This week, 50 years ago, it was not easy to be a Beatles fan.
On April 10, 1970, Paul McCartney announced he was quitting the Beatles. The group had already appeared on Ed Sullivan with a clip of “Let it Be” on February 15th. Yoko Ono, who kids didn’t really grasp yet, was with the band as they played. She looked like the Angel of Death.
Three weeks later, on March 6th, came the release of the “Let it Be” single. It went straight to number 1, it was all anyone talked about. Just its existence, and reports of the album of the same name, made everything seem ok. But I also had biology class, where a little snake was waiting to be split open like a hot dog on the grill.
Then came April 10th, and Paul’s announcement that the Beatles were done. We didn’t really know that everyone else had quit and returned already. Thanks to the book, “All You Need is Love,” many years later, we found out that at a 1969 business meeting, John had learned that Paul had bought up more shares in Dick James Music. John and Paul had always had an agreement of equal shares. Allen Klein stoked the fire, making John even crazier. John and Yoko stormed out.That was actually the end.
In 1990, I asked Paul about it that episode. He was not sorry about it. (I’m not saying he should have been.) He told me, “I was investing in myself.”
Back to the action. The April 10th news was a killer. What about the “Let it Be” album? It was coming on May 10th. But wait– there was a surprise. Paul was releasing his first solo album, “McCartney.” It arrived on April 17th. “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Every Night” were instant staples on FM radio. There was no single, however. “Maybe I’m Amazed” would wait six more years to get a whole new live version for radio.
I remember standing in Korvette’s on May 10th, getting “Let it Be.” It would take a long time to understand what had gone on to undo the world’s greatest group forever. At the time, it was still confusing that they’d made “Abbey Road,” which we’d already heard the prior September, before this. I mean, what?
Recently, I watched the real “Let it Be” movie. You can find it online. I remember seeing it in 1970, and then it vanished. It’s never been on DVD, and was only briefly on video cassette. Someone must have had it. For years I asked about its status. Would it ever come out?
Watching it now, you can see why it was buried. It’s a tough little report about a divorce. Michael Lindsay-Hogg filmed in January 1969 leading up to the famous rooftop concert. A lot of that footage has been released, or floats around on YouTube. But it’s the first 30 or 40 minutes that are more interesting.
The best parts are watching George, Ringo, and John as they react to Paul, who is clearly in charge. It’s incredible that they went on to make such a masterpiece as “Abbey Road,” because they were in unspoken disharmony. The public may see this movie this year. My favorite part is Ringo showing George a new song he wrote– “Octopus’s Garden”– and George then offering a musical suggestion for it. John joins in. When they are creating, there is sheer joy. They are four geniuses at work.
My dad doesn’t remember this now. But I played “Let it Be” so loud when I got home, and refused to come down for dinner, that he snapped it in two. I had to go back to Korvette’s the next day to get another one. Those were the days!