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The Beatles' break-up

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The Beatles' break-up describes the events related to the break-up of The Beatles, one of the most popular and influential musical groups in history. The break-up has become almost as much of a legend as the band itself or the music they created while together. The Beatles were active from their formation in 1960 to the disintegration of the group in 1970.

There were numerous causes for the Beatles' break-up. It was not a single event but a long transition, including the cessation of touring in 1966, and the death of their manager, Brian Epstein, in 1967, meaning the Beatles were personally involved in financial and legal conflicts.

Conflict arose from differences between each member's artistic vision. Both George Harrison and Ringo Starr temporarily 'left' the group at various points during 1968-1969 and all four band members had begun working on solo projects by 1970 as the appeal of working together as a group began to wane. Ultimately, animosity made it impossible for the group to continue working together and Paul McCartney made the break-up public knowledge as part of the press release for his first solo album, McCartney.

Although there were sporadic collaborative recording efforts among the band members (most notably Starr's Ringo, 1973 being the only time that the four have—albeit on separate tracks—appeared on the same album post-break-up), all four Beatles never simultaneously collaborated as a recording or performing group ever again, and Starr's 1976 album Ringo's Rotogravure album is the last post-break-up album to which all four Beatles contribute and are credited on the same album: besides Ringo's drumming and songwriting contributions, Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison are all credited with composing one track apiece. After John Lennon's death in 1980, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr reconvened for Harrison's "All Those Years Ago". The trio reunited as the Beatles for the Anthology project in 1994; using the two unfinished Lennon demos "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love" for what would be the last two songs under the Beatles name.

Brian Epstein's deathEdit

Epstein was arguably the man most influential in launching and promoting the group's worldwide popularity. He also managed to hold the group together, as his management style was to let the group pursue its musical notions and projects, while often mediating if there was a conflict. However, this role began to diminish after the band stopped touring, although he still exercised a strong influence, settling disputes among members and, most importantly, handling the group's finances. When he died of a drug overdose in 1967, there was a void left in the band. Lennon had the closest personal relationship with Epstein and was the most affected by his death. McCartney likely sensed the precarious situation and sought to initiate projects for the group. The rest of the band progressively became perturbed by his growing domination in musical as well as other group ventures. Lennon later reflected that McCartney's efforts were important for the survival of the band, but he still believed that McCartney's desire to help came from McCartney's own misgivings about pursuing a solo career.

The foundation of Apple Corps was initiated under the oversight of Epstein as a tax shelter endeavour. His unexpected death left the future of Apple Corps in doubt. The lack of Epstein's supervision and the Beatles' inexperience as businessmen led to an unexpectedly chaotic venture that only added to stress when the band returned to the studio to produce The White Album.

George Harrison's emergence as a songwriterEdit

In the early years, Lennon and McCartney were the two primary songwriters and vocalists, while the other two members, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, took more supporting roles in the band. Lennon and McCartney would often compose one song per album for Starr to sing, and let Harrison either cover an old standard, or record one of his own compositions. From 1965 onward, Harrison's compositions started to mature and become more appealing in their quality. Gradually the other band members acknowledged his potential as a songwriter. Though Harrison emerged as a proficient songwriter and producer, he nonetheless continued to have his song ideas for the most part rejected, especially when his compositions were offered during the Twickenham rehearsals. He became frustrated and this led to estrangement from the rest of the group.

Difficulty in collaborationEdit

After the band had stopped touring, each of the musicians to one degree or another began to pursue their own musical tastes. When the band convened to resume recording in late 1966, there was still a camaraderie and desire to collaborate as musicians. However, their individual differences were becoming more apparent. McCartney, perhaps to a greater degree than the others, maintained a deep interest in the pop musical trends and styles emerging both in Britain and the United States, whereas Harrison developed an interest in Indian music and Lennon's compositions became more introspective and experimental. Consequently, McCartney began to assume the role of the initiator and, to a degree, leader of the artistic projects of the Beatles.

Each band member began to develop individual artistic agendas, which eventually compromised the enthusiasm among the musicians. Soon, each band member became impatient with the others. This became most evident on the album The Beatles (aka The White Album) in which personal artistic preferences began to dominate the recording sessions, which in turn further undermined the band's unity.

Yoko OnoEdit

John met Yoko in November 1966 and pretty much immediately fell desperately in love with her. He assumes that since he loves her so much her that everybody else will love her too. The problem is that the band was uncomfortable with her in the studio. John had her by his side and later in a bed in the studio, in the studio while that band was trying to work. She wanted to be treated as an equal, but she wasn’t a Beatle. Yoko freely commented and criticized the work as it was being recorded. No other Beatles' wives or girl friends had been in the studio. Yoko demands to be treated as an equal, but she’s not an equal, she’s not a Beatle.

Paul sees Yoko from two different perspectives. First, he recognizes that she is the perfect woman for John and is very happy for him. "Yoko had freed John to explore the avant-garde in ways that had not been possible in during John's married years in suburbia. In fact she wanted more. Do it more, do it double, be more daring, take all your clothes off! She always pushed him, which he liked; nobody had ever pushed him like that."

On the other hand, Paul does admit that he was hurt by being replaced by her "It was ...like old army buddies splitting up on account of wedding bells. You know..." (sings) "'Those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine.' He'd fallen in love, and none of us was stupid enough to say, 'Oh, you shouldn't love her.' We could recognize that, but that didn't diminish the hurt we were feeling by being pushed aside. He also admits "The thing is, in truth, I never really got on that well with Yoko anyway. It was John who got on well with her--that was John who got on well with her... that was the whole point."

When asked how he would characterize George's, Paul's and Ringo's reaction to Yoko, John said "It's the same. You can quote Paul, it's probably in the papers; he said it many times that at first he hated Yoko, and then he got to like her. But it's too late for me. I'm for Yoko. Why should she take that kind of shit from those people? They were writing about her looking miserable in the film Let It Be, but you sit through sixty sessions with the most bigheaded, uptight people on earth and see what it's fuckin' like and be insulted. And George, shit, insulted her right to her face in the Apple office at the beginning, just being ``straightforward, you know, that game of ``I'm going to be upfront, because this is what we've heard, and Dylan and a few people said she'd got a lousy name in New York. That's what George said to her! And we both sat through it. I didn't hit him; I don't know why. Ringo was all right, but the other two really gave it to us. I'll never forgive them, I don't care what fuckin' shit about Hare Krishna and God and Paul with his ``Well, I've changed me mind. I can't forgive 'em for that, really. Although I can't help still loving them either."

The Beatles double albumEdit

The Beatles reconvened at Harrison's home in Esher in May 1968 to record demos that would ultimately become released in November 1968 as The Beatles. This was released as a double album and both the Beatles and the public alternately referred to it as The White Album. Contemporaneous reviews and retrospective commentary by the Beatles acknowledged that the album reflected the development of autonomous composers, musicians and artists.

Lennon and McCartney's artistic venues for the Beatles became more disparate. Harrison continued to develop as a songwriter; unfortunately he had little support from within the band. His composition "Not Guilty" reflected his state of mind during the recording of The Beatles. Starr began to develop and pursue cinematic opportunities during this period. He was also distressed by the increasingly sour and tense atmosphere that was characteristic of the recording sessions. At one point he felt so left out that he decided to leave and went on a break from the band for several weeks. On return he found his drum kit decorated with flowers (which were a gift from George Harrison).

As the sessions progressed there was a growing tension in the band. The disquiet was multifaceted in nature, but it was the artistic and personal discord that was most salient. The strain of the sessions took its toll on Geoff Emerick (recording engineer employed by EMI) and more notably Starr. Both left during the sessions, which commenced in June and concluded in October. These were the first substantive signs of the group's emerging disunity and antipathy. Rolling Stone described the double album as "four solo albums in one roof".

Upon completion and release of The Beatles the group did not give collective interviews or recorded appearances. The public relations were carried out individually. The most telling evidence of the group's collective alienation was the release of the 1968 Christmas fan club recording. The contributions were entirely individual and Lennon made disparaging remarks about his band mates' apparent disdain for Ono.

The Twickenham and Apple studio recording sessionsEdit

By the end of 1968, the Beatles' status as a group entity was in limbo. McCartney, who had unofficially assumed the mantle of leadership since Epstein's death, suggested a group project involving rehearsing, recording and performing the songs in a live concert. Though the recording sessions for the double album initially involved ensemble playing, the band was ill-prepared to settle comfortably back into this mode. Only eight days after recording sessions commenced, Harrison's frustration and resentment peaked and he informed his band mates that he was leaving. The combined patronising by McCartney and estrangement from Lennon had taken its toll. Thus, the band was on the verge of potential collapse and at an impasse. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine cited a recording that exists from the Twickenham sessions the day after Harrison's departure in which Lennon suggested having Eric Clapton take over lead guitar duties.

Ultimately, complicated and heated negotiations brought Harrison back into the group's activities. The plan for a concert was abandoned and the recording sessions were resumed at Savile Row Apple Studios. The band gave its last public performance on the rooftop of Apple's headquarters in Savile Row, London, on 30 January 1969 as a substitute for an audience-based concert.

Business quagmire: Allen Klein, Lee Eastman and ATV-Northern SongsEdit

Apple Corps during this period was plagued by business problems. Lennon and Ono met with Allen Klein regarding managerial advice. Subsequently, Lennon requested that Klein represent his business interests in the band. Harrison and Starr acquiesced, while McCartney had ambiguous feelings about Klein's managerial potential. McCartney's growing relationship with Linda Eastman opened the opportunity for Lee and John Eastman, Linda's father and brother, respectively, to become involved in advising the band's financial and legal decision-making. However, the band members' quarrels and disharmony over musical matters soon permeated their business discussions.

Dick James, who held substantial rights to Northern Songs (the Lennon/McCartney song catalogue), became increasingly concerned over the band's dissension and resentment towards him. Without informing the Beatles, he inconspicuously entertained offers to sell his substantial shares in Northern Songs. Klein and the Eastmans were caught off-guard and their attempts to reclaim control of the Beatles (via Maclen Music) failed. It soon became evident that the Eastmans and Klein had developed an adversarial relationship given their disparate advice and counsel. This further aggravated the underlying mistrust and antipathy experienced within the band.

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