee Eastman as well as Allen Klein, and I seem to remember saying, 'Let's get them both together – Lee Eastman and Allen Klein – but I don't actually have any memory of them both in the same room. I remember meeting Lee and John Eastman in Claridge's.
RINGO: I liked Allen. He was a lot of fun, and he knew the record business. He knew records; he knew acts; he knew music. A lot of people we spoke to were trying to get in with the music crowd but didn't know anything about the music business.
GEORGE: I thought, 'Well, if that's the choice, I think I'll go with Klein, because John's with him and he seemed to talk pretty straight’. (However, years later, we formed a different opinion.) Because we were all from Liverpool we favoured people who were street people. Lee Eastman was more like a class-conscious type of person. As John was going with Klein, it was much easier if we went with him too.
NEIL ASPINALL: I recall a meeting between Allen Klein, Lee Eastman and The Beatles that took place – I think it was at the Dorchester. There was a bust-up between Klein and Lee Eastman, they didn't like each other and they had an argument. Nothing was resolved.
RINGO: John Eastman was involved in all the everyday meetings, but I don't have an impression of him coming in saying, 'Wow, lads! Let's go... '
Paul had different ideas from the rest of us about who we wanted to run Apple. We had great arguments with Paul. The three of us felt, 'Well, we have gone this way – why don't you?' I feel that he was tied because it was a family affair: if he hadn't been in the Eastman family – if John Eastman had been John 'Northman' – it could have been more easily sorted out. But it got really emotional, because it was a family matter.
NEIL ASPINALL: Over a period of a few months they all worked things out and got some sort of one-page agreement together (before the formal contract that never appeared). The three of them signed – John, George and Ringo – but Paul didn't. I think the day that they signed it Paul just wanted more time. He didn't see what the rush was.
PAUL: I think Allen had a very good way of persuading people. Basically, he used to say, 'What do you want?' and you'd say, 'Well, a lot of money...' – 'You got it!' Or, in Yoke's case, it was (I think) an exhibition; she wanted an art exhibition and she was having some difficulty maybe getting it on. I think Allen Klein said, 'OK, you got it. Exhibition? No problem!' So we all ended up paying for her Syracuse exhibition – a quarter each – and she wasn't even in the group. These were the kind of things Allen Klein was getting together, so he was very persuasive. He'd do anything anyone wanted – if he needed to influence that person.
I put forward Lee Eastman as a possible lawyer but they said, 'No, he'd be too biased for you and against us.' I could see that, so I asked him, 'If The Beatles wanted you to do this, would you do it?' And he said: 'Yeah, I might, you know.' So I then asked them before I asked Lee Eastman seriously, and they said, 'No way – he'd be too biased.' They were right – it was just as well he didn't do it, because it really would have got crazy with him in there.
So John was going with Klein, and George and Ringo said, 'OK, we're going with John.' I realised I was expected to go along with it, but I didn't think it was a good idea – simple as that, really. Actually I asked Mick Jagger when he came round, 'What do you think?' He said, 'Oh, he's all right if you like that kind of thing.' He didn't really warn us off him, so there it was – and that then was the three-to-one situation.
In The Beatles, if anyone didn't agree with a plan, it was always vetoed. It was very democratic that way, so the three-to-one situation was very awkward and as a result 'things' would happen.
I remember being at Olympic Studios one evening when I think we were supposed to be doing something on Abbey Road. We all showed up, ready to record, and Allen Klein showed up too. The other three said, You've got to sign a contract – he's got to take it to his board.' I said, 'It's Friday night. He doesn't work on a Saturday, and anyway Allen Klein is a law unto himself. He hasn't got a board he has to report to. Don't worry – we could easily do this on Monday. Let's do our session instead. You're not going to push me into this.'
They said, 'Oh, are you stalling? He wants 20%.' I said, ‘Tell him he can have 15%.’ They said: 'You're stalling.' I replied, 'No, I'm working for us; we're a big act.' I remember the exact words: 'We're a big act – The Beatles. He'll take 15%.' But for some strange reason (I think they were so intoxicated with him) they said, 'No, he's got to have 20%, and he's got to report to his board. You've got to sign now or never.' So I said, 'Right, that's it. I'm not signing now.'
There was a big argument and they all went, leaving me at the studio. Steve Miller happened to be around: 'Hi, how you doing? Is the studio free?' I said: 'Well, it looks like it is now, mate.' He said: 'Mind if I use it?' So I ended up drumming on a track of his that night. It was called ‘My Dark Hour’ – a good track actually. He and I made it alone. I had to do something, thrash something, to get it out of my system.
DEREK TAYLOR: Klein was supposed to be intimidating, but he didn't intimidate me because I felt he was like a lot of those heavy people: I felt he was vulnerable. I felt Frank Sinatra was very vulnerable when I met him too – I could see there was a side of Frank that really wanted to be liked. I felt there was a part of Klein that I could reach. Hard men are like that sometimes.
But if you were easily frightened – if you scared easily – he was a frightened. He had little eyes that were all over the place. Allen was from New Jersey, from another culture from us. We at Apple, who had been with The Beatles for a number of years, thought we could pretty well do anything. 'Hey, so he's got a hard reputation – we need his efficiency, and if there's anything awkward about him then we can contain that.'
He said to me: 'They say you're very wasteful, that you cost a lot of money because of all the drinking and the socialising – but you're not that expensive.' I said, 'I do know that. We don't go on big foreign trips or anything. It's mainly whisky, cigarettes and Kronenbourg lager.'
The Beatles (some of them) employed him pretty Quickly. John said – after he and Yoko spent a night with him at the Dorchester – 'I'm going to give him everything.' They checked Donovan and Jagger and Mickie Most and others, who said: 'Well, maybe you wouldn't want to go on holiday with Allen, but he'll take care of you.'
So John and George and (I think) Ringo were happy fairly quickly. Paul was not happy for a very long time – never was – but he did sign something in the end, around the octagonal table. I think there was a photograph taken – one of those Terry Venables/Alan Sugar pictures.
I was in a very big bad lawsuit with Richard Branson at the time. Richard was then a very young man from Student magazine who was suing me for non-delivery of something John and Yoko had failed to deliver to me because they were having difficulties of some sort. In other words, I needed something they had and I had to give it to Branson and couldn't – and it was a £10,000 lawsuit.
John said, 'Oh, that lawsuit you've got with that fellow from Student-Allen's going to take care of everything. Everything's going to be OK. There is too much fear in this office – Klein will get rid of it all.' So, another Messiah was with us – and there was some relief, and some new fears.
NEIL ASPINALL: Allen Klein brought in his own people and fired a lot of people who were working at Apple. It didn't all take place in one day, but over a period of nine months. For example, he would rather have Les Perrin (who was a PR man with his own outside company who worked for lots of different people – he did PR for The Rolling Stones and other people in the music business) than Apple have its own press department. Ron Kass (Apple Records) went, Denis O'Dell (Apple Films) went after Let It Be; Peter Asher went, Tony Bramwell went, Jack Oliver went. It wasn't just slimming down – it was end of story.
Everything changed at Apple after he arrived. It was a completely different situation. First and foremost, Paul wasn't there. He totally disagreed with what was going on. But still, they went into the studios and recorded Abbey Road while Klein was around.
GEORGE: WHEN ALLEN KLEIN CAME TO APPLE IT WAS LIKE THAT SCENE IN THE RUTLES WHEN RON DECLINE COMES INTO RUTLE CORPS AND EVERYBODY JUMPS OUT OF THE WINDOW. HE FIRED PEOPLE – OR SOME PEOPLE RAN AWAY IN FRIGHT – AND THEN HE INSTALLED A BUNCH OF HIS OWN MEN, WHO THEN PROCEEDED TO CONTROL EVERYTHING IN THE MANNER HE WANTED.
DEREK TAYLOR: Allen changed a lot at Apple. He was a very big presence when he was in town. He had an office right opposite mine, and it shows how crackers I was that I carried on as I was carrying on. I wouldn't do it now, I'd be far too nervous. But I was fuelled by the certainty that if I was still employed there then I had this other function: I was still representing, if you like, 'the old days'. I think there are still people out there who linger on after the mood's gone: the keepers of the mood.
Klein sacked a lot of people one terrible Friday when he said, 'I'm taking you out to lunch today.' I'd never had lunch with him. He said: 'Some guys and girls are getting... urn... we're letting them go.' I think he had Peter Brown sack a long list of people who were surplus to Klein's requirements, and he said, 'Hey, you guys are lucky – usually I come in and fire everybody.' So those of us who remained must have convinced ourselves that we were doing it for the boys. But maybe we were just there because we hadn’t been fired. We stayed.
In the office I had a light show machine with a projector on it and gels that went swirling round and round. It cost £150, I think. Allen Klein had been with The Rolling Stones and Donovan through the psychedelic time, and a light show was just part of something he understood but didn't understand: 'These guys do these kinds of things. I don't know what the hell they do it for but they do it. There's nothing to it, there's no money in it, but if he wants to do that and that's all he does – hey...' So I was allowed to carry on more or less 'as normal' for eighteen more months after Klein arrived.
Peter Asher, who was not fired, left anyway. He left also out of loyalty to Ron Kass (now, alas, dead), who was head of Apple Records and quite a big cheese around the building. Klein was after Ron Kass. He wanted him out because he was another American and another accountant with a high profile, and he was conspicuous. Peter Asher, who was a very important person at Apple, as head of A&R, said, Tm going with Ron,' and together they set up with MGM records and took James Taylor with them.
The atmosphere was not right after that – if it ever had been, really. It was a mad idea to believe you could save the world, but a lot of people were doing it at that time. They say that at the time of Christ there were a lot of Messiahs – not just Jesus – going round making speeches, and in the late Sixties there were many saviours, some malign and some benign. The Beatles were among the latter, but it got crazy, as it always does.
JOHN: Allen was a human being, the same as Brian was a human being. It was the same thing with Brian in the early days: it was assessment. And I make a lot of mistakes character-wise – but now and then I make a good one.70
RINGO: Allen was great for me for the first couple of years, because all I wanted was to be looked after. I would get off the plane or the QE2 in New York and there'd be a guy there: a pretty stocky guy who would get me through, get me in a limo, give me a pack of money, get me a suite in a hotel – and that was it. That was cool for me; I was easily pleased. Just get me to the place on time!
What Allen proceeded to do when he arrived at Apple was get rid anybody we knew, and put his own people in. I was losing control then. I was getting out of Apple and out of my mind, so it started to and I wasn't in charge at all.
PAUL: Allen Klein didn't manage to sort out Apple. The thing with Apple was that we were great creators, but nobody had half an idea about a budget, so we were spending more than we were earning. The idea was that he would be able to sort that out and give us an idea where we were.
It got crazy because one of his first things he did was to go through all the filing cabinets that we'd never been through. We didn't even know they existed. (In fact, they lost half the files in one of the moves from Wigmore Street to Savile Row.) 'We're the creators, we're the artists, we're the producers' – we didn't have files. He found a ten-year contract of The Beatles that we didn't even know we'd signed. But for some deal somewhere we'd had to sign: 'Yes, we hereby link with each other for ten years.' (We'd always gone on trust before - we never actually signed something. We didn't think about it.) Klein found this in a drawer somewhere, so this is what they started to hold me to. I was definitely being held to the very letter of the law.
JOHN: We earned millions and millions, but I must tell you that The Beatles got very little of it. We've all got houses but we've managed to pay for them financially after all these years. And that only really happened since Klein came in – the so-called wolf. There's millions earned, but we never got it. There's lots of big companies in London with various names, and you just have to check them out and their connection with The Beatles and you see where the money's gone. And in America too.
Brian Epstein was a beautiful guy: he was an intuitive theatrical guy and he knew we had something and he presented us well. But he had lousy business advice. He was taken advantage of – we all were, Brian included – and none of us got it.
That's life. It's no big news that some artist or some kids in showbiz got robbed. It's the same old story. The attitude is: 'if they have money they won't work'. That's not true. If you give an artist money he's secure and he can work. My big worry always was, 'Am I going to be Mickey Rooney? I know we've earned it, but where's it gone? I've got to pay the tax some day. It's no good me saying, "I never got it." The books say it came to The Beatles, or something like that, and we're going to have to pay tax the rest of our lives.' That was my big worry. I just warn all the kids coming in the business: don't sign anything unless the lawyers your brother. Keep it in the family.71
PAUL: What happened originally was that back in Liverpool John and I didn't know about song publishing. We literally thought that songs were in the air and everyone owned them. That's how we met our first publisher, Dick James. He said, 'Come in. Sit down. Is that what you think? Sit over here.' And that was the deal he did. To this day I'm virtually on that deal. So that meant we were pretty much sewn up from the word go.
In March 1969, when I was on my honeymoon and John was doing his bed-in, Dick James sold the songs – while we were out of town. When we got back to town, we said, 'Dick! You can't do that!' He said, 'You want a bet?' And he was quite right. It's just the way these things go. So it was sold, and it became merchandise then. It was then bought by Lew Grade, who used to control ATV. So that was how John and I lost the ownership of so many of our songs. And George, too – he lost some.
RINGO: In February I started filming The Magic Christian with Peter Sellers. I'd read the book (which was written by Terry Southern) and we got the film together by my knocking on Peter's door. I said to him, 'Let's make this movie.' So, as he was Peter Sellers, three phone calls later they put the money in and we were off.
The amazing thing with Peter was that, though we would work all day and go out and have dinner that night – and we would usually leave him laughing hysterically, because he was hilarious – the next morning we'd say, 'Hi Pete!' and we'd have to start again. There was no continuation. You had to make the friendship start again from nine o'clock every morning. We'd all be laughing at six o'clock at night, but the next morning it would be, 'Hi Pete!' then, 'Oh God!' - we'd have to knock the wall down again to say 'hello'. Sometimes we'd be asked to leave the set, because Peter Sellers was being Peter Sellers.
It was great to meet Terry Southern. He was in the next dressing room to me, so we became really good pals, and we'd write each other notes. The producers would come up to Terry and say 'Terry, you'll never guess!' And he'd say, 'Well, what is it? – 'We've got Yul Brynner.' So Terry would have to start typing in something for Yul Brynner. Then we'd be sitting there again, and they'd say, 'We've got Raquel Welch. They would just call actors and actresses up, or if they were in town bring them to the movie, and poor Terry would have to write them in. It was a very strange movie to make, but it was a lot of fun. Terry would post the words under my door and then I'd be called in an hour and go down and do them.
It was a lot of fun with Peter; we had such great laughs – he was a really humorous person. I had some scenes with him which we couldn't do because were in hysterics. One of us would open his mouth and we'd be gone. We had quite a few days of that.
Peter taught me a great lesson. There's a scene in the movie where I have all these lines but on the other side of the screen he just picked his nose. If you watch the film in the cinema, you see everybody shift from me right over to him. A thousand people think, 'Oh, he's picking his nose.' It was much more important than the speech I was saying – and so I never let anybody do that to me again in a movie. It was a good lesson. He would always say: 'It's your eyes, Ring. It's your eyes. They’ll be two hundred feet big up there, you know.' He was a really cool, and we had a lot of fun.
John being involved with Yoko and me making a film shows as an absolute fact that we were going different places. I've mentioned it before: the energy for The Beatles was waning. We used to put in a thousand per cent, but now it was dwindling. Now it was like, 'Oh dear – do we have to turn up? Do we have to do those things again? I want to do this and John wants to do that and George wants to do something else...' We had families. The energy was dissipating because we had other things to do.
GEORGE: John wanted to go off and do his avant-garde or whatever it was, and I just wanted to be able to record some songs. Paul on the other hand wanted (I think) to keep playing live. As long as we were happy, I think Ringo would have been happy to have kept going. That’s not to limit him, but I think the main thing for him was he felt that we were all getting on so well that he didn't fit.
NEIL ASPINALL: The acrimony had started to come in as well in terms of Allen Klein and what was happening with the money. Paul really didn't want Allen representing him – so it was a slow process.
JOHN: All of us are artists and we’re nothing else, so we can't manage ourselves or look after ourselves in that way. It's a lot for four bigheads like The Beatles to stay together for such a long time, and in the early days there was the thing of making it big or breaking into America and we had a goal together. But when we reached about twenty-eight or twenty-nine it began to be: 'What’s the goal? We've made it.' We were getting more talented. George began to write lots of songs and you couldn't make an album – you were lucky to get a track on an album. Then we all started getting more interested in our own music and going different ways.71
PAUL: We played to about 56,000 people at Shea Stadium. And after that you think to yourself, 'What more can you do?' The only thing you can do more is play to 57,000 people. So you start to realise that you've either got to keep trying to play to more and more people and be involved with bigger and bigger events or else just cool it down a bit. So that's what we're doing now, cooling it down and living a bit more normal lives.69
RINGO: John had probably really gone from the group by then – even in the mid-Sixties. Paul was the workaholic, or the Beatleaholic. Because John and I lived quite close to each other in Weybridge we'd be at his house or ours, and we'd be having a really lovely day, really smooth – and then the phone would ring and it would always be Paul saying, 'I think we should get back in the studio, lads. We gotta do this.' – 'Oh no, I don't want to. I want to be on holiday.' But Paul would kick us around and we'd go back in.
By the end of the Sixties, it was like, 'Oh well, what are we going in for? Who wants to?' The enthusiasm was just waning. Paul was still the person who was trying to whip everything together, as he is today. That's how he is.
RINGO: IT WAS LIKE THE WIND-DOWN TO A DIVORCE. A DIVORCE USUALLY DOESN’T JUST HAPPEN SUDDENLY; THERE ARE MONTHS AND YEARS OF MISERY UNTIL YOU FINALLY SAY ‘OH, LET’S END IT’.
RINGO: I think we expected Paul and Jane Asher to get married. They were lovers, they were together, and it seemed a natural thing to do. I don't know in the end what actually broke them up. We'll have to ask him about that, or ask her – that's probably more interesting!
PAUL: On March 12th 1969 I got married to Linda.
I had first met her a long time before that. We actually met in a late-night club I used to go to a lot in London, the Bag O'Nails. It was behind Liberty's. I used to go to a lot of those places, because we'd finish gigs and recording sessions about 11pm, and we'd be ready to have our evening off at about midnight when everything was closed, so we either had to go to cabaret places (originally I went to places like the Blue Angel and the Talk of the Town) or clubs and discos.
I liked the Bag O'Nails because, though it was not the most popular club, we could meet a lot of mates down there – music people like Pete Townshend, Zoot Money, Georgie Fame. So we could chat into the wee small hours and have a few drinks.
One night Linda showed up. She was in town photographing groups for a book called Rock and Other Four Letter Words. She'd been sent from America, and she'd just done a session with The Animals. They'd come over to the club: 'Let's go out and have a bevvie and a smoke.'
So she was sitting in an alcove near the band, which was Ceorgie Fame and the Blue Flames – with Speedy Acquaye on bongos. They were always a big favourite of mine. I saw her and thought, 'Hello...' When she was about to leave the club, I stood up and said, 'Hello, we haven't met' – which was a straight pull.
Then I said, 'We're going on to this next club called the Speakeasy. Do you want to come?' And if she'd said 'no' I wouldn't have ended up marrying her. She said, 'Yeah, all right.' So we went on to the Speakeasy, and it was the first time any of us had ever heard 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale'. We all thought it was Stevie Winwood. It turned out to be the group with a very strange name – Procol Harum.
That was the first time we ever met – and then we met on and off, because I would see her if I went to New York or if she was in London. There's a point, I think, in most people's lives when they start to think: 'If I'm thinking of getting married, if I'm thinking of getting serious – now is the time'. I was starting to have those sorts of thoughts, and I suppose I was thinking back over all the girls I'd known, and wondering who was the favourite to get serious with, and she was one who always came into my mind.
So I rang her up and asked her if she wanted to come over, and she came to London and we stayed together for a while and became an item. She'd been married before, so she wasn't keen to get married again. She was unsure but I persuaded her. I said, 'It'll be all right this time.' She was a bit 'once bitten twice shy' – but we eventually got married in Marylebone Registry Office.
I really don't remember whether or not I invited any of the band to the wedding. Why not? I'm a total bastard, I suppose – I don't know, really. Maybe it was because the group was breaking up. We were all pissed off with each other. We certainly weren't a gang any more. That was the thing. Once a group's broken up like that, that's it.
NEIL ASPINALL: I didn't go to Paul and Linda's wedding, but they had lunch or tea afterwards at the Ritz, and I think it was just Paul, Linda, Mal, Suzy (my wife) and me. I don't remember anybody else being there.
GEORGE: I'M A TIDY MAN. I KEEP MY SOCKS IN THE SOCK DRAWER AND STASH IN THE STASH BOX.69
GEORGE: They chose Paul's wedding day to come and do a raid on me, and to this day I'm still having difficulty with my visa to America because of this fella.
He came out to my house with about eight other policemen, a policewoman and a police dog, who happened to be called Yogi – because, I suppose, of the Beatle connection with Maharishi. They thought they'd have a bit of fun.
They took us off, fingerprinted us and we were busted. It was written in the papers like a fashion show: 'George was wearing a yellow suit and his wife Pattie had on...'
DEREK TAYLOR: I was with George in the office when that call came through. It was the end of a long day at Apple. Pattie rang and said, 'They're here – the law is here,' and we knew what to do by then. We phoned Release's lawyer, Martin Polden. We had a routine: he came round to Apple, and we all went down by limousine to Esher, where the police were well ensconced by then – and I stood bail for George and Pattie. They went off to the police station. We were all extremely indignant because it was the day of Paul's wedding, a poor way to celebrate it. The police can be so nice.
George was calm about it. George is always calm – he sometimes gets a grump, but he's always calm – and he was extremely calm that night, and very, very indignant. He went into the house and looked around at all these men and one woman, and said something like. ‘Birds have nests and animals have holes, but man hath nowhere to lay his had.’ – ‘Oh, really, sir? Sorry to tell you we have to…’ and then into the police routine.
That's how calm and how cross he was, because, as he said, he kept his dope in the box where dope went, and his joss sticks went in the joss stick box. He was a man who ran an orderly late-Sixties household, with beautiful things and some nice stuff to smoke.
In my opinion he didn't have to be busted because he was doing nobody any harm. I still believe what they did was an intrusion into personal life.
I don't remember Paul's wedding much, as I wasn't at it. Paul and Linda dealt with it by being available and pleasant, and pictures were taken. It was a semi-public day, but it was a day where obviously the heat generated by these events spreads far beyond the event.
But it didn't give me any frenzy. It wasn't in my life, and also it was planned, it was known about. Often what we had to deal with at Apple was spontaneous and imposed on us, like nude album covers, Hell's Angels, busts and things like that, and they could be difficult.
NEIL ASPINALL: I was also in the office that evening when Pattie rang. George was saying to me, 'What should we do?' and I said, 'They'll just wreck the place, man. Where is it?' He replied, 'I've got a bit of hash in a box on the mantelpiece.' So he rang Pattie back and told her to tell them where it was – by which time the police already had a big chunk in their possession.
DEREK TAYLOR: The next marriage was on March 20th: John married Yoko in Gibraltar.
JOHN: We wanted to get married on a cross-channel ferry. That was the romantic part: when we went to Southampton and then we couldn't get on because she wasn't English and she couldn't get the day visa to go across. And they said, 'Anyway, you can't get married. The Captain's not allowed to do it any more.'
So we were in Paris and we were calling Peter Brown, and said, 'We want to get married. Where can we go?' And he called back and said, 'Gibraltar's the only place.' So – 'OK, let's go!' And we went there and it was beautiful. It's the Pillar of Hercules, and also symbolically they called it the End of the World at one period. There's some name besides Pillar of Hercules – but they thought the world outside was a mystery from there, so it was like the Gateway to the World. So we liked it in the symbolic sense, and the Rock foundation of our relationship.80
NEIL ASPINALL: It's in the song 'The Ballad Of John And Yoko' that Peter Brown called to say, 'You can get married in Gibraltar.' They just chartered a plane, took off for Gibraltar and got married there. I think John had been drifting away from The Beatles for a while – since he got together with Yoko, really.
JOHN: We both think alike, and we've both been alone. We both had these dreams, the same kind of dreams. I had this dream of this woman coming. I knew it wouldn't be someone buying the Beatle records. The way it was with Cyn was she got pregnant, we got married. We never had much to say to each other. But the vibrations didn't upset me because she was quiet and I was away all the time. I'd get fed up every now and then, and start thinking this 'Where Is She?' bit. I'd hope that The One would come. Everybody's got that 'thinking of The One'. The one what? Well, I suppose I was hoping for a woman who would give me what I got from a man intellectually. I wanted someone I could be myself with.69
PAUL: Yoko really became the central fact in John's life. I remember thinking of it being like army buddies. One of the songs we used to love in the past was 'Wedding Bells' – 'Those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine...' - and the idea that you'd been army buddies, but one day you have to kiss the army goodbye, go and get married and act like normal people.
It was a bit like that for The Beatles; we always knew that day had to come. When John hooked up with Yoko so intensely, it was obvious that there could be no looking back. In the intensity of his love affair, that was the way he had to treat it. It was exciting him so much that he didn't really have much time for us. We were the past and she was the future. We were in the middle of that and we had to try to understand it.
JOHN: BUT NOW MY LIFE HAS CHANGED IN OH SO MANY WAYS… AWOP-BOP-ALOO-BOP-ABIM-BAM-BOOM.69
DEREK TAYLOR: Yoko had taken the place of everybody in John's life. Since they had met she was his life, and he was hers, and they were very co-dependent people. They had no life outside each other.
I had been anxious when it was obvious I was going to have to deal with a broken marriage and press and all that kind of innuendo. I did have a word with John, though not in a pompous way: 'I'm prepared for what's coming. I just want you to know that what is coming is a lot of unpleasant stuff, about somebody breaking up a marriage, home-wrecking, that kind of stuff. This is what people and the press are saying, and you know how pompous and prurient they are,' and so on.
But once it had been established that they were a couple I was in on the thing. I was very fond of Cynthia, but this was it. So I was for it in the end, because he was besotted with Yoko and she was with him. They were quite an item.
JOHN: The alienation started when I met Yoko, and people do not seem to like people getting a divorce. It's all right to do it quietly, but we can't do it quietly. So we fell in love and we married. A lot of people think that's a bit odd, but it happens all the time. And Yoko just happened to be Japanese, which didn't help much. So everybody had this impression that John's gone crazy – but all I did was fall in love, like a lot of people do who are already married, who had married somebody very young.
When Yoko and I got married, we got terrible racialist letters – you know, warning me that she would slit my throat. Those mainly came from army people living in Aldershot. Officers.71
RINGO: I think John and Yoko were trying to keep the wedding fairly quiet. That's why he went to Gibraltar.
GEORGE: I didn't know about John marrying Yoko in Gibraltar – I bought the record! I don't think he wanted anybody to know. He wanted it to be quiet and private.
JOHN: Yoko and I decided that we knew whatever we did was going to be in the papers. We decided to utilise the space we would occupy anyway, by getting married, with a commercial for peace.75
Now the bed-in was just to catch the attention of the press. The first bed-in was held in Amsterdam on our honeymoon. We sent out a card: 'Come to John and Yoke's honeymoon: a bed-in, Amsterdam Hotel.' You should have seen the faces on the reporters and the cameramen fighting their way through the door! Because whatever it is, is in people's minds - their minds were full of what they thought was going to happen. They fought their way in, and their faces dropped. There were we like two angels in bed, with flowers all around us, and peace and love on our heads. We were fully clothed; the bed was just an accessory. We were wearing pyjamas, but they don't look much different from day clothes – nothing showing.72
The press seemed to think we were going to make love in public because we made an album with us naked – so they seem to think anything goes. And, as I said, it might be a very good idea for peace, but I think I'd probably be the producer of that event rather than be actually in the event."
We talked to the press. We met people from the Communist countries, people from the West – every country in the world. We gave the press eight hours of every day, every waking hour, to ask every question they wanted to about our position. People said, 'Well, what does this do for peace?' We thought, The other side has war on every day, not only on the news but on the old John Wayne movies and every damn movie you see: war, war, war, war, kill, kill, kill, kill.' We said, 'Let's get some peace, peace, peace, peace on the headlines, just for a change!' So we thought it highly amusing that a lot of the world's headlines on March 25th 1969 were 'honeymoon couple in bed'. Whoopee! Isn't that great news?72
We thought instead of just being 'John and Yoko Get Married', like 'Richard and Liz Get Married', [it should be] ‘John and Yoko get married and have a bed-in for peace’. So we would sell our product, which we call 'peace'. And to sell a product you need a gimmick, and the gimmick we thought was ‘bed’. And we thought ‘bed’ because bed was the easiest way of doing it, because we’re lazy. It took us a long train of thought of how to get the maximum publicity for what we sincerely believed in, which was peace – and we were part of the peace movement.75
I think the only way to do it is Gandhi's way. And that's non-violent, passive, positive, or whatever he called it in those days.69
GEORGE: I liked the idea of their promoting peace – I was all for that. Right from the time we went to the dentist's dinner party I knew what John felt about things, and it was no surprise to me that he would want some peace, and the manner in which he did it wasn't really a surprise either. It was also fun for him because he could do it with Yoko, do it after his wedding, do it as his honeymoon/bed-in.
JOHN: In Paris, the Vietnam peace talks have got about as far as sorting out the shape of the table they are going to sit round. Those talks have been going on for months. In one week in bed, we achieved a lot more. What? A little old lady from Wigan or Hull wrote to the Daily Mirror asking if they could put Yoko and myself on the front page more often. She said she hadn’t laughed so much for ages. That’s great, that’s what we wanted. I mean, it’s a funny world when two people going to bed on their honeymoon can make the front pages in all the papers for a week. I wouldn’t mind dying as the world’s clown. I’m not looking for epitaphs.69
RINGO: I THOUGHT THE BED-IN FOR PEACE WAS GREAT. THEY WERE NOW THE AVANT-GARDE, DOING THAT FOR PEACE. THERE WAS A GREAT SCENE ON THE DAVID FROST SHOW WHEN THEY GOT IN THE BAG ON TV: 'JUST TALK TO US, NOT TO OUR IMAGE.'
JOHN: We were asked to make a film for Austrian TV, which we did, called Rape – which wasn't a rape but it was called Rape. It was rape by camera, in fact. So when we went to Austria to show it, we did a press conference in a bag. And it was great, because all the press came in and they never saw us – we were both in a bag, and they interviewed the bag. They were saying, 'Is it really you?' and, 'What are you wearing?' and 'Will you sing a song?' They were saying, 'Why us? What is this?' and I said, 'It's total communication.' And they said, 'Why do you pick on us? We've never seen a Beatle!'
If everyone went in a bag for a job there'd be no prejudice: you'd have to judge people on their quality within. We call it total communication. It was a great press conference, and they all had a very serious conversation with a bag. The next day the headlines in Austria were – they'd show a bag with all the press men just talking to it.71
And [during] many of the openings in London where the white bag appeared in a big white Rolls Royce, actually John and Yoko were at home watching themselves being filmed, being shown on the nightly news. So put that in your bag and think about it.
Usually there was a serious intent behind it, because our feeling was there's nothing but 'man eats baby' on the news, or the Daily Express saying 'more bombs please', and our thing was: get some laughs on it.75
RINGO: The Ballad Of John And Yoko only had Paul (of the other Beatles) on it but that was OK. 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road' was Just Paul and me, and it went out as a Beatle track too. We had no problems with that. There's good drums on ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’, too.
JOHN: The follow-up to 'Get Back' is 'Ballad of John and Yoko'. It’s something I wrote, and it's like an old-time ballad. It's just the story of us getting married, going to Paris, going to Amsterdam, all that. It's 'Johnny B. Paperback Writer!
I don't regard it as a separate record scene... it's The Beatles' next single, simple as that. The story came out that only Paul and I were on the record, but I wouldn't have bothered publicising that. It doesn't mean anything; it just so happened that there were only us two there. George was abroad, and Ringo was on the film and he couldn't come that night. Because of that, it was a choice of either re-mixing or doing a new one – and you always go for doing a new one instead of fiddling about with an old one. So we did, and it turned out well.69
GEORGE; I didn't mind not being invited to the wedding, and I didn't mind not being on the record, because it was none of my business – ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’. If it had been the ‘The Ballad Of John, George And Yoko’, then I would have been on it.
GEORGE MARTIN: John and Yoko got better as they went along. Once they got down into their sensible period, so to speak, it was nice working with them. John would bring me a cassette of different things he had made, and say: 'Can you make something out of this?' I would try to do things for him because he wasn't terribly good technically.
I enjoyed working with John and Yoko on 'The Ballad Of John And Yoko'. It was just the two of them with Paul. When you think about it, in a funny kind of way it was the beginning of their own label, and their own way of recording. It was hardly a Beatle track – yet it was a Beatle track. It was a kind of thin end of the wedge, as far as they were concerned. John had already mentally left the group anyway, and I think that was just the beginning of it all.
JOHN: The Ballad Of John And Yoko', by the way, was banned over here [in the USA]. So what they did was, because they don't like the word 'Christ' – unless you're wearing a white robe, you can't say 'Christ' here – they turned it round so it would go: 'Rrrrp, you know it ain't easy...'
DEREK TAYLOR: There was also the bed-in in Montreal at the end of May. I went out on that as well – John and Yoko, the film crew, Yoko's daughter Kyoko, Derek, twenty-six pieces of luggage, and various white suits.
Joan and I went out on the QE2. It was arranged that we would travel with John and Yoko and Neil and Suzy – but, as the song says, 'Standing on the dock at Southampton...' John and Yoko weren't allowed on the QE2 because of visa trouble over the dope bust. (They flew to Montreal instead, via the Bahamas and Toronto.] Neil didn't go either, but Ringo and Peter Sellers and wives and others were elsewhere on this enormous liner on its second voyage. It was that kind of weirdness going on again. I telexed a long, long report on this adventure for The Beatles Monthly, by order of John.
The first destination for the bed-in had been Freeport in the Bahamas, where Allen Klein’s nephew had spent his honeymoon in a horrible hotel with twin beds cemented to the floor with a big block of concrete between them painted white. John looked around and said, 'We can't do a bloody bed-in here. Let’s go to Canada. That’s the nearest place to America apart from the Bahamas.’
They had the bed-in for eight days. Hundreds of people came to the bedside. The questions were dealt with by John and Yoko in the full spirit of Apple, because they made themselves completely available to anybody on earth who wanted to come into the bedroom – provided they were not obviously carrying a blood-stained axe. People could come in and ask them questions. Maybe they came in thousands, it felt like it.
I was sort of controlling a big People Theatre. There is some footage of that time in which you see quite a packed room. Over a period of ten days you could process a great many people through a hotel suite, and they were doing broadcasts to the world on speaker-phones and hook-ups. It was before satellites.
My job was to be around day and night while they were in bed. They were able to rest between visits. They were able to lie down and get new pyjamas etc. A lot of us have had dreams about running our whole life from bed, and for ten days that was what they did.
They were having also to report – I think every few days – to the consul in Montreal, because they were only there on sufferance, and were in fact deported from Canada at the end of the bed-in because their appeal against not being allowed in had failed. They'd done the whole bed-in during an appeal period. As soon as the ten days were up, they were told to clear off. In fact they were put on the first plane out to Frankfurt – which is not where we were going, we were going to London. So that, again, is something people forget! Doing a bed-in and being deported when it was over.
PAUL: If you watch some of the great footage in Imagine you see the cartoonist Al Capp. He comes into the bed-in and he's really bitter. He's a wicked old git, but John's brilliant with him. John really wants to deck him but you can see he controls himself. I think John behaved very well there, because the guy is actually slagging off Yoko – and that's one thing you don't do. You don't slag off someone's missus – that's tribal time, isn't it? I think John was very good. It was: 'Let's not sink to his level.'
DEREK TAYLOR: By now it was quite clear there was a 'get The Beatles' type of thing going on. They were getting a terrifically mixed press. There was a lot of abuse and a lot of praise.
The American media tended to be more generous. There was a lot of 'alternative press' in those days. The Village Voice, LA Free Press and Rolling Stone were new then. But the day-to-day press in England – Fleet Street and so on - by and large thought John and Yoko were crackers. I knew they weren't and this was a good peace movement they ran. And 'Give Peace A Chance' was a great song.
JOHN: I like 'Give Peace A Chance' for what it was. I couldn't say that was the best song as a song I'd ever written, but I'm always proud of it. I think one of the highest moments was hearing all those people in Washington, when the whole anti-war group were singing it. That was an emotional moment for me.74
I sort of cheated. The word 'masturbation' was in it, but I wrote in the lyric sheet – because I'd had enough of the bannings – I mean, I'd been banned so many times all over that I copped out and wrote 'mastication'. It was more important to get it out than be bothered by a word, 'masturbation'.80
DEREK TAYLOR: By then we were embattled, and in the end John and Yoko did so much press and got involved with so many causes, from Black Power to trying to clear James Hanratty's name, that the press just got John and Yoko fatigue.
JOHN: In Britain, the press treat us like children: 'We're not having that middle-aged Beatle lecturing us on peace, and philosophy isn't his forte.' As if politicians and journalists have some kind of super gift from God that gave them their wisdom.69
In Britain I'm the guy who got lucky and won the pools, and Yoke's the Hawaiian who married the guy who got lucky and won the pools. In America we're artists...71
PAUL: George Martin was once talking to us in the recording studio, and he came down and said, ‘Somebody wants to see you.’ We said, ‘Who is it, then?’ and he said, ‘Oh, it’s some crank talking about peace.’ He was right: there was a crank talking about peace.
If you talk about peace you’re a crank, and you’re pigeonholed and associated with Vietnam and sitting down in Trafalgar Square, and everybody thinks they know what you are then. As they were, when they went into the bed-in and said: ‘Look, this is for peace.’ It was a great way to attract attention to peace.
DEREK TAYLOR: I didn't think John was drifting away from the group, because they were still musically completely involved. It seemed to me that all that was happening could somehow co-exist – although it was not an easy year.
I don't think it was a very happy year, I'm extremely glad it is over. It got worse when Allen Klein arrived, and the atmosphere then wasn't as happy in the office.
JOHN: REALLY, THERE’S NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT WE’VE ALWAYS DONE. THE IDEA OF PEACE HAS ALWAYS BEEN WITH US. YOU COULD SMELL IT IN THE EARLY BEATLE SONGS. IT’S LIKE THE BEATLES SINGING ‘ALL YOU NEEDS IS LOVE’ – I’M JUST SINGING ‘ALL YOU NEED IS PEACE NOW’.69
GEORGE: The album Get Back (or Let It Be, as it became) was not released until May 1970 and became probably the most bootlegged record of all time. It was laying dormant and so we decided, 'Let's make a good album again.' We thought it was a good idea to get George Martin involved. We went back to Abbey Road and made the album.
RINGO: It felt comfortable being back at Abbey Road with George Martin. We felt at home. We knew George and George knew us. We knew the place: 'Here we are again, lads.'
PAUL: While we were in the studio, our engineer Geoff Emerick always used to smoke cigarettes called Everest, so the album was going to be called Everest. We never really liked that, but we couldn't think of anything else to call it. Then one day I said, 'I've got it!' – I don't know how I thought of it – 'Abbey Road! It's the studio we're in, which is fabulous; and it sounds a bit like a monastery.'
RINGO: We went through weeks of all saying, 'Why don't we call it Billy's Left Boot?' and things like that. And then Paul just said, 'Why don't we call it Abbey Road?’69
GEORGE MARTIN: Let It Be was such an unhappy record (even though there are some great songs on it) that I really believed that was the end of The Beatles, and I assumed that I would never work with them again. I thought, 'What a shame to end like this.' So I was quite surprised when Paul rang me up and said, 'We're going to make another record – would you like to produce it?'
My immediate answer was: 'Only if you let me produce it the way we used to.' He said, 'We will, we want to.' – 'John included?' – 'Yes, honestly.' So I said, 'Well, if you really want to, let's do it. Let's get together again.' It was a very happy record. I guess it was happy because everybody thought it was going to be the last.
JOHN: Music is music. All these characters complain about us and Dylan not being progressive, but we're the ones that turned them on to the other stuff – so let them take our word for it. This is music, baby. When we feel like changing, fine. It's the same with this next album we're into. This will probably please the critics a bit more, because we got a bit tired of just strumming along forever. We got into production again.
We don't really write together any more. We haven't written together for two years – not really, just occasional bits. I do what I like, Paul does what he likes and George does what he likes – and Ringo. We just divide the album time between ourselves. As far as we're concerned, this album is more Beatley than the double album.69
NEIL ASPINALL: I don't think I ever went to a session when they were recording Abbey Road. It didn't take them a long time – a couple of months. John was involved in a car-crash then as well, so he was away for a while.
RINGO: After the Let It Be nightmare, Abbey Road turned out fine. The second side is brilliant. Out of the ashes of all that madness, that last section is for me one of the finest pieces we put together.
John and Paul had various bits, and so we recorded them and put them together. It actually points out that this is where it's at, that last portion. None of the songs were finished. A lot of work went into it, but they weren't writing together. John and Paul weren't even writing much on their own, really.
PAUL: I think it was my idea to put all the spare bits together, but I'm a bit wary of claiming these things. I'm happy for it to be everyone's idea. Anyway, in the end, we hit upon the idea of medleying them all and giving the second side a sort of operatic structure – which was great because it used ten or twelve unfinished songs in a good way.
GEORGE: A joke name for us was The Flying Trelinis. The Masked Alberts was one of John’s favourite names, a Goon sort of name. You could imagine hundreds of Alberts.
JOHN: We always have tons of bits and pieces lying around. I've got stuff that I wrote around Pepper, because you lose interest in it a bit after you've had it for years. It was a good way of getting rid of bits of songs. In fact, George and Ringo wrote bits of it as we did it, literally – in-between bits and breaks I too. Paul would say, 'We've got twelve bars here – fill it in.' And we'd fill it in on the spot.69
PAUL: John had a bit called 'Polythene Pam' which was based on a girl he'd met a long time ago through the poet Royston Ellis, a friend of ours from Liverpool. We'd re-met him down South when we got out on tour, somewhere like Shrewsbury - he just showed up at the gig. John had gone out to dinner with him and back to his flat afterwards, and there was a girl there who apparently had polythene around her. He came back with all these tales about a girl who dressed in polythene: 'Shit! There was this chick and it was great...' and we thought, 'Oh, wow!' Eventually he wrote the song.
JOHN: 'Polythene Pam' was me remembering a little event with a woman in Jersey, and a man who was England's answer to Allen Ginsberg. She didn't wear jackboots and kilts, I elaborated. Perverted sex in a polythene bag. I was just looking for something to write about.80
PAUL: I had a couple of bits and pieces that weren't finished. They were songs that needed maybe a middle, or a second verse or an end.
I was playing the piano in Liverpool in my dad's house, and my step-sister Ruth's piano book was up on the stand. I was flicking through it and I came to 'Golden Slumbers'. I can't read music and I couldn't remember the old tune, so I just started playing my own tune to it. I liked the words so I kept them, and it fitted with another bit of song I had. I also had 'You Never Give Me Your Money'...
GEORGE: ‘Funny paper’ – that's what we get. We get bits of paper saying how much is earned and what this and that is, but we never actually get it in pounds, shillings and pence. We've all got a big house and a car and an office, but to actually get the money we've earned seems impossible.69
PAUL: We used to ask, 'Am I a millionaire yet?' and they used to say cryptic things like, 'On paper you are.' And we'd say, 'Well, what does that mean? Am I or aren't I? Are there more than a million of those green things in my bank yet?' and they'd say, 'Well, it's not actually in a bank. We think you are...' It was actually very difficult to get anything out of these people and the accountants never made you feel successful.
JOHN: My contribution is 'Polythene Pam', 'Sun King and 'Mean Mr Mustard'. We juggled them about until it made vague sense. In 'Mean Mr Mustard', I said 'his sister Pam' – originally it was 'his sister Shirley in the lyric. I changed it to 'Pam' to make it sound like it had something to do with it. They are only finished bits of crap that I wrote in India.
[On ‘Sun King’] when we came to sing it, to make them different we started joking, saying 'cuando para mucho'. We just made it up. Paul knew a few Spanish words from school, so we just strung any Spanish words that sounded vaguely like something. And of course we got 'chicka ferdi' – that's a Liverpool expression; it doesn't mean anything, just like 'ha ha ha'. One we missed: we could have had 'para noia', but we forgot all about it. We used to call ourselves Los Para Noias.69
PAUL: In ‘The End’ there were three guitar solos where John, George and I took a line each, which was something we'd never done before. And we finally persuaded Ringo to play a drum solo, which he'd never wanted to do. And it climaxed with, And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make...'
JOHN: A VERY COSMIC, PHILOSOPHICAL LINE.80
RINGO: Solos have never interested me. That drum solo is still the only one I've done. There's the guitar section where the three of them take in the solos, and then they thought, 'We'll have a drum solo as well.' I was opposed to it: 'I don't want to do no bloody solo!' George Martin convinced me. As I was playing it, he counted it because we needed a time. It was the most ridiculous thing. I was going, 'Dum, dum – one, two, three, four...' and I had to come off at that strange place because it was thirteen bars long. Anyway, I did it, and it's out of the way. I'm pleased now that we've got one down.
(A sideline on Abbey Road, just a personal thing of mine: the drum sound on the record was the result of having new calf-heads. There's a lot of tom-tom work on that record. I got the new heads on the drum and I naturally used them a lot – they were so great. The magic of real records is that they showed tom-toms were so good. I don't believe that magic is there now, because there's so much more manipulation.)
GEORGE: During the album things got a bit more positive and, although it had some overdubs, we got to play the whole medley. We put them in order, played the backing track and recorded it all in one take, going from one arrangement to the next. We did actually perform more like musicians again.
Likewise with the vocal tracks: we had to rehearse a lot of harmonies and learn all the back-up parts. Some songs are good with just one voice and then harmonies coming in at different places and sometimes three-part work. It's just embellishment, really, and I suppose we made up parts where we thought it fitted because we were all trying to be singers then.
GEORGE MARTIN: I tried with Paul to get back into the old Pepper way of creating something really worthwhile, and we put together the long side. John objected very much to what we did on the second side of Abbey Road, which was almost entirely Paul and I working together, with contribution from the others. John always was a Teddy boy. He was a rock'n'roller, and wanted a number of individual tracks. So we compromised. But even on the second side, John helped. He would come and put his little bit in, and have an idea for sewing a bit of music into the tapestry. Everybody worked frightfully well, and that's why I'm very fond of it.
JOHN: We don't have conceptions. An album to me is a bunch of records that you can't have – I like singles myself. I think Paul has conceptions of albums, or attempts it, like he conceived the medley thing. I'm not interested in conceptions of albums. All I'm interested in is the sound. I like it to be whatever happens. I'm not interested in making the album into a show. For me, I'd just put fourteen rock songs on.69
RINGO: I THINK IT SHOWS ON THE RECORD WHEN WE WERE EXCITED: THE TRACK'S EXCITING AND IT ALL COMES TOGETHER. IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT WE GO THROUGH AS INDIVIDUALS ON THE BULLSHIT LEVEL; WHEN IT GETS TO THE MUSIC YOU CAN SEE THAT IT'S REALLY COOL, AND WE HAD ALL PUT IN ONE THOUSAND PER CENT.
GEORGE: 'HERE COMES THE SUN' WAS WRITTEN AT THE TIME WHEN APPLE WAS GETTING LIKE SCHOOL, WHERE WE HAD TO GO AND BE BUSINESSMEN: 'SIGN THIS' AND ‘SIGN THAT’. ANYWAY, IT SEEMS AS IF WINTER IN ENGLAND GOES ON FOREVER; BY THE TIME SPRING COMES YOU REALLY DESERVE IT. SO ONE DAY I DECIDED I WAS GOING TO SAG OFF APPLE AND I WENT OVER TO ERIC CLAPTON'S HOUSE. THE RELIEF OF NOT HAVING TO GO AND SEE ALL THOSE DOPEY ACCOUNTANTS WAS WONDERFUL, AND I WALKED AROUND THE GARDEN WITH ONE OF ERIC'S ACOUSTIC GUITARS AND WROTE 'HERE COMES THE SUN'.
JOHN: 'Come Together’ is me, writing obscurely around an old Chuck Berry thing. I left the line in: 'Here comes old flat-top.' It is nothing like the Chuck Berry song, but they took me to court because I admitted the influence once years ago. I could have changed it to: 'Here comes old iron-face,' but the song remains independent of Chuck Berry or anybody else on earth.80
PAUL: John came in with an up-tempo song that sounded exactly like Chuck Berry's 'You Can't Catch Me', even down to the 'flat-top' lyric. I said, 'Let's slow it down with a swampy bass-and-drums vibe.' I came up with a bass line and it all flowed from there. Great record.
JOHN: The thing was created in the studio. It's gobbledegook. 'Come together’ was an expression that Tim Leary had come up with for his attempt at being president or whatever, and he asked me to write him a campaign song. I tried and I tried, but I couldn't come up with one. But I came up with 'Come Together', which would have been no good to him - you couldn't have a campaign song like that.
Leary attacked me years later, saying I ripped him off. I didn't. It's just that it turned into ‘Come Together’. What am I going to do, give it to him? It was a funky record – it's one of my favourite Beatle tracks (or one of my favourite Lennon tracks, let's say that). It's funky, it's bluesy and I'm singing it pretty well. I like the sound of the record.80
‘Come Together’ changed at a session. We said, 'Let's slow it down. Let's do this to it, let's do that to it,' and it ends up however it comes out. I just said, 'Look, I've got no arrangement for you, but you know how I want it.' I think that's partly because we've played together a long time. So I said, 'Give me something funky,' and set up a beat, maybe, and they all just join in.69
PAUL: Some of my songs are based on personal experience, but my style is to veil it. A lot of them are made up, like 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer which is the kind of song I like to write. It's just a silly story about all these people I'd never met. It's just like writing a play: you don't have to know the people, you just make them up.
I remember George once saying to me, 'I couldn't write songs like that.' He writes more from personal experience. John's style was to show the naked truth. If I was a painter, I'd probably mask things a little bit more than some people.
The song epitomizes the downfalls of life. Just when everything is going smoothly – Bang! Bang! – down comes Maxwell's silver hammer and ruins everything.
JOHN: It's a typical McCartney single, or whatever. He did quite a lot of work on it. I wasn't on 'Maxwell'. I was ill after the accident while they did most of that track and I believe he really ground George and Ringo into the ground recording it. We spent more money on that song than any of them on the whole album, I think.69
PAUL: They got annoyed because 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' took three days to record. Big deal.
When we were recording 'Oh! Darling' I came into the studios early every day for a week to sing it by myself because at first my voice was too clear. I wanted it to sound as though I'd been performing it on stage all week.
JOHN: I always thought I could have done it better - it was more my style than his. He wrote it, so what the hell, he's going to sing it.80 Whoever sings it is whoever’s song it is. And if we sing together we usually both wrote it. 'Octopus's Garden' is Ringo's, and we all sing on it. That means we all helped with the arrangement or whatever. It's as simple as that.69
GEORGE MARTIN: 'Something' was George's first single, released in October. It was a great song, and frankly I was surprised that George had it in him. Super song.
JOHN: I think that's about the best track on the album, actually.69
GEORGE: I had written 'Something' on the piano during the recording of the 'White' album. There was a period during that album when we were all in different studios doing different things trying to get it finished, and I used to take some time out. So I went into an empty studio and wrote 'Something'.
It has probably got a range of five notes, which fits most singers' needs best. When I wrote it, in my mind I heard Ray Charles singing it, and he did do it some years later. At the time I wasn't particularly thrilled that Frank Sinatra did 'Something'. I'm more thrilled now than I was then. I wasn't really into Frank – he was the generation before me. I was more interested when Smokey Robinson did it and when James Brown did it. But I'm very pleased now, whoever's done it. I realise that the sign of a good song is when it has lots of cover versions.
(I met Michael Jackson somewhere at the BBC. The fellow interviewing us made a comment about 'Something', and Michael said: 'Oh, you wrote that? I thought it was a Lennon/McCartney.')
PAUL: George's 'Something was out of left field. It was about Pattie, and it appealed to me because it has a very beautiful melody and is a really structured song. I thought it was great. I think George thought my bass-playing was a little bit busy. Again, from my side, I was trying to contribute the best I could, but maybe it was his turn to tell me I was too busy. But that was fun; that went off well.
I thought it was George's greatest track – with 'Here Comes The Sun' and 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. They were possibly his best three. Until then he had only done one or two songs per album. I don't think he thought of himself very much as a songwriter, and John and I obviously would dominate - again, not really meaning to, but we were ‘Lennon and McCartney’. So when an album comes up, Lennon and McCartney go and write some stuff – and maybe it wasn't easy for him to get into that wedge. But he finally came up with 'Something' and a couple of other songs that were great, and I think everyone was very pleased for him. There was no jealousy. In fact, I think Frank Sinatra used to introduce 'Something as his favourite Lennon/McCartney song. Thanks Frank.
JOHN: Paul and I really carved up the empire between us, because we were the singers. George didn't even used to sing when we brought him into the group. He was a guitarist. And for the first few years he didn't sing on stage. We maybe let him do one number, like we would with Ringo: 'And here he is...' Paul and I did all the singing, all the writing. George never wrote a song till much later.
We couldn't exclude George. There was an embarrassing period where his songs weren't that good and nobody wanted to say anything, but we all worked on them – like we did on Ringo's. I mean, we put more work into those songs than we did on some of our stuff. So he just wasn't in the same league for a long time – that's not putting him down; he just hadn't had the practice as a writer that we'd had.74
RINGO: It was beautiful. George was blossoming as a songwriter. With ‘Something’ and 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' – are you kidding me? Two of the finest love songs ever written, and they're really on a par with what John and Paul or anyone else of that time wrote. They're beautiful songs. It's interesting that George was coming to the fore and we were just breaking up.
GEORGE MARTIN: I think the trouble with George was that be was never treated on the same level as having the same quality of songwriting, by anyone – by John, by Paul or by me. I'm as guilty in that respect. I was the guy who used to say: 'If he's got a song, we'll let him have it on the album' – very condescendingly. I know he must have felt really bad about that. Gradually he kept persevering, and his songs did get better – until eventually they got extremely good. 'Something' is a wonderful song – but we didn't give him credit for it, and we never really thought, 'He's going to be a great songwriter.'
The other problem was that he didn't have a collaborator. John always had Paul to bounce ideas off. Even if he didn't actually write the song with Paul, he was a kind of competitive mate. George was a loner and I'm afraid that was made the worse by the three of us. I'm sorry about that now.
PAUL: We were holding it together. The music was OK. and we were friends enough that, even though this undercurrent was going on, we still had a strong respect for each other even at the very worst points. It was getting fairly dodgy – but those weren't the worst times, funnily enough. We put together quite a nice album, and the only arguments were about things like me spending too long on a track: I spent three days on 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer. I remember George saying, 'You've taken three days, it's only a song.' – 'Yeah, but I want to get it right. I've got some thoughts on this one.' It was early-days Moog work and it did take a bit of time. (Although nowadays three days is just for switching the machine on!)
JOHN: We used the Moog synthesizer on the end [of 'I Want You']. That machine can do all sounds and all ranges of sounds – so if you're a dog, you could hear a lot more. It's like a robot. George can work it a bit, but it would take you all your life to learn the variations on it. George has got one. He used it on the Billy Preston LP, and it also plays the solo in 'Because', and I think in 'Maxwell' it comes in too. It's here and there on the album.69
GEORGE: I first heard about the Moog synthesizer in America. I had to have mine made specially, because Mr Moog had only just invented it. It was enormous, with hundreds of jackplugs and two keyboards.
But it was one thing having one, and another trying to make it work. There wasn't an instruction manual, and even if there had been it would probably have been a couple of thousand pages long. I don't think even Mr Moog knew how to get music out of it; it was more of a technical thing. When you listen to the sounds on songs like 'Here Comes The Sun', it does do some good things, but they're all very kind of infant sounds.
PAUL: Again the feeling that I mustn't be dominating was plaguing me. I was trying to get a record made of my song the way I wanted it, but I didn't want to offend anyone, and it was getting very difficult. I remember backing off like mad and saying, 'OK.'
At some point I said, 'Look, would you guys tell me what to do?' Then they all went very quiet; we had a day of that, and I remember Ringo coming up and saying, 'No, go on. You tell us. Come on – produce us!' I was being asked to dominate – and yet I was starting to feel this was something I really mustn't do. It made working conditions pretty difficult and in the end it was getting to be less fun than it was worth.
GEORGE MARTIN: John got disenchanted with record production. He didn't really approve of what I'd done or was doing. He didn't like 'messing about', as he called it, and he didn't like the pretentiousness, if you like. I could see his point. He wanted good, old-fashioned, plain solid rock: 'The hell with it – let's blast the living daylights out!' Or, if it was a soft ballad: 'Let's do it just the way it comes.' He wanted authenticity.
JOHN: I personally can't be bothered with strings and things. I'd like to do it with the group, or with electronics. I can't be bothered going through that hassle with musicians – but Paul digs that; that's his scene. It was up to him where he went with the violins and what he did with them, and I think he wanted a straight kind of backing [on 'Golden Slumbers'] – nothing freaky.69 That's what he was getting into on the back of Abbey Road. I never went in for that pop-opera stuff. I like three-minute records, like adverts.71
PAUL: WE NEVER COT PAST EIGHT-TRACK. ALL OF THE BEATLES' WORK WAS ON TWO-TRACK, FOUR-TRACK OR EIGHT-TRACK. SGT PEPPER WAS FOUR-TRACK. BY ABBEY ROAD WE HAD GOT TO EIGHT-TRACK, AND WE THOUGHT IT WAS TOO MANY! WE THOUGHT IT WAS TOO BIG A LUXURY.
PAUL: The crossing was right outside, and we said, 'Let's just go out, get a photographer and walk out on the crossing. It'll be done in half an hour.' It was getting quite late and you always have to get the cover in ahead of the sound. So we got hold of the photographer Iain Macmillan, gave him half an hour and walked across the crossing.
It was a very hot day in August, and I had arrived wearing a suit and sandals. It was so hot that I kicked the sandals off and walked across barefoot for a few takes, and it happened that in the shot he used I had no shoes on, Sandie Shaw style. There's many a person who has gone barefoot, so it didn't seem any big deal for me at all.
But then I was rung one day by one of the blokes at the office, who said, 'Hey, there's a rumour started by a DJ in America that you're dead.' I said, 'You're kidding – just tell them I'm not,' He said, 'No, that won't do. You've got no shoes on on the cover: this is apparently a Mafia sign of death. And there's a car registration plate behind you which says "28 IF". Well, that means you'd be twenty-eight – if you'd have lived!' And I replied, 'Wait a minute – he's stretching it a bit here, isn't he?' He said, There's more. Ringo's wearing black: that means he's the undertaker...' and it went on like this. There were all these clues.
JOHN: Paul walked barefoot across the road because Paul's idea of being different is to look almost straight, but just have his ear painted blue – something a little subtle. So Paul decided to be barefoot that day walking across the road. When you first glance at the album it looks like the four Beatles walking across fully dressed. That's his little gimmick. I didn't even notice until I got the album. I didn't notice on the day that he was barefoot. We were just wishing the photographer would hurry up. Too many people were hanging around. 'It's going to spoil the shot. Let's get out of here. We're meant to be recording, not posing for Beatle pictures' – that's what we were thinking. And, I was muttering, 'Come on, hurry up now, keep in step.'
RINGO: A DJ put all those signs together: Paul with no shoes (that's the easy one) and the Volkswagen Beetle. Then there was Magical Mystery Tour, where we three had red roses and he had a black one. It was just madness, but if you looked at it all you could come to that conclusion. There was no way we could prove he was alive. We said, 'Well, how can we prove this rumour isn't true? Let's take a photo!' But, of course, they would say, That's just his stand-in in the photo.'
It was silly, really, and it didn't worry us. It was part of rock'n'roll. It kept the madness going; we had an album out, and it was in every newspaper and on the TV. It was big doings.
PAUL: IT WAS A BIT WEIRD MEETING PEOPLE SHORTLY AFTER THAT, BECAUSE THEY'D BE LOOKING AT THE BACK OF MY EARS, LOOKING A BIT THROUGH ME. AND IT WAS WEIRD DOING THE 'I REALLY AM HIM' STUFF.
JOHN: Paul McCartney couldn't die without the world knowing it. The same as he couldn't get married without the world knowing it. It's impossible – he can't go on holiday without the world knowing it. It's just insanity – but it's a great plug for Abbey Road.69
DEREK TAYLOR: I dealt with that just as a matter of routine – it was the typical old nonsense that we had to deal with. There were thousands of calls along those lines. (The rumour is still roaming around. There are books on it, and there's a man making a living lecturing on it.) In the end I conceded that it may be true. That's usually the way I deal with those rumours: 'Maybe he is dead – I don't know, do I?'
(That's what happened at the Monterey Pop Festival. The rumour got round that all The Beatles were there. I just said, 'OK. I think three of them are, but they're in disguise – and we don't know which three.' The logic was: if there are three of them here, and you only think so, and they're in disguise – how do you know? 'Ah, that's another story. Now, if you'd asked that earlier...' Red smoke fills the air and the mind clouds over. So it's now: 'Are they here?' – 'No, they're not really.' It was a joke. Once you throw in the towel, it's OK.)
So you say he's dead. Now the doubter says, 'Well, that's very like him – the same mouth, the same eyes!' Then he's alive all of a sudden. People are perverse. So we can move on to the next subject.
PAUL: In the end I said, 'Well, we'd better play it for all it's worth. It's publicity, isn't it? This guy is going mad about our new album and doesn't care what he's saying, so tell them, as Mark Twain said: "Rumours of my death are greatly exaggerated." There's nothing more I can do.'
But that was Abbey Road. We had the cover, we had the title, we had all the music, and it came out before Let It Be (which was being screwed for disc by our friend). Let It Be was actually the last release, but Abbey Road was the last recording.
I think it worked out OK as an album. I think John thought in the end it was a bit slick – but I don't think it was bad for that. That's just structure. I don't think it really looks slick now.
JOHN: I'll tell you honestly: I don't remember it, because Abbey Road, for me – as always with all the albums – I like some of the tracks and I don't like other tracks. That's always been the same: I've never been a knocked-out Beatle fan by any of our albums. I like some of the work we do, and some of it I don't. Abbey Road was a competent album. I don't think it was anything more than that or anything less.70
GEORGE MARTIN: Nobody knew for sure that it was going to be the last album – but everybody felt it was. The Beatles had gone through so much and for such a long time. They'd been incarcerated with each other for nearly a decade, and I was surprised that they had lasted as long as they did. I wasn't at all surprised that they'd split up because they all wanted to lead their own lives – and I did, too. It was a release for me as well.
GEORGE: I didn't know at the time that it was the last Beatle record that we would make, but it felt as if we were reaching the end of the line.
I can't honestly say what I felt after that record was finished. I remember liking the record and enjoying it, but I don't recall thinking that was it because there was so much going on all the time. When you pick out all the 'Beatle days' and 'Beatle moments' or records, there were long gaps in between. If we had a day off from The Beatles, we'd be doing something else – or if we had a year off, or (as it's been now) twenty-five years off. There were plenty of other activities to fill the gaps. I was certainly not missing being in the band.
DEREK TAYLOR: On 22nd August, The Beatles all turned up at Tittenhurst Park, John’s new house in Ascot (which Ringo later bought from him), for what turned out to be their last set of photos taken together.
RINGO: IT WAS JUST A PHOTO SESSION. I WASN’T THERE THINKING, ‘OK, THIS IS THE LAST PHOTO SESSION.’
PAUL: LINDA SHOT SOME 16mm FOOTAGE ON MY CAMERA. THAT TURNED OUT TO BE THE LAST FILM TAKEN.
JOHN: The Plastic Ono Band's going to be pretty flexible – because it's plastic. The Beatles playing live is a different matter – we've got that great thing to live up to, it's a harder gig – but just for me and Yoko to go out we can get away with anything.
We got this phone call on a Friday night that there was a rock'n'roll revival show in Toronto with a 100,000 audience, or whatever it was, and that Chuck was going to be there and Jerry Lee and all the great rockers that were still living, and Bo Diddley, and supposedly The Doors were top of the bill. They were inviting us as king and queen to preside over it, not play – but I didn't hear that bit. I said, 'Just give me time to get a band together,' and we went the next morning.
It was very, very quick. We didn't have a band then – we didn't even have a group that had played with us for more than half a minute. I called Eric and I got Klaus, and we got Alan White and they said, 'OK.' There was no big palaver – it wasn't like this set-format show that I'd been doing with The Beatles where you go on and do the same numbers – 'I Want To Hold Your Head' – and the show lasts twenty minutes and nobody’s listening, they’re just screaming and the amps are as big as a peanut and it’s more a spectacular rather than rock’n’roll.69
JOHN: The only time we took drugs was when we were without hope, and the only way we got out of it was with hope, and if we can sustain the hope them we don’t need liquor, drugs or anything. But if we lose hope what can you do?
GEORGE: When the Plastic Ono Band went to Toronto in September John actually asked me to be in the band, but I didn't do it. I didn't really want to be in an avant-garde band, and I knew that was what it was going to be.
He said he'd get Klaus Voormann, and Alan White as the drummer. During the last few years of The Beatles we were all producing other records anyway, so we had a nucleus of friends in the studios: drummers and bass players and other musicians. So it was relatively simple to knock together a band. He asked me if I'd play guitar, and then he got Eric Clapton to go – they just rehearsed on the plane over there.
DEREK TAYLOR: John played Live Peace in Toronto and I didn't believe that it would mean the end of anything. In fact, it didn't, did it? I was very committed to John and Yoko things, and I thought the Peace Campaign was very well done.
JOHN: The buzz was incredible. I never felt so good in my life. Everybody was with us and leaping up and down doing the peace sign, because they knew most of the numbers anyway, and we did a number called 'Cold Turkey' we'd never done before and they dug it like mad.
I offered 'Cold Turkey' to The Beatles, but they weren't ready to record a single, so I did it as Plastic Ono. (I don't care what it goes out as, as long as it goes out.)69 It was self-explanatory: the result of experiencing cold turkey – withdrawal from heroin. It was an anti-drug song, if anything. But, of course, it was banned again all over American radio, so it never got off the ground. They were thinking I was promoting it [heroin].80
RINGO: After the Plastic Ono Band's debut in Toronto, we had a meeting in Savile Row where John finally brought it to its head. He said: 'Well, that's it, lads. Let's end it.' And we all said ‘yes’. And though I said ‘yes’ because it was ending (and you can't keep it together anyway, if this is what the attitude is) I don't know if I would have said, 'End it.' I probably would have lingered another couple of years.
But when we all met in the office, we knew it was good. It wasn't sulky and we weren't really fighting. It was like a thought came into the room, and everyone said what they said. John didn't think we should leave, just that we should break it up. It was not: 'I'm leaving, you're leaving.' It was: 'Well, that's it! I've had enough. I want to do this...'
If that had happened in 1965, or 1967 even, it would have been a mighty shock. Now it was just 'let's get the divorce over with', really. And John was always the most forward when it came to nailing anything.
JOHN: I knew before we went to Toronto. I told Allen I was leaving, I told Eric Clapton and Klaus that I was leaving and that I'd like to probably use them as a group. I hadn't decided how to do it – to have a permanent new group or what? (Later on I thought, 'Fuck, I'm not going to get stuck with another set of people, whoever they are.') So I announced it to myself and to the people around me on the way to Toronto. Allen came with me, and I told Allen it was over. When I got back there were a few meetings and Allen had said, 'Well, cool it, cool it,' because there was a lot to do business-wise, and it would not have been suitable at the time.
Then we were discussing something in the office with Paul, and Paul said something or other, to do something, and I kept saying 'no, no, no' to everything he said. So it came to a point I had to say something, of course. Paul said, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'I mean the group is over. I'm leaving!'70
PAUL: I'd said: 'I think we should go back to little gigs – I really think we're a great little band. We should find our basic roots, and then who knows what will happen? We may want to fold after that, or we may really think we've still got it.' John looked at me in the eye and said: 'Well, I think you're daft. I wasn't going to tell you till we signed the Capitol deal' – Klein was trying to get us to sign a new deal with the record company – 'but I'm leaving the group!' We paled visibly and our jaws slackened a bit.
I must admit we'd known it was coming at some point because of his intense involvement with Yoko. John needed to give space to his and Yoke's thing. Someone like John would want to end The Beatles period and start the Yoko period; and he wouldn't like either to interfere with the other. But what wasn't too clever was this idea of: 'I wasn't going to tell you till after we signed the new contract.' Good old John – he had to blurt it out. And that was it. There's not a lot you can say to, 'I'm leaving the group,' from a key member.
I didn't really know what to say. We had to react to him doing it; he had control of the situation. I remember him saying, 'It's weird this, telling you I'm leaving the group, but in a way it's very exciting.' It was like when he told Cynthia he was getting a divorce. He was quite buoyed up by it, so we couldn't really do anything: 'You mean leaving'? So that's the group, then...' It was later, as the fact set in, that it got really upsetting.
GEORGE: I don't remember about John saying he wanted to break up The Beatles. I don't remember where I heard it. Everybody had tried to leave, so it was nothing new. Everybody was leaving for years.
The Beatles had started out being something that gave us a vehicle to be able to do so much when we were younger, but it had now got to a point where it was stifling us. There was too much restriction. It had to self-destruct, and I wasn't feeling bad about anybody wanting to leave, because I wanted out myself. I could see a much better time ahead being by myself, away from the band. It had ceased to be fun and it was time to get out of it. It was like a straitjacket.
NEIL ASPINALL: It was a sad thing that there was now talk of breaking up. We'd all been together for a number of years going through the most incredible series of situations and successes and everything else, and for that to be over meant there was a certain amount of sadness and apprehension. It was a bit scary for everybody.
The spilt was a slow process. For a start, Paul's not signing with Allen Klein didn't mean The Beatles had split up because they then made Abbey Road. And John was working more and more with Yoko rather than with The Beatles, but he still made Abbey Road with the others. So there wasn't one moment in time, it was gradual, and then they just weren't together any more after Abbey Road – I couldn't see them actually going into a studio and working together again.
RINGO: There was the story I told about leaving during the 'White' album because I'd thought they were really close and they'd thought the other three were. It was just craziness. With George leaving, we didn't know what was going to happen. But I don't think it actually ended till it did, till the meeting in the office in Savile Row when we said, That's it.'
We'd kept it together for the sake of Abbey Road. But, you know, it had gone already then. And then it was really a case of although it had ended, your brain couldn't assimilate it. Your body was still living this life, and then you went on doing your own thing.
JOHN: I started the band. I disbanded it. It's as simple as that.
My life with The Beatles had become a trap. A tape loop. I had made previous short excursions on my own, writing books, helping convert them into a play. I'd even made a movie without the others, but I had made the movie more in reaction to the fact that The Beatles had decided to stop touring than with real independence in mind – although even then my eye was on freedom.
When I finally had the guts to tell the other three that I, quote, wanted a divorce, unquote, they knew it was for real – unlike Ringo and George's previous threats to leave. I must say I felt guilty for springing it on them at such short notice. After all, I had Yoko, they only had each other. I was guilty enough to give McCartney credit as a co-writer on my first independent single ['Give Peace A Chance'] instead of giving it to Yoko, who had actually co-authored it.78
RINGO: We didn't go public about the break-up immediately. Allen Klein had this thing: 'Split up, boys, if you want to – but don't tell anybody.'
People didn't want us to break up, but I don't think that was too much of a pressure. We felt: 'We've done this so long, so we keep doing it.' That was why we kept on and on a lot of days, even with all the craziness – it really worked. But instead of working every day, it worked, say, two days a month. There were still good days because we were still really close friends, and then it would split off again into some madness.
JOHN: Paul and Allen said they were glad that I wasn't going to announce it; like I was going to make an event out of it.
RINGO: It was a relief once we finally said we would split up. (I think that was as much a relief as 'Strawberry Fields'/'Penny Lane' not making Number One; that was a huge relief.) I just wandered off home, I believe, and I don't know what happened after that. I sat in the garden for a while wondering what the hell to do with my life. After you've said it's over and go home, you think: 'Oh, God – that's it, then. Now what do you do?' It was quite a dramatic period for me – or traumatic, actually.
GEORGE: My feeling when we went our separate ways was to enjoy the space that it gave me, the space to be able to think at my own speed and to have some musicians in the studio who would accompany me on my songs. It sounds strange, because most people would like to be in The Beatles, or at that time it looked like such a great thing to be in. And it was. But it was also a great thing to get out of – just as when you grow up and leave home and spread your wings.
There was a feeling that it was a big step to decide to leave the group, but at the same time there was so much pressure that the downside was much bigger than the upside. The upside was that The Beatles were so famous and it was a cosy rut to be in. But it was so negative at that point that I would have given anything to get out.
We always thought the idea would be to have a bit of space to do some solo recordings and then just see what happened. But, also, my life had taken on a whole other dimension. Being in a little pop band, which was The Beatles, was very limiting. I wanted to go to the Himalayas and do that, and hang out and play with other people. I had lots of outside friends – as did the other Beatles.
PAUL: I felt, 'Well, this will be the start of a new phase now. The Beatles won't be recording together again, so do I leave the music business and not work again? I'm too passionate about it.' Even now I couldn't do that easily. It's just a bug I've got. I knew I had to carry on in some form or other.
I spent a lot of time up in Scotland where I have a farm. I normally go for holidays, but I began what was to be a whole year up there, just trying to figure out what I was going to do, and that was probably when it was most upsetting. I really got the feeling of being redundant. People say, 'But you still had your money, it wasn't exactly redundancy. It's not like being a miner who's laid off.' But to me it was. Because it wasn't about money, it was about self-worth. I just suddenly felt I wasn't worth anything if I wasn't in The Beatles.
It was a pretty good job to have lost – The Beatles. My whole life since I'd been seventeen had been wrapped up in it; so it was quite a shock. I took to my bed, didn't bother shaving much, did a lot of drinking: 'What's it matter?' you know. You hear about guys who've been made redundant doing that. Just staying in a lot, not wanting to go out, not wanting to socialise. So I lost the plot there for a little while – for about a year, actually – but luckily Linda's very sensible and she said, 'Look, you're OK. It's just the shock of The Beatles and all of that.' I was thinking: 'Well, can I ever write and sing again? What does anyone want with an out of work bass-player?' It hit me pretty hard.
After a while I thought: ‘Jesus! I had better really try to get it together here,’ and that took the form of making a record, the simplest way. I had a recording machine, without a desk or anything, and made a real home-grown record; working on my own, thinking of getting a new band – although, obviously, The Beatles was a tough act to follow.
RINGO: In November I started recording tracks for my Sentimental Journey solo album. That was me wondering what to do when it was all over. I got an idea to record an album of songs that I had been brought up with.
There was a pub on the album cover. My family used to go to that pub and all my mum's friends and the family would come back to our place, and at the parties everybody sang those songs. They were my first musical influences, so for want of a better idea I thought I'd do that. None of the others worked on it, but I still had George Martin so I didn't feel completely alone.
NEIL ASPINALL: Ringo and George Martin put Sentimental Journey together. We got a list of songs that Ringo wanted to sing, in a key that he could sing them in, and a list of arrangers that he really liked. I rang the arrangers and asked: 'Which of these songs would you like to produce? Just go into a studio with whatever musicians you want – and please send us the tapes.' On to which Ringo overdubbed his voice.
It could have got a bit difficult when there was only one tune left and you were ringing a producer. He could ask: 'Why don't I have a choice when everybody else did?' But we had fifteen or sixteen songs and we only used twelve, so they always had a choice somewhere along the line.
That's how that album came together. It was quite an enjoyable thing to be involved with. It was a bit laid back, but it was the way to do it.
GEORGE: In December I was working with the Delaney and Bonnie band with Billy Preston. I'd heard about Delaney and Bonnie, and I'd seen them playing in the Valley in Los Angeles. They were a great band, and I tried to sign them to Apple Records; but when Peter Asher went over to sign them he fell asleep at the audition, so they decided to go with Atlantic Records.
I went to see them at the Albert Hall and thought they were such a fun band it would be nice to play with them. Most times I go to concerts and think, 'I'm glad I'm not in the band,' but in this case I thought it was fantastic.
After the Albert Hall they played at the Speakeasy, and I suppose we had a few drinks and before I knew what was happening their bus arrived at my house the next morning and I was with them. I got a guitar, got on the bus and we did a tour of Europe.
It was really good because I don't think many people knew I was there. The people were coming to see Delaney and Bonnie, or they knew Eric Clapton was in the band. I was just along for the ride, really; I was at the back and didn't have to be anything, and it was really nice. Even being at the back of The Beatles, it was still like being right at the front; we could never hide behind a couple of horn players.
PAUL: For about three or four months, George, Ringo and I rang each other to ask: 'Well, is this it then?' It wasn't that the record company had dumped us. It was still a case of: we might get back together again. Nobody quite knew if it was just one of John's little flings, and that maybe he was going to feel the pinch in a week's time and say, 'I was only kidding.' I think John did kind of leave the door open. He'd said: 'I'm pretty much leaving the group, but...'
So we held on to that thread for a few months, and then eventually we realised, 'Oh well, we're not in the band any more. That's it. It's definitely over.'
I started thinking, 'Well, if that's the case, I had better get myself together. I can't just let John control the situation and dump us as if we're the jilted girlfriends.' I was recording the album McCartney, and round about then I said, 'Isn't it about time we told people?' Everybody said, 'No, no – don't tell anyone we're breaking up,' but I felt we should. I don't know why they didn't want to say anything. I think Klein had a lot to do with it.
GEORGE: The Beatles had become an institution that nobody on the outside really wanted to split. Except the press, because the press want anything that will be a headline. They don't care whether it's good or bad, as long as it's worthy of a headline, so the press tend to try to nudge things along – particularly in negative directions if they think they're on to something. The public all over the world may have wanted more Beatle records, but the British press could sense it was all over.
I think Paul was already making a solo album in his house. John was going off to do his Plastic Ono thing, and it was very obvious it was finished, but nobody said, 'Well, that's it – we'll never get together again.' If the newspapers asked us, we were still saying, 'Who knows? Sure, we're still together.'
PAUL: Things had got bad by that point and I was still trying to phone, trying still to communicate and keep the doors open. But the difficulties lasted, really, for the twenty years that it took to sort The Beatles out.
I'd fallen out with the other three at once over the Klein thing. I didn't want him representing me in any way. They had persuaded me that we had to give Klein 20%. The only way they could was that they said, 'OK, he'll have 20% on any increases he gets us. If Capitol are giving us that much on royalties and he gets this much, then he'll have 20% of the difference.'
So it was three against one. Never mind three against one – it was me against the world! It was me against three hundred million as far as I was concerned. The way I saw it, I had to save The Beatles' fortune. All we'd ever earned was in that company – and I wasn't about to see it go.
JOHN: I always remember the film with those British people who wrote those silly operas, Gilbert and Sullivan. I remember watching the film with Robert Morley in and thinking, 'We'll never get to that.' And we did, which really upset me. I really never thought we'd be so stupid, like splitting and arguing. But we were naive enough to let people come between us and that's what happened. But it was happening anyway. I don't mean Yoko, I mean businessmen. It's like when people decide to get a divorce: quite often you decide amicably, but then when you get your lawyers and they say, 'Don't talk to the other party unless there's a lawyer present,' that's when the drift really starts happening.
It's really lawyers that make divorces nasty. If there was a nice ceremony like getting married for divorce it would be much better. Even divorce of business partners. But it always gets nasty because you're never allowed to speak your own mind. You have to talk in double Dutch, you have to spend all your time with a lawyer, you get frustrated and you end up saying and doing things you wouldn't do under normal circumstances.71
RINGO: In the end we did get rid of Allen Klein. It cost us a small fortune – but it's one of those things that we found all through life: two people sign a contract and I know exactly what it means and you know exactly what it means, but when we come to split up magically it means something else entirely to one of you.
GEORGE: John phoned me one morning in January and said, 'I've written this tune and I'm going to record it tonight and have it pressed up and out tomorrow - that's the whole point: "Instant Karma!", you know.' So I was in. I said, 'OK, I'll see you in town.' I was in town with Phil Spector and I said to Phil, 'Why don't you come to the session?'
There were just four people: John played piano, I played acoustic guitar, there was Klaus Voormann on bass and Alan White on drums. We recorded the song and brought it out that week, mixed – instantly – by Phil Spector.
JOHN: We have so many songs, and we've got to get them out some way or other. It's nicer to do them yourself, actually. I prefer doing my own songs than giving them to somebody else – half of them, it's the only way we make it happen.69
NEIL ASPINALL: Phil Spector was involved with Allen Klein on some business level or another, and was brought in to remix Let It Be. I have no idea whose idea it was for him to get involved. It might have been Klein's, with John and George going along with it.
GEORGE MARTIN: That made me very angry – and it made Paul even angrier, because neither he nor I knew about it till it had been done. It happened behind our backs because it was done when Allen Klein was running John. He'd organised Phil Spector and I think George and Ringo had gone along with it. They'd actually made an arrangement with EMI and said, ‘This is going to be our record.’
EMI came to me and said, 'You made this record originally but we can't have your name on it.' I asked them why not and they said: 'Well, you didn't produce the final thing.' I said, 'I produced the original and what you should do is have a credit saying: "Produced by George Martin, over-produced by Phil Spector".' They didn't think that was a good idea.
JOHN: If anybody listens to the bootleg version, which was the version which was pre-Spector, and listens to the version Spector did, they would shut up – if you really want to know the difference. The tapes were so lousy and so bad none of us would go near them to touch them. They'd been lying around for six months. None of us could face remixing them; it was terrifying. But Spector did a fantastic job.71
PAUL: Allen Klein decided – possibly having consulted the others, but certainly not me – that Let It Be would be re-produced for disc by Phil Spector.
So now we were getting a ‘re-producer’ instead of just a producer, and he added on all sorts of stuff – singing ladies on The Long And Winding Road' – backing that I perhaps wouldn't have put on. I mean, I don't think it made it the worst record ever, but the fact that now people were putting stuff on our records that certainly one of us didn't know about was wrong. I'm not sure whether the others knew about it. It was just, 'Oh, get it finished up. Go on – do whatever you want.' We were all getting fed up.
DEREK TAYLOR: I know that Paul was very cross about 'The Long And Winding Road' being interfered with. I took the view that nobody should have ever interfered with their music. That was to me – I don't want to say shocking – but wrong, certainly. And if you were a McCartney seeing your work being altered... I can imagine the outrage!
PAUL: I had now made the McCartney record, my first album after The Beatles, and we had a release schedule on it; but then the others started buggering that around, saying, 'You can't release the McCartney album when you want to. We're releasing Let It Be – and Ringo's solo record.'
I rang Neil who was running Apple and I said, 'Wait a minute – we've decided my release date!' I had an understanding: I'd marked my release date on the calendar. I'd stuck to it religiously, but they'd moved it anyway.
From my point of view I was getting done in. All the decisions were now three against one. And that's not the easiest position if you're the one: anything I wanted to do they could just say, 'No.' And it was just to be awkward, I thought.
Ringo came to see me. He was sent, I believe – being mild mannered, the nice guy – by the others, because of the dispute. So Ringo arrived at the house, and I must say I gave him a bit of verbal. I said: 'You guys are just messing me around.' He said: 'No, well, on behalf of the board and on behalf of The Beatles and so and so, we think you should do this,' etc. And I was just fed up with that. It was the only time I ever told anyone to GET OUT! It was fairly hostile. But things had got like that by this time. It hadn't actually come to blows, but it was near enough.
Unfortunately it was Ringo. I mean, he was probably the least to blame of any of them, but he was the fall guy who got sent round to ask me to change the date – and he probably thought: 'Well, Paul will do it,' but he met a different character, because now I was definitely boycotting Apple.
RINGO: It was just two guys pouting and being silly.
We had our solo albums to bring out, and I said, 'Mine's ready and I want to bring it out.' Paul's wasn't quite ready – but he had a calendar with the date (I've forgotten the day now) marked in yellow saying, That's my day – I'm bringing my record out then.' I don't know what happened – he probably did.
PAUL: I got so fed up with all this I said, 'OK, I want to get off the label.' Apple Records was a lovely dream, but I thought, 'Now this is really trashy and I want to get off.' I remember George on the phone saying to me, 'You'll stay on this fucking label! Hare Krishna!' and he hung up – and I went, 'Oh, dear me. This is really getting hairy.'
I didn't show Apple anything of McCartney or the cover or anything until I'd finished it all. I did it all myself, and just gave it to them for release. It was a very difficult position for me.
NEIL ASPINALL: Paul's album came out before Let It Be, and the statement, of course, came with it. I can't really speak for how it was received by the people in Apple – I can't remember who was still in Apple at the time. As to why the dream of Apple hadn't worked – maybe it hadn't worked because it was a dream.
PAUL: I didn't leave the Beatles. The Beatles have left The Beatles, but no one wants to be the one to say the party's over.70
DEREK TAYLOR: For the release of Paul's solo album we did a Questionnaire in the press office, a general issue thing: 'Will you ever appear with The Beatles? Do you believe in this? What are your plans?' etc. I thought he very generously answered – in an uptight way, but nevertheless answered – the questions, more or less ruling out reunion or working with The Beatles: 'And I'm now working with Linda and this is the way I want it to be...' That was a very unhappy time. That was the pits.
PAUL: I didn't want to do any interviews at the time because I knew the first thing they'd ask about was The Beatles and all that stuff and I didn't really want that. I didn't want to face the press, and I said so.
Derek at the office said, 'We should do something.' I said, 'I'll tell you what – you do a questionnaire of anything you think the press would want to know and I'll try and answer honestly, and we'll stick that in with the press copies of the record.' He did and one of the questions was: 'Have The Beatles virtually broken up?' I answered, 'Yeah – we won't play together again.' (This was four or five months after we'd actually decided that, so I felt it wasn't exactly a scoop.)
I felt the group finished the minute John said, 'I'm leaving.' We'd all (except John) had goes at trying to keep the group together and failed. So it wasn't any longer a case of trying to keep it together; it was now whether we tell the world or not, and I thought, 'Well, if we are going to go our own separate ways it'll only work against us if they all still think we're in The Beatles.' So I said, 'There's been a clean break. Let's just admit it. Let's just tell the world now. Isn't it time?' John was a bit annoyed with me because I think he wanted to be the one to tell anyone – or not tell them.
RINGO: There was always the possibility that we could have carried on. We weren't sitting in the studio making Abbey Road saying, 'OK this is it: last record, last track, last take.'
But Paul put his solo record out and made the statement that said that The Beatles were finished. (If you look back through the Beatle history Paul has always made the statements: They're On Drugs; They're Breaking Up; They're Finished.) I think because it was said by one of The Beatles people understood it was over.
PAUL: The world reaction was like ‘The Beatles Have Broken Up – It’s Official’ – we'd known it for months. So that was that, really. I think it was the press who misunderstood. The record had come with this weird explanation on a questionnaire of what I was doing. It was actually only for them. I think a few people thought it was some weird move of me to get publicity, but it was really to avoid having to do the press.
GEORGE: Paul has a way of using stuff. I mean, even now, if he is going to do a tour he'll conveniently tell the press that we're all getting back together again or something. It's just his way, really. It's something that over the years may have kind of annoyed us, but I think after all these years we're used to it. But in that period everybody was getting pissed off at each other for everything.
With his album, I think what he was trying to do was just grab a bit of the momentum of the time, and while everybody else was just accepting the fact that we'd split he was the one to use that for his own benefit: 'Oh, my album's coming out. And, incidentally, The Beatles have split up, you know.'
He had that press release, but everybody else had already left the band. That was what pissed John off at the time. It was, 'Hey, I've already left and it's as if he's invented it!'
PAUL: The others all saw me as the one who issued the statements, as if it was to my advantage (but I got caught with the LSD thing, and all I did on the break-up was, unlike them, to tell the truth). Years later, when the Anthology was coming together, I was asked in a press conference if we were getting back together. It was going to be true, so I said 'yeah', nothing more.
DEREK TAYLOR: Reaction to Paul's statement was worldwide. Hot news. I'm a bit vague, as to whether there was an actual announcement: 'The Beatles have broken up' at that time. I did put out a statement, one of those very circular statements that actually says nothing: 'John, Paul, George and Ringo are still John, Paul, George and Ringo, the world keeps spinning and when that stops that will be the time to worry. See you again.' Something like that. But there was worldwide reaction, and genuine dismay.
I absolutely did believe – as millions of others did – that the friendship The Beatles had for each other was a lifesaver for all of us. I believed that if these people were happy with each other and could get together and could be seen about the place, no matter what else was going on, life was worth living. But we expected too much of them.
JOHN: They all have this wonderful dream of how it was, and it'll never be like that because it never was like everybody thinks it was. It was wonderful and it's over. And so dear friends you'll just have to carry on. The Dream Is Over.
GEORGE: I realise The Beatles did fill a space in the Sixties and all the people The Beatles meant something to have grown up. It's like with anything: you grow up with it and you get attached. That's one of the problems in our lives, becoming attached to things. And it's appreciated that people still like them, but the problem comes when they want to live in the past and want to hold on to something and are afraid to change.
JOHN: Everything's fun off and on, so I suppose it could have gone on being fun off and on or it could have got worse. It's just that you grow up. We don't want to be the Crazy Gang or The Marx Brothers being dragged on stage playing 'She Loves You' when we've got asthma and tuberculosis and when we're fifty.71
GEORGE: I think our splitting up was for the same reason, really, as for any individual. It was that we all needed more space and The Beatles had become a small place. Although it was an international hit recording band, it was still a very small place. When we talk about The Beatles, when it touches on our individual lives we can't really get into that much depth, because the perimeters of The Beatles were defined and our lives spilt over into other areas. We all had to get out. It was a pigeon-hole for us. We were bigger than The Beatles. I think we were, the four of us individually, bigger than it was.
It was too much stress, as well. We had taken on such a lot of stress from 1963, although at first we didn't realise it. It was just something which crept up on us. The pressure from our touring and the time schedule. When you look back at how many records we made and how many tours we did, you can't imagine that these days.
JOHN: We're all individuals. And in The Beatles we grew out of it. The bag was too small. I can't impose far-out films or far-out music on George and Paul if they don't want to do it. Vice versa, Paul can't impose on me whatever he likes, especially when there's no common goal any more. We have to live our own lives separately. We've grown up now, we've left school. We never left school - we went straight into showbiz.71
One has oneself in the beginning, and it's a constant process of society and parents and family trying to make you lose yourself: 'Don't cry. Don't show any emotion,' that kind of jazz. And that goes on all your life. I remember at sixteen I still had myself – from sixteen to twenty-nine is when it got lost. The struggle to mature, to be a man, to take responsibility... although we were in a cocoon of super-life we still had to go through the basic maturing that any teenager goes through (whether it's alone in a room or alone in a big office). Probably thirty is the age you should be just about waking up and realising that you're in control of yourself.
GEORGE MARTIN: The split arose from many contributory things, mainly that each of the boys wanted to live his own life and had never been able to. They'd always been having to consider the group, so they were always a prisoner of that – and I think they eventually got fed up with it.
They wanted to live life like other people, where your wife is more important than your working partner. As Yoko came along, as eventually Linda came along, they were more important to John and Paul than John and Paul were to each other, and the same went for the other boys too.
RINGO: Yoke's taken a lot of shit, her and Linda; but The Beatles break-up wasn't their fault. It was just that suddenly we were all thirty and married and changed. We couldn't carry on that life any more.
JOHN: I was married from before The Beatles left Liverpool; that never made any difference. Cyn didn't have a career like Yoko does, but Pattie had a career – that never upset it. Maureen is a fantastic artist in her own right as well, apart from bringing up that tribe of Ringo's. She also is an artist, and it is nothing to do with wives.
The Beatles were disintegrating slowly after Brian Epstein died, it was slow death and it was happening. It's evident in Let It Be, although Linda and Yoko were evident then, but they weren't when we started it. It was evident in India when George and I stayed there and Paul and Ringo left. It was evident on the 'White' album. It's just natural. It's not a great disaster. People keep talking about it as if it's the end of the earth. It's only a rock group that split up. It's nothing important. You have all the old records there if you want to reminisce. You have all this great music.71
RINGO: You don't turn the key and hear, 'OK, you're not a Beatle any more.' Because out there, to this day, that's all I am. You know what I'm saying? It's not like you could just slam the door and it's all over: you're back to being Richard Starkey, 10 Admiral Grove, Liverpool 8. It just carried on; we each carried on being one.
GEORGE: The Beatles were all of those things that happened. It's a matter of learning that up and down are the same thing. Everything keeps changing, and there's always a balance, and whatever happens is what you cause yourself. The moral of the story is that if you accept the high points you're going to have to go through the lows.
For The Beatles, our lives were a very heightened version of that: of how to learn about love and hate, and up and down, and good and bad, and loss and gain. It was a hyper-version of what everybody else was going through. So, basically, it's all good. Whatever happened is good as long as we've learnt something. It's only bad if we didn't learn: 'Who am I? Where am I going? Where have I come from?'
PAUL: No matter how much we split, we're still very linked. We're the only four people who've seen the whole Beatlemania bit from the inside out, so we're tied forever, whatever happens.
JOHN: The Beatles is over, but John, Paul, George and Ringo... God knows what relationship they'll have in the future. I don't know. I still love those guys! Because they'll always be those people who were that part of my life.80
PAUL: The Beatles felt like it was forever, but actually it was only ten years. It felt like twenty, the amount we packed into those ten years – all the music, all the different looks, even: the beards, the moustaches, the clean shavens, the little Cardin jackets, all that. It seemed like a long, long time. But I loved it.
JOHN: We were together much longer than the public knew us. It wasn't just from '64. I was twenty-four in '64 and I'd been playing with Paul since I was fifteen, and George about a year later. So it's a long time we spent together, in the most extraordinary circumstances, from lousy rooms to great rooms.75
It takes a lot to live with four people over and over for years and years, which is what we did. We'd called each other every name under the sun. We'd got to blows. We'd been through the whole damn show. We knew where we were at, we still do – we've been through the mill together for more than ten years. We've been through our therapy together many times.74
GEORGE: There was a close bond between us through all those years.
The Beatles can't ever really split up, because as we said at the time we did split up, it doesn't really make any difference. The music is there, the films are all there. Whatever we did is still there and always will be. What is there is there – it wasn't that important. It's like Henry VIII or Hitler or any of these historical figures they're always going to be showing documentaries about: their name will be written about forever and no doubt The Beatles' will be too. But my life didn't begin with The Beatles and it didn't end with The Beatles. It was just like going to school. I went to Dovedale, then I went to Liverpool Institute and then I went to The Beatles University for a bit and then I got out of university and now I'm having the rest of my life off.
The bottom line is, as John said, it was only a little rock'n'roll band. It did a lot and it meant a lot to a lot of people but, you know, it didn't really matter that much.
RINGO: I think that's too simple. For me it was a really great rock'n'roll band and we made a lot of good music which is still here today. But I know what John and George mean – we were just a little band from Liverpool. What always amazed me was that people like De Gaulle and Khrushchev and all these world leaders were shouting at us. I could never understand that.
I feel now, on reflection, that we could have used our power a lot more for good. Not for politics, but just to be more helpful. We could have been some bigger force. It's an observation, not a regret – regrets are useless. We could have been stronger for a lot more causes if we'd pulled it together.
JOHN: I don't regret anything I've done, really, except for maybe hurting other people. I wouldn't have missed any of it.71
GEORGE: I suppose in the mid-Sixties when the hippy stuff was starting we had a lot influence, but I don't think we actually had much power. (For instance, we didn't have enough power to stop some crazed Oliver Cromwell coming round to bust us all.)
Looking back, we'd probably change everything that we did, right from day one. But it'll do the way it was; you can't change things.
We would have changed things. We would have had more control if we'd known what we know now. But we did pretty good considering we were just four Liverpool lads. We did not do badly coping. I think that was the main thing we did – cope. A lot of other people who had less stress didn't cope as well. People would have one hit and be in strait-jackets and mental institutions. We just went on and on.
We were put under the heaviest pressure. I don't think anybody had had as much pressure as The Beatles; maybe in some way Elvis, but it was not quite as intense as with us. Part of the pressure of the time was the mania that was going on, plus the drugs and the police, and then the politics – everywhere we went there was political upheaval and riots.
JOHN: When I look back on it, it's vaguely astounding, the fact that I was in it. We always called it 'the eye of the hurricane'. It was calmer right in the middle than on the peripheries.74
GEORGE: It was a very one-sided love affair. The people gave their money and they gave their screams, but The Beatles gave their nervous systems, which is a much more difficult thing to give.
In some way we helped calm the places we went to, or we focused the energy on a positive energy, but for ourselves we were in the eye of the hurricane, weren't we? Everybody saw the effect of The Beatles, but nobody really ever worried about us as individuals, or thought, 'I wonder how the boys are coping with it all?' (People always called us the boys or The Beatles, more often than not failing to realise that The Beatles was four people. Four individuals.).
I got experience from it all, all the knowledge you gain by being famous and by dealing with all the situations, all the people, and the battering we received from the fans and the press and all that. It was an immeasurable amount of experience.
It was quite an astounding experience to have, but at the same time if we weren't in The Beatles we would have been in something else, not necessarily another rock'n'roll band. Karma is: what you sow, you reap. Like John said in 'All You Need Is Love': There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be,' because you yourself have carved out your own destiny by your previous actions. I always had a feeling that something was going to happen, right from when I was at school – which is why I didn't get involved too much with schoolwork. It didn't really signal the end of my life that I didn't get any GCEs.
PAUL: The best times? For me it has to be split into segments: so the early days would be the pure joy of meeting showbiz stars – that star-struck element, the wonder of showbiz. In fact, I can still remember the others taking the mickey once, because I was really quite taken by meeting the Duke of Edinburgh. They'd all gone: ‘What?!’ – 'Well, he is the Duke of Edinburgh after all.' I was convinced about all that at the time. So that would be the first phase. Then it was getting our first hit. We made Number Seventeen in the NME chart and I remember wanting to wind the window down – I was going past a little place called the Crafton in Liverpool – and I wanted to shout, 'We're Number Seventeen – wey-hey!' The thrill of our first chart position, and then our first Number One, all of that was pretty incredible. Then as we got together as a group... There were millions of great times. Too many to actually go over, so I'm picking out bits. Like in the back of the Austin Princess in the early days of cannabis indulgence – we used to have some very hysterical moments. About what I know not, but it was very, very funny.
Another wonderful thing was the joy of writing with John. John was a great talent. He was great to be around, very quick-witted and a very lovely soul. He could be a right bastard as well, unfortunately. But all in all, deep down, and having said that, he was a great person to know. He was a very charismatic guy. I was a bit of a John fan. I think we all were. And I think we had a mutual admiration going on there. When we started to bitch at each other I had quite a heavy period of self doubt. I'd be thinking, 'Uh oh, John was the great one, I was just stringing along.' But then I'd have to think to myself: 'Wait a minute, he wasn't a mug. He wouldn't work with me all that time if it didn't mean something to him.' One of the nicest little moments I remember from those years was when John had said he liked 'Here, There And Everywhere' better than any of his songs at the time – there were those silly little things.
RINGO: I was a big fan of John's. I always felt he had the biggest heart, and he wasn't the cynic that people thought. He had the biggest heart and he was the fastest. He was in and out. While we were still getting in he was out and on to the next round.
JOHN: All my friends were The Beatles, anyway. There was The Beatles and about three other fellas that I was really close with.
PAUL: It helped that we were like a gang together. Mick Jagger called us the Four-Headed Monster because we went everywhere together, dressed similarly. We'd all have black polo-neck sweaters and dark suits and the same haircut, so we did look a bit like a four-headed monster.
RINGO: There were lots of high points: one time when we played a gig in Glasgow – there was this communication going on, with the band and with the audience. That would have been 1963 or '64. There were some dates we did, some gigs when it was magical, and there were some gigs in the studio – some playing and some non-playing.
All the albums have great moments. There was so much good music. I was always (and still am to this day) really interested and excited about being in a band, and what a band does.
The 'White' album had some great music. I liked the musician situation, not everything else around it. Sgt Pepper is my least favourite, though it has some amazing stuff on it – it was great for (mainly) John and Paul to create all those sounds and 'get the violins in and instruments like that, because they were their songs; and when it came out it was the album. I don't know why I like it least – something to do with where my head was, or what was happening.
But, for me, Revolver – God! Some great stuff. Also, Abbey Road, the second side. And 'Yer Blues' on the 'White' album, you can't top it. It was the four of us. That is what I'm saying: it was really because the four of us were in a box, a room about eight by eight, with no separation. It was this group that was together; it was like grunge rock of the Sixties, really – grunge blues.
JOHN: In spite of all things, The Beatles really could play music together, if they're not uptight. And if I get a thing going, Ringo knows where to go, just like that, and he does well. We've played together so long that it fits. The thing that I sometimes miss is being able just to blink or make a certain noise and to know they'll all know where we are going on an ad lib thing.70
RINGO: I felt with us four it was magical and it was telepathy. When we were working in the studio sometimes it was just... it's indescribable, really. Although there were four of us, there was one of us; all of our hearts were beating at the same time. But the moment you think, 'Oh, aren't I playing well!' then you turn into shit.
GEORGE: In the big picture it doesn't really matter if we never made a record or we never sang a song. That isn't important. At death, you're going to be needing some spiritual guidance and some kind of inner knowledge that extends beyond the boundaries of the physical world. On that basis I would say that it doesn't matter whether you're the king of a country or you're the Sultan of Brunei or you're a fabulous Beatle; it's what's inside that counts. Some of the best songs that I know are the ones I haven't written yet and it doesn't even matter if I don't ever write them, because it's only small potatoes compared with the big picture.
JOHN: Anyway, I saw the life of Gauguin on TV, and it struck me that he'd died in such a pitiful way (VD, for which the 'cure' was mercury), with a foot broken and twisted from a drunken brawl after returning home for his first 'successful' opening in Paris.
He had gone to Tahiti to escape his own strait-jacket: working at a bank. A wife and children, one whom he was particularly fond of, a daughter to whom he had been dedicating a personal journal he kept whilst living in the South Pacific, explaining why he had left his family. When he returned to Tahiti, he received a letter from home telling him his daughter had died! What a price to pay to 'go down in history'. He finally finished his large 'masterwork', and died, the point being that, OK, he was a good painter, but the world could manage quite well without one scrap of his 'genius'. I believe the 'masterwork' was destroyed by fire after his death. The other point being, had he had access to so-called mysticism... fasting... meditation... and other disciplines (as in disciple), he could have reached the 'same space'. Hard work, I grant you, but easier than killing yourself and those around you.78
GEORGE: That was the great thing about John and what I got from him, from all those years. (And don't forget we all had different relationships with John. You can't just expect that all four of us felt or understood the same thing, or got the same relationship from one another. It's the story of diversity or multiplicity that many different relationships went on. John and I on a one-to-one basis had a very different relationship than I think he had with Ringo or he had with Paul.) He saw that we are not just in the material world; he saw beyond death, that this life is just a little play that is going on. And he understood that. You wouldn't claim something like Gauguin neglected his family for art, or dying for your painting is stupid – why bother? – unless you have a feeling that there is something bigger in life. A painting of a sunset cannot compare to the real sunset. Art (like music) is an insignificant attempt at reproducing what God does every moment.
Having gone through that LSD period with John, right from the first day we ever took it, I understood him and I believe our thoughts were much more in line with each other.
RINGO: I didn't find the answer. I think that would be really arrogant: 'Yes, I've got the answer!' I found my answer somewhere along the line. I thank God that I went through the Sixties, the Seventies and the Eighties to get where I am today, to feel comfortable with my spirituality.
No growth without pain is always the question and the answer. There is a lot of banging your head against the wall when you could be actually walking through the door. But that's what we all are – little human beings. God saved my life, I've always felt blessed. But there have been times I've got crazier and crazier and forgot about that blessing.
NEIL ASPINALL: My happiest memories of being with the band were some of the laughs that we had backstage and in dressing rooms – when nobody else was around and we were swapping jokes together. No big deal, really. It was those little personal things that are my favourite moments and still are today. We did all enjoy one another's company and we always had a laugh. That was one of the big things right the way through everything, even today – we enjoy a laugh.
RINGO: They became the closest friends I'd ever had. I was an only child and suddenly I felt as though I'd got three brothers. We really looked out for each other and we had many laughs together. In the old days we'd have the hugest hotel suites, the whole floor of a hotel, and the four of us would end up in the bathroom, just to be with each other. Because there were always pressures. Someone always wanted something: an interview, a hello, an autograph, to be seen with us, to speak to my dog, whatever.
SO THE FOUR OF US WERE REALLY CLOSE.
I LOVED IT. I LOVED THOSE GUYS.
We took care of each other and we were the only ones who had that experience of being Beatles. No one else knows what that's like. Even today, when the three of us get together, Paul and George are the only two who look at me like I am – not with the view: he's that and a Beatle. Everyone else does that; even our friends do that, there's always that underlying current.
In the way that the astronauts who went to the moon shared that unique experience together, it's absolutely true of The Beatles. We three are now the only people who can sit and understand each other and understand it.
I actually met a man who went to the moon and I asked him, 'When did the Earth stop being like we know it and get round like a planet?' And he said, 'Oh, I was too busy to notice.' I couldn't believe it! That was the big question – he was maybe the twelfth guy to be up there who could have noticed the point at which it became round, and didn't. I was shocked. But the Beatles were busy too, up there: though we were changing things, we were doing it and not looking around us. We were it, so we weren't looking for it. We were wearing collarless suits and suddenly the whole world was wearing them – we bought them in Cecil Gee's, it's not like we invented them. And we wore colourful clothes, and because we did it allowed a lot of other people to do the same.
PAUL: I think we gave some sort of freedom to the world. I meet a lot of people now who say The Beatles freed them up. If you think about it, the world was slightly more of an upper-class place till The Beatles came along. Regional actors had to have also a very good Shakespearean voice; and then it started to be enough just to have your own accent, your own truth. I think we set free a lot of people who were blinkered, who were perhaps starting to live life along their parents' authoritarian lines.
Whenever I'd get asked by a journalist, 'Have you studied anything?' – I studied a bit of literature, nothing much – I'd say, 'Oh yeah, Shakespeare,' and I'd always quote: 'To thine own self be true.' I think that was very apt with The Beatles. We always were very true to ourselves – and I think that the brutal honesty The Beatles had was important. So sticking to our own guns and really saying what we thought in some way gave some other people in the world the idea that they too could be truthful and get away with it, and in fact it was a good thing.
JOHN: The youth have hope because it's their future that they're hopeful about and if they're depressed about their own future, well, then we are in a bad state. And we keep hope alive by keeping it alive amongst ourselves and I have great hope for the future.
I think The Beatles were a kind of religion and that Paul epitomised The Beatles and the kind of things that were a hero image more than the rest of us, in a way. He was more popular with the kids, girls and things like that.
I think the Sixties was a great decade. I think the great gatherings of youth in America and in the Isle of Wight might have just been a pop concert to some people, but they were a lot more than that. They were the youth getting together and forming a new church, as it were, and saying, 'We believe in God, we believe in hope and truth and here we are, 20,000 or 200,000 of us, all together in peace.'70
GEORGE: The Beatles somehow reached more people, more nationalities, more parts that other bands couldn't reach. (If you listen to the music that's going on now, all the good stuff is stolen from The Beatles. Most of the good licks and riffs or ideas and titles. The Beatles have been plundered for thirty years.)
I think we gave hope to the Beatle fans. We gave them a positive feeling that there was a sunny day ahead and that there was a good time to be had and that you are your own person and that the government doesn't own you. There were those kind of messages in a lot of our songs.
PAUL: I do these songs still: 'Let It Be' and the like. And to actually see young kids crying over the spirit in the song, I'm very proud of that. It could have gone another way. I say to people, 'Hey, if The Beatles were really bad, we could have played Hitler's game. We could have got kids to do anything, such was our power.'
RINGO: I do get emotional when I think back about those times. My make-up is emotional. I'm an emotional human being. I'm very sensitive and it took me till I was forty-eight to realise that was the problem!
We were honest with each other and we were honest about the music. The music was positive. It was positive in love. They did write – we all wrote – about other things, but the basic Beatles message was Love.
RINGO: THERE WERE SOME REALLY LOVING, CARING MOMENTS BETWEEN FOUR PEOPLE: A HOTEL ROOM HERE AND THERE – A REALLY AMAZING CLOSENESS. JUST FOUR GUYS WHO REALLY LOVED EACH OTHER. IT WAS PRETTY SENSATIONAL.
PAUL: I'M REALLY GLAD THAT MOST OF THE SONGS DEALT WITH LOVE, PEACE, UNDERSTANDING. THERE'S HARDLY ANY ONE OF THEM THAT SAYS: 'GO ON, KIDS, TELL THEM ALL TO SOD OFF. LEAVE YOUR PARENTS.' IT'S ALL VERY 'ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE' OR JOHN'S 'GIVE PEACE A CHANCE'. THERE WAS A GOOD SPIRIT BEHIND IT ALL, WHICH I'M VERY PROUD OF. ANYWAY... IT WERE A GRAND THING, THE BEATLES.
GEORGE: I'D LIKE TO THINK THAT THE OLD BEATLE FANS HAVE GROWN UP AND THEY'VE GOT MARRIED AND THEY’VE ALL GOT KIDS AND THEY'RE ALL MORE RESPONSIBLE, BUT THEY STILL HAVE A SPACE IN THEIR HEARTS FOR US.
JOHN: WHEN I WAS A BEATLE, I THOUGHT WE WERE THE BEST GROUP IN THE GODDAMN WORLD. AND BELIEVING THAT WAS WHAT MADE US WHAT WE WERE!80 I'VE GROWN UP. I DON’T BELIEVE IN FATHER FIGURES ANY MORE, LIKE GOD, KENNEDY OR HITLER. I'M NO LONGER SEARCHING FOR A GURU. I'M NO LONGER SEARCHING FOR ANYTHING. THERE IS NO SEARCH. THERE’S NO WAY TO GO. THERE’S NOTHING. THIS IS IT. WE'LL PROBABLY CARRY ON WRITING MUSIC FOREVER.67
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