Portraits of a dysfunctional family
August 19, 2013 8:38 PM   Subscribe

The Last Beatles Photo Shoot
posted by flapjax at midnite (94 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man. I never really had anything against Yoko (even having heard the jam session stories), thinking that maybe she was just misunderstood, until I saw these photos. It all suddenly made sense.

Unrelated: I hope Paul outlives Ringo. Not that I want Ringo dead, just that I want Paul to love longer.

Also unrelated: I love any story that talks about the band's fate being intertwined with Eric Clapton.

Great set. Thanks.
posted by supercres at 8:54 PM on August 19, 2013


Knowing what was going on at this point, and knowing what came before and how everyone more or less reconciled after....this is actually one of my favorite pictures of John and Paul because they're both at work, and both smiling. They went through a shit time at the end, but dammit they loved each other.

Also unrelated: I love any story that talks about the band's fate being intertwined with Eric Clapton.

Even more unrelated - the night that George Harrison quit may have very well been the same night that he first saw Monty Python and comforted himself with the thought that the spirit of fun and zany that had used to be in the Beatles had found a new home. It's why George was such a major Monty Python fan.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:01 PM on August 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


If they had "gotten Eric in" and gone on for an album or two, I bet they would have been good, but it might have been at the expense of Derek and the Dominos, which is not a price I am sure I would want to pay.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:04 PM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


John, a person who reacted aggressively to provocation, immediately said, “Let’s get in Eric. He’s just as good and not such a headache.”

Wow, what a dig, especially since Eric was at the time trying to bang George's wife.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:04 PM on August 19, 2013 [14 favorites]


Well, there is that.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:05 PM on August 19, 2013


Ouch. Great photos, but a painful story. You can see George feeling alienated in several of the pictures.
posted by arcticseal at 9:36 PM on August 19, 2013


There's always been such an urge to assign blame around the breakup of The Beatles. Isn't it possible they just grew up and grew apart? I think it's amazing four such incredibly talented and different people, facing such incredible public scrutiny, were able to stick together as long as they did.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:45 PM on August 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


Unrelated: I hope Paul outlives Ringo. Not that I want Ringo dead, just that I want Paul to love longer.

Ringo seems to have had more fun across the years than Paul, and seems to have embodied the original spirit of The Beatles much better than Paul over the decades.

Ideally, they would both die together, on stage, performing some symbolically-perfect Beatles song during some global satellite-broadcast concert. The song would hit a climax and they'd both just collapse.

It's a cruel image on some level, but also somehow poetic and perfect.
posted by hippybear at 9:46 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's always been such an urge to assign blame around the breakup of The Beatles. Isn't it possible they just grew up and grew apart?

Aside from Yoko and John's involvement, there seems to have been a bit of a thing about Paul wanting a family member to be involved with the band's finances which is more likely the true reason for the dissolution. Plus George's dissatisfaction for constantly being left out when it came to songs recorded and included on albums. Ringo always seems to have wanted it all to just continue forever. I *heart* Ringo.

The moment in The Anthology (maybe it was some of the supplemental material) when he's hanging with Paul and George, and he says something about how much he's enjoyed the day together, and both Paul and George give him sort of a condescending-yet-affectionate bit of physical affection... It breaks my heart every time I watch it. It's like Ringo is still the left-out hangdog from Hard Day's Night, and he's reunited with his best friends from ages ago, and he's the only one who doesn't really get that it will never be the same.
posted by hippybear at 9:50 PM on August 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


Ringo seems to have had more fun across the years than Paul,

Hmm... ol' Ringo's probably outdrunk Paul by thousands of gallons, but I reckon Paul's outsmoked Ringo by several hundred kilos. I think they're tied, if anything.

(Ringo) seems to have embodied the original spirit of The Beatles much better than Paul over the decades.

Well, I wouldn't necessarily agree with that. Ringo has maintained a sort of loveable goof image that he always had (albeit with a few nasty, mean-drunk episodes here and there) but I don't think that, in and of itself, encapsulates the "spirit of the Beatles". For example, Paul has steadily maintained his very driven, work-ethic: his let's-write-and-record-some-music method of operation which was, of course, a HUGE part of the "original spirit of The Beatles".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:57 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, Ringo has 16 post-Beatles albums compared with McCartney's 22... Not a bad track record for a guy who was lucky to get even one song per Beatles album whilst in the group...

Plus Ringo did one of the most fun Christmas albums ever.
posted by hippybear at 10:00 PM on August 19, 2013


If they had "gotten Eric in" and gone on for an album or two, I bet they would have been good, but it might have been at the expense of Derek and the Dominos

Maybe he meant Eric Idle! (But then would there have ever have been The Rutles??)

Also, I have always wondered: what is up with that big weird belt John is wearing?
posted by scody at 10:01 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, Ringo has 16 post-Beatles albums compared with McCartney's 22...

quantity is meaningless
posted by philip-random at 10:07 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


... and the greatest band ever in the history of anything would've been John + the Dominos (Lennon, Clapton, Allman, Jim Gordon, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle).


sorry, Ringo
posted by philip-random at 10:13 PM on August 19, 2013


quantity is meaningless

Not by this metric: "very driven, work-ethic: his let's-write-and-record-some-music method of operation which was, of course, a HUGE part of the "original spirit of The Beatles"."
posted by hippybear at 10:14 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


arcticseal: "Ouch. Great photos, but a painful story. You can see George feeling alienated in several of the pictures."


That's really sad. He's my favorite second favorite Beatle.

Speaking of wishing who'd go next, my theory is they die in order of coolness, so my bet is on McCartney being last.

I'm sorry, I just think he's a scrub.

...

But what I was going to say, is that if you want to see and feel alienation from a member of a band, watch this video of Jugband Blues by Pink Floyd with the painful lyrics Syd is singing about being pushed out of the band.

...

Eric Clapton in the Beatles? Fuck. No. I can't stand that guy, and I am so glad they never went down that road.
posted by symbioid at 10:15 PM on August 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


All this talk of who should go next reminds me that I really want a Daltrey/McCartney/Starr/Townsend supergroup called Who's Left. I know it's crass, but wouldn't it also be magnificent?
posted by novelgazer at 10:23 PM on August 19, 2013 [17 favorites]


From recent live performances I've seen of Paul, I'm pretty sure he died around 1998 and they've done some creepy animatronic thing with his corpse.
posted by Jimbob at 10:25 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hope Paul lives the longest. I think it's clear they are dying in order of coolest to lamest. Everything I've come to understand about George confirms this (it goes without saying that John was no question the heart and soul).

The question is, who is destined to be the sole, lonely holdout? Who will be the fat lone emphysematic on stage with with 3 dozen dancers 50 years his younger doing his moves for him singing I Feel Fine at the Superbowl Halftime Show? If it's Ringo, I imagine its camp, it's tongue in cheek, largely in step with the original Beatles' vision. Ringo gets cast as the new Q, starts a podcast where he he does shots and pontificates on the state of the world, and does cameos for every up and coming British wanker band like the Arctic Monkeys.

If it's Paul, I imagine something darker,sadder. Tours with orchestras highlighting the hits. Art shows by himself and his girlfriend/wife interpreting the hits. Collaborations with people like Usher. Lines of Beatles memorabilia licensed to car companies, golf resorts, cruise companies.

I think the story of American pop culture is the story of old people trying to capitalize and relive things they did when they were younger, mostly this is sad, but rarely it's fun. The narrative of Ringo as the final Beatle could be more fun, but if Paul goes last my cynical view of how fame and art and youth works is unchallenged.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:29 PM on August 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


Just had the opportunity to see Paul McCartney live in concert (self-link to a blog post) and whether you're a fan or not, my advice is GO!!!

The opportunities to see the most successful, most covered, (arguably) most influential songwriter of the 20th Century don't come along very often. And, for his part, McCartney isn't doing some nostalgia tour, mailing it in - his show *kicked ass*.

Plus, for most of us, this will be the closest we ever get to seeing a Beatles concert (and McCartney has also apparently opened up to this idea over the years as well - from doing very Wings-heavy sets in the 1970's to incorporating more of his Beatles tunes into shows over the years to a point now where he'll even play the odd song that was written by John or George as a tribute to them.)
posted by Jaybo at 10:29 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is it just me or is George putting off kind of an Uncle Charlie vibe in these photos?
posted by evil otto at 10:43 PM on August 19, 2013


There's a lot being written into those particular pictures. A lot of editorialising. We have been given a limited set of reflections in the piece. I tend to think of The Beatles as an extraordinary family under an extraordinary amount of pressure, most being played out in public. They argue and storm off and form partnerships and cross-partnerships over time and brood and they all ultimately got along and they all played together or saw each other again; not the 4 of them at the same time I don't think, but I'm not sure the public's hankering for a storyline of grudges and hatred was the true reality. They just moved on because they outgrew the band. I like the photo set, I just don't know that hanging such a heavy story on momentary captures is really real.
posted by peacay at 11:03 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


All joking aside, I am so, so with you, Jaybo. I just saw him at Outside Lands, and not only was it one of the top concert experiences of my life, it was one of the top experiences of my life, period. Part of it was getting to hear him do some of my favorite songs in the world. Part of it was the fact that he fucking nailed every single song, played a fucking 3 hour set, and put on a show worthy of a man who is widely thought to be one of the greatest musicians who ever lived. And part of it -- I'm sorry, but I'm going to tell my inner cynic to shut the fuck up on this one -- was the feeling of love in the air. 65,000 people seeing one of their favorite musicians do their favorite songs and totally fucking nailing it. Sure, it wasn't much of a surprise that everyone sung along to the refrain of Hey Jude. But the cool part was as we were leaving Golden Gate Park, the crowd spontaneously starting singing it again. "na na na NA NA NA NA, NA NA NA NA, hey Jude... na na na NA NA NA NA, NA NA NA NA, hey Jude..." And thinking of Paul writing a song called Hey Jules to cheer up his bandmate's son whose parents were going through a shitty divorce...

All I can say is this : the second song of his set was The Magical Mystery Tour. Some twenty years on, I think it's safe to say the Magical Mystery Tour done runnoft with me. Thank you for that, Sir Paul, thank you.
posted by evil otto at 11:06 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I know it's shallow, but the picture of Yoko in her jeans and general outfit, could have been taken yesterday.

It's strange how in 40 years fashions have come around to the original.
posted by BlueMarble72 at 11:22 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw Paul perform at the Hollywood Bowl about eight hours after getting my cancer diagnosis.

Standing there with my boyfriend on one side and my best friend on the other, listening to Paul sing "Let It Be," made me feel that everything would be absolutely fine. And you know what? Sir Paul ain't never lied to me.

(and that's coming from a hardcore George girl)
posted by scody at 11:22 PM on August 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


My favorite thing about this set of photos is what they're wearing.

Ultimately, Paul is dressed in what looks like it could simply be a fashionable tailored suit of the time. Ringo is going all out with the over sized neckerchief with the psychedelic design, and I can't help but get the feeling that he went out there thinking "oh, this will be a kick when I get to the shoot. I bet we'll have a bit of a laugh at Ringo's eccentric style, alright." Then he gets there and John and George show up looking like 2 of the Three Amigos after a bender. Poor guy.
posted by shmegegge at 11:28 PM on August 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


Speaking of wishing who'd go next, my theory is they die in order of coolness, so my bet is on McCartney being last.

Paul McCartney is probably my least favorite Beatle. Having said that, he has written, sung and collaborated on many songs I find beautiful. His work has enriched my life. I hope he lives forever.

In a good way, not some sort of zombiism or creative greek curse.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:32 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


This picture (on the bridge) puts the dynamics in order and says a lot, about who stands next to who, where they are looking, the tensions, the gradation of power from strength to weakness, life to death (left to right).
posted by stbalbach at 11:43 PM on August 19, 2013


I'm surprised no one's pointed out the glaring errors in the first paragraph:

They had just finished recording the last album they would ever make together, and relations between the four band members of the Beatles were at an all-time low. George Harrison had walked out for five days during the recording of Abbey Road and threatened to leave the band all together. Lennon called the experience of recording the album "hell … the most miserable … on Earth".

George's temporary departure happened during the Let It Be sessions, and that Lennon quote is in reference to the same sessions.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 11:44 PM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Unrelated: I hope Paul outlives Ringo. Not that I want Ringo dead, just that I want Paul to love longer.

What a weird thing to hope
posted by mattoxic at 11:52 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man. I never really had anything against Yoko (even having heard the jam session stories), thinking that maybe she was just misunderstood, until I saw these photos. It all suddenly made sense.

It's complicated. The "no girlfriends" rule makes sense when your girlfriend is just a girlfriend. It's much trickier when your girlfriend is a world-class artist who you see as an active collaborator in your creative activities, has renewed your creative energies, worked with John Cage and jazz legend Ornette Coleman, performed at Carnegie Hall years before she ever met you, coauthored "Revolution 9," and performed on "Birthday" and "Buffalo Bill." You couldn't just excise her from the studio the way you would, say, Cynthia Lennon, because she was engaged in an actual artistic collaboration with John. Paul would have a similar collaboration with Linda McCartney, and had the Beatles survived, I am sure Linda would have been part of the process too.

Eric Clapton in the Beatles? Fuck. No. I can't stand that guy, and I am so glad they never went down that road.

You might want to avoid "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:53 PM on August 19, 2013 [22 favorites]


I remember reading that one of the reasons "Let It Be" (the film) hasn't been re-released or outtakes shown is that there is a fistfight between John & George? And other fraught scenes that surviving Beatles and widows consider as damaging to the brand. Is this correct?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:05 AM on August 20, 2013


I remember reading that one of the reasons "Let It Be" (the film) hasn't been re-released or outtakes shown is that there is a fistfight between John & George? And other fraught scenes that surviving Beatles and widows consider as damaging to the brand. Is this correct?

I have a copy of the Let It Be film. There are definitely no fistfights. The most fraught scene is the famous conversation between Paul and George about George's guitar playing. But even that scene isn't as fraught as all the commentary I've read about it suggests - it's all very 'polite English'.

Overall it's a nice snapshot of the Beatles in the studio (and on the rooftop!). Paul comes across as trying too hard (but that's just Paul), John comes across somewhat as 'mind elsewhere', but everyone's present and acting professional and in keeping with what we know about them.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 12:17 AM on August 20, 2013


I once watched a copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy VHS I obtained from from a video store in NYC that had an ... enlightened view of copyright laws. I'll let you guess which one, heh heh heh.

Anyway, I recall it being really dry, awkward, and ... kinda boring. No fistfights (that I can recall). Just the Beatles trying and failing to collaborate. There are fits and starts where it looks like they're working together, until you realize Lennon is just singing some smacked-out gibberish about B.B. King, and nobody's really happy with anyone else or having a whole lot of fun. And Yoko is pretty much always there, sitting in a corner, looking kinda creepy. I mean, I'm officially Yoko Neutral™, but it's just kinda bizarre, you'll see the band totally not getting it together, or only getting it partially together, and then they pan to Yoko sitting in the corner, and you realize she's been sitting there THE ENTIRE TIME, and probably was there in all the other scenes, too. I remember reading some terrible band biography, some hatchet job on Lennon, total rubbish, but one thing that stuck with me about the account of those sessions is how cold it apparently was in the studio. Drafty. Watching Let It Be, I can believe it. The wonder isn't that they've never released it on DVD; it's more a wonder that they'd ever release it at all.
posted by evil otto at 12:17 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I will say, the final scene on the rooftop with Billy Preston is worth the price of admission alone. You get the feeling Preston got in there and was like, "You guys do realize you're the fucking BEATLES, right? Fuck the dumb shit, let's just play, okay?"
posted by evil otto at 12:19 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you don't like Paul, you don't like the Beatles, because, far more than anything else, the Beatles were their songs, and their songs were almost all written (and definitively sung permanently into your memory) by Paul and John.

And if you're trying to blame someone else for Paul and John's breakup, you're wasting your time. It was a marriage that just wore itself out and then disintegrated when John and Paul started cheating on each other. Luckily, George and Ringo were old enough to leave home, so there were no custody issues.

Also, I have always wondered: what is up with that big weird belt John is wearing?

It's his utility belt. When Paul was singing "he-ey Jude," John was always singing "Ba-at man."
posted by pracowity at 12:19 AM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I will say, the final scene on the rooftop with Billy Preston is worth the price of admission alone. You get the feeling Preston got in there and was like, "You guys do realize you're the fucking BEATLES, right? Fuck the dumb shit, let's just play, okay?"

I was just about to share this same sentiment. They're all evidently having a really good time during that gig - and the songs are great, very entertaining.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 12:23 AM on August 20, 2013


I think the rumored fistfight is in an outtake (in other words, not in the official release). I wish I could remember where I read it -- a magazine, I think (a music magazine, not some gossipy rag). I'll try to find it tomorrow.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:26 AM on August 20, 2013


I have a copy of the Let It Be film

Here is the entire film.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:09 AM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Let It Be is alternately a painful and a boring watch. It's kind of mind boggling how much total dicking around they did in the studio. It's a miracle they got anything done at all. The rooftop concert is pretty sweet, though.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:20 AM on August 20, 2013


Man, it's the pictures of Yoko that get me!!!! She's like a little kid! She would fit in perfectly on any high school or college campus in the US, tomorrow. She looks younger than I do now. And that photo was taken in the 70s, which JUST happened, right?

And now? Now??? YOKO ONO IS 80!!!! She's 80!!!!!

It really freaks me out. How does it happen so fast???
posted by cairdeas at 3:16 AM on August 20, 2013


How does it happen so fast???

Life is but a dream.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:19 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, more so than any of the others, she just looks so full of an interesting interior world and interior secrets. If I were a few years younger than her at that time and knew her I would totally want to follow around and read her notebooks and peek in her drawers and steal her scarves and shoes...
posted by cairdeas at 3:24 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now that I am on a Yoko high I also just have to say about this:

After George’s walkout in the summer of 1969, the band went back to work after lunch and Michael Lindsay Hogg recalls the moment Yoko joined in on an impromptu jamming with the band.

“Yoko sat on the edge of the rostrum on the blue cushion which had been George’s and howled into his mike.”


I feel like this quote was meant to show how fully obnoxious, unbearable, and unbelievably entitled she was. But it just makes me so crazy about her, that she did that.

I just love that she went and took up space that all these other people were disgusted by her for taking up; that she took the mike and made the sound that she wanted to make, even though it was a LOUD sound and all these other people didn't find it pleasing to their ears. I love that she stepped right into a space just vacated by a universally-beloved, adored-around-the-world rock star, a space clearly considered to be his space, and did that. It just tickles me so much.
posted by cairdeas at 3:33 AM on August 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


I love that she stepped right into a space just vacated by a universally-beloved, adored-around-the-world rock star, a space clearly considered to be his space, and did that.

Yoko had been at the center of the Fluxus movement, was associated with highly respected and world renowned composers like John Cage and LaMonte Young, had exhibited her art all around the globe, had published, and had performed in various art-related contexts. But even though the Fab Four's fame dwarfed all of that, she was not dazzled by it. She knew who she was and what she was about, and she knew that John Lennon was crazy about her. So she was probably like, "fuck the rest of these people: this is about me and John now" And, well, she was right.

Her behavior might not have been the most, um, polite, or respectful of the working relationship the Beatles had had up until then, but she saw which way the wind was blowing, and she went with it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:18 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can't really work up a lot of hate for Yoko even if she might have helped break up the band. I feel like The Beatles were done by then and it would have been sad for them to trudge on when their hearts really weren't in it.
posted by octothorpe at 4:24 AM on August 20, 2013


I tend to think of The Beatles as an extraordinary family under an extraordinary amount of pressure, most being played out in public. They argue and storm off and form partnerships and cross-partnerships over time and brood and they all ultimately got along and they all played together or saw each other again; not the 4 of them at the same time I don't think, but I'm not sure the public's hankering for a storyline of grudges and hatred was the true reality.

I have the book tie-in that went with Martin Scorcese's biopic of George. In the book, there is a photocopy of two particular pages from George's diary:
January 1969, Friday, 10th

Got up, went to Twickenham (studio) - rehearsed until lunch time - left the Beatles - went home and in the evening did King of Fab at Trident studio - had chips later at Klaus and Christine's - came home.

January 1969, Saturday, 11th

Got up - John and Yoko diverted me at breakfast.
All emphases mine.

They were business partners. They were also friends. The business partnership ended but the friendship didn't. Yeah, the business stuff affected the friend stuff sometimes, and they all got pissed off at each other every now and then, but they were friends first.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:02 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, they'd been together through an unprecedented period of insanity - in terms of fame, there had never been anything quite like the Beatles before. Even Elvis, even SInatra. The four of them, plus Brian Epstein (who was now dead), George Martin, Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans. But mostly them JPG&R facing a screaming, ridiculous world. I'm not sure any of us are in a position to second-guess that kind of relationship.
posted by Grangousier at 5:20 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


George and John are going for a similar look, but George is the only one who really pulls it off. John's fluffy beard and skinny V-neck jumpsuit would be plenty bizarre even without that belt. Paul and Ringo look like Paul and Ringo.
posted by echo target at 6:17 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Plus Ringo did one of the most fun Christmas albums ever.

And Paul was responsible for Wonderful Christmastime, which means Ringo wins everything by default for ever and ever and ever.


Oh god August is nearly over. It's coming. IT'S COMING.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:18 AM on August 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


My take is that Yoko and Linda's involvement were more symptoms of the post-Epstein management vacuum than causes. George wanted out. John and Paul were wanting different things and were rarely actually collaborating after Epstein. John was courting Yoko's art world, and given substantial anecdotes that the could be a flaming asshole when it came to what he wanted, it's more likely that he changed the rules to pull her in as a collaborator.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:28 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


They were business partners. They were also friends. The business partnership ended but the friendship didn't.

That always surprised me. For a long time I assumed that, post-breakup, they had nothing to do with each other; it might have been because of songs like "How Do You Sleep." And then I found out that when Lorne Michaels offered the Beatles $3,000 to reunite in 1976, John and Paul were watching the broadcast together just down the street and actually considered hopping into a can and going to the studio.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:34 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


It would have been difficult for them both to get into that can, considering that Prince Albert is already in there, hogging all the space...
posted by hippybear at 6:43 AM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


even though the Fab Four's fame dwarfed all of that

Not everybody would have seen it that way, even then.
posted by glasseyes at 6:55 AM on August 20, 2013


How does it happen so fast???

Life is but a dream.


Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.

[And yes, I know Lennon nicked that phrase from elsewhere.]
posted by NorthernLite at 6:56 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lorne Michaels offered the Beatles $3,000 to reunite in 1976, John and Paul were watching the broadcast together just down the street and actually considered hopping into a can and going to the studio.
Video: "Why didn't you do it?"
"It would have been work, we were having a night off..."

posted by 445supermag at 7:00 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ideally, they would both die together, on stage, performing some symbolically-perfect Beatles song during some global satellite-broadcast concert. The song would hit a climax and they'd both just collapse.

Like this?
posted by cottoncandybeard at 7:09 AM on August 20, 2013


That always surprised me. For a long time I assumed that, post-breakup, they had nothing to do with each other; it might have been because of songs like "How Do You Sleep." And then I found out that when Lorne Michaels offered the Beatles $3,000 to reunite in 1976, John and Paul were watching the broadcast together just down the street and actually considered hopping into a can and going to the studio.

There is actually a pretty decent old VH1 movie that's a fictionalized account of that weekend, called "The Two of Us." I'm guessing it's on youtube if you'd want to watch it.

The text here is certainly interesting. Very anti-Yoko, but Bunny Ultramod is right--their earlier policies weren't great for their marriages either, and from the sound of it, John frequently alternated between neglect and abuse with Cynthia and was largely absent from his son's life. There are so many conflicting accounts of his life with Yoko, too, and at the very least it sounds intense and codependent. The crazy diets and the drugs and sending him off with May Pang when things got bad, the depression. What I'm struck by, in looking at these pictures, is how young these guys were--all around 30, and they were all so poor and working class and some (especially John) came from such broken families and I can't help but think what poor coping mechanisms they must have all had for fame, much less healthy adult lives and relationships
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:24 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow, what a dig, especially since Eric was at the time trying to bang George's wife.

Umm, they've both pretty much said, "Well, it was the 70s. Things were different." I always took that to mean there was a bit more casual banging happening. The falling in love thing was the weird part.
posted by DigDoug at 7:29 AM on August 20, 2013


As a couple commenters on the page pointed out, the article is misleading, in that the dysfunction it refers to--George walking out, being filmed fighting, an atmosphere of unbearable tension--occurred during the sessions for Let It Be, not Abbey Road. (Let It Be was recorded first, but released second, and was their failed attempt to become a live band again.) The Abbey Road sessions were, by most accounts, relaxed and positive. Maybe a minor point, except it means that in the Beatles last months they weren't calamitously pissy and irritated with each other. They were respectful and professional, something like friends again.
posted by Zerowensboring at 7:53 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Let's say for a moment that your dreams come true and all of a sudden your band is as hot as the Beatles were from 1964 until the last studio session. How long do you think you could go on with it? Thinking about it is exhausting. Maybe Pete Rose could have endured it for a lot longer than they did but there aren't too many I would think that have could as gone as far as they ended up going. Those guys were tired and cranky at the end.
posted by bukvich at 8:13 AM on August 20, 2013


how young these guys were--all around 30

How's this for putting your life's accomplishments in perspective: when Paul announced he was leaving the Beatles in 1970, he was only 27.
posted by stopgap at 8:31 AM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


stopgap: "
How's this for putting your life's accomplishments in perspective: when Paul announced he was leaving the Beatles in 1970, he was only 27.
"

And as the licence plate on that VW bug on the cover of Abbey Road has it, Paul would have been 28 IF he had lived...
posted by chavenet at 8:56 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I actually remember when The Beatles broke up. I didn't really understand much about it since I was only six but I remember my older sisters who were 14 and 17 being upset about it. I remember them playing a stack of Beatles Apple Label singles on a portable record player on the front porch to commemorate the event.
posted by octothorpe at 9:15 AM on August 20, 2013


I was ten or eleven when they broke up (1970). What struck me about it, was it made the News, the muzak radio station my parents listened to. I remember the kid across the street crying when I told him.

As for Let It Be (the movie), I've seen it at least three times. In fact, I'm sure if I did some digging, I could come up with a DVD rip somewhere. But honestly, I'm not inspired to do so, because it's anything but inspiring. Greatest band ever caught in its low key death throes. There are some nice moments, of course, but mostly it's young guys looking older than their years, dragging their fingers through greasy, overlong hair, looking miserable. So English.

For me, the Beatles peaked as a unit in 66-67 with Revolver and Sgt. Peppers, then hit some dizzying individual heights with the White album, but come 1969-70, things were in serious retrograde. Abbey Road generally gets raved about, but I've never quite got it as a full album. The Lennon and Harrison contributions are top notch, Ringo's song is perfect for six year olds, but McCartney's already laying out the blueprint for everything that I will come to hate about his solo career -- proving he can do anything, but failing to convince me why I should care. The songs themselves just aren't compelling, just Paul as much as saying, "See? I don't need these guys, I can do a Beatles thing all by myself."

But Oh Darling's a gem.
posted by philip-random at 10:07 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, a lot of the text from the article refers to the Let it Be sessions - the Abbey Road sessions (which took place in the summer of '69) were not filmed.

Re: Let it Be - I was surprised by some footage I saw on youtube a few years ago taken during the Let it Be sessions but never used in the film - there's a ton of such footage out there. It shows them goofing around, having a good time, seeming to enjoy one another. I have no reason to doubt that the takeaway from the sessions was strained, but it wasn't ALL that way. Makes you realize the importance of editing - in the final film, there's WAY more Paul than John. Paul was really driving the bus at the time.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 10:14 AM on August 20, 2013


what suprises me is how much they look like the flying burrito brothers.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:35 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aside from Yoko and John's involvement, there seems to have been a bit of a thing about Paul wanting a family member to be involved with the band's finances which is more likely the true reason for the dissolution.

Shift focus and it was more that Paul didn't trust Allen Klein and (like an idiot) Lennon did. (Granted, McCartney's suggestion to keep the business side in (his extended) family was probably not a good idea either, tact-wise. They should have gone with Prince Rupert.)

The "no girlfriends" rule makes sense when your girlfriend is just a girlfriend. It's much trickier when your girlfriend is a world-class artist who you see as an active collaborator in your creative activities, has renewed your creative energies, worked with John Cage and jazz legend Ornette Coleman, performed at Carnegie Hall years before she ever met you, coauthored "Revolution 9," and performed on "Birthday" and "Buffalo Bill."

For fun, here's the Village Voice's take on Yoko at Carnegie Hall in 1961. (Actually, it was the smaller Carnegie Recital Hall, now known as Weill Recital Hall - not shabby, but not exactly the toppermost of the poppermost, either.)
posted by IndigoJones at 10:37 AM on August 20, 2013


Jesus, those outfits. THOSE OUTFITS!!! What can I say. Don't do drugs kids.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:48 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


also - the head-scratcher for me sith the beatles breaking up is why they didn't just put it down for 4 or 5 years, take a hiatus, and then re-visit the idea of working together again. nowadays, that's a perfectly normal thing - especially considering they had their own label. i get all the legal in-fighting - what is the biggest shame to me is that they couldn't get the perspective to realize that there was room for both their individual passions and their chemistry as a band.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 10:50 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The amount of love and admiration that John gets, here and everywhere else, is a stark reminder for me that Chris Brown's only real sin was beating someone more famous than he was.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:55 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


also - the head-scratcher for me sith the beatles breaking up is why they didn't just put it down for 4 or 5 years, take a hiatus, and then re-visit the idea of working together again.

They kind of did end up doing that. Ringo had all three of the others sit in for various roles on one of his solo albums, and he sat in on a couple of George's things....then there's the infamous Toot and a Snore in 74 bootleg.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:02 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yoko is unfairly maligned, for sure. However, you could love the Beatles and love Yoko and at the same time admit their musical styles had basically nothing to do with each other. I'm not even sure John Cage or Ornette Coleman would think her contributions improved this session. Yoko often takes the fall for the Beatles' dissolution, but her involvement with the band was merely symptomatic of the growing rift between Lennon and McCartney. They were going in different directions, both personally and professionally.
posted by evil otto at 11:25 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The amount of love and admiration that John gets, here and everywhere else,

Lennon was a complex, egotistical mess, no question, with enough demons raging through him for any dozen normal humans. What's great is how much superb work he managed to deliver, (particularly while a Beatle) in spite of all this negativity.

People rip into Yoko for being the agent of the band's meltdown, but I recall John in an old interview as much as saying she was the only reason he hadn't outright killed himself -- insinuating that the madness of being The Biggest Thing Ever combined with the madness he already had in him was all too much, that only a severe break from everything that had come before could save him. Not that it did in the long run.
posted by philip-random at 11:28 AM on August 20, 2013


Chris Brown's only real sin was beating someone more famous than he was.

Being black, muscular and having tattoos, too.

It bothers me that Chris Brown never stopped being famous and so many women never stopped like him despite his beating the crap out of a woman and general not-giving-a-shit afterwards and BS lip-service apologies, and general behavior of treating people badly and acting like a dick. But John Lennon actually dropped references to wifebeating in his songs like it was no big thing! Even Chris Brown hasn't done that yet.

I don't know, I'd like to think that if John Lennon had done all his wifebeating now, if it was fresh, people would react differently, but who knows.
posted by cairdeas at 11:33 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It slightly freaked me out that my first reaction to seeing George Harrison in this photo was "Hang on! Nobody told me cortex was a Beatle! Maybe you only get told the truth if you're a member of the cabal."
posted by Len at 12:49 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was ten or eleven when they broke up (1970). What struck me about it, was it made the News, the muzak radio station my parents listened to.

yeah, it was a big thing - and then the supremes broke up too, which was also symbolic of the end of an era - people were talking about that, too

and their last billed "goodbye" single was much more poignant than the beatles'

janis gone, jimi gone - it was some kind of year for rock music - simon and garfunkel broke up too

it was the end of the reign of 60s top forty music but we didn't know that yet - but we knew things would never be the same
posted by pyramid termite at 1:37 PM on August 20, 2013


I would absolutely love to be insulted by my bandmates suggesting I should be replaced by Eric Clapton because he's "just as good" as me. But then, I'm older than George was when the Beatles broke up and I've come to terms with the fact that I'm a bit of a headache.
posted by The World Famous at 4:17 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And now I'm imagining an alternate universe where Clapton joins the Beatles on George's departure, then Yoko makes John quit anyway, so Clapton brings in Duane Allman - because the timing would be about right for that collaboration. Then Clapton quits to do heroin and play country music, so he's replaced by the most eligible ex-Bluesbreaker guitar hero of the mid-70s: Mick Taylor. Duane wouldn't have died in the crash, because he would have been on tour with the Beatles. Wings never would have existed. McCartney could write the songs with Allman. They could even bring George back, because why not? How is this a bad plan?
posted by The World Famous at 5:29 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Alternative options after Clapton quits, based on my beloved Small Faces Matrix of Awesome: Steve Marriott joins after Humble Pie breaks up; Ronnie Lane joins after leaving the Faces; and/or Ian McLagan joins after the Faces break up. Pros: the ill-advised Small Faces reunion of the late '70s never happens, and it might mean Marriott and/or Lane have the chance not to die in dire financial straits in the '90s; Con: if Lane joins, no Slim Chance.
posted by scody at 5:47 PM on August 20, 2013


Before this there were a few defections from the Yellow Submarine during the recording of 'The White Album'. Producer George Martin was dismayed by how loose things were and walked out for an unscheduled vacation, handing the keys over to his freaked out young intern, Chris Thomas. Their master engineer Geoff Emerick walked out during the session for 'Cry Baby Cry'. Ringo walked out disgusted by all of the bickering, but when everyone begged him to return he did.

George Martin really wanted to make more epic mini-symphonies like 'Strawberry Fields Forever', but Lennon wanted to get back to their rocking roots with something spontaneous and live-sounding. They made a sort-of compromise with the 'Let It Be' sessions, but everyone seemed kinda distracted during the recordings. Then it oddly all came back together again for one last time with 'Abbey Road', and George Martin captured the final mini-symphony. But it was the end of that show.

Aside from Yoko and John's involvement, there seems to have been a bit of a thing about Paul wanting a family member to be involved with the band's finances which is more likely the true reason for the dissolution.

Shift focus and it was more that Paul didn't trust Allen Klein and (like an idiot) Lennon did. (Granted, McCartney's suggestion to keep the business side in (his extended) family was probably not a good idea either, tact-wise. They should have gone with Prince Rupert.)


Linda's father was with a respectable conservative firm which could have been a gentle balance to the rampant money-burning of Apple Corp, but John was seduced by Allen Klein's earthy renegade style, and he got George and Ringo onside. It ended poorly.
posted by ovvl at 6:02 PM on August 20, 2013


Then Clapton quits to do heroin and play country music, so he's replaced by the most eligible ex-Bluesbreaker guitar hero of the mid-70s: Mick Taylor.

that had better be AFTER exile on main street

i think it's just as well the beatles broke up when they did - john and paul were obviously going in different directions (and were becoming less consistently good songwriters) and george was going to take up more of the songwriting space

by 1975, they'd have been not very good at all
posted by pyramid termite at 6:11 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yoko is a talented conceptual artist, but I wouldn't really be comfortable with her glum glowering at me over my shoulder if I was trying to work on something.

(I could put a photo of her behind my desk, but it wouldn't be the real thing.)
posted by ovvl at 6:12 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have never been able to warm up to Yoko, but having just now watched Let It Be, John seems very fragile and Paul seems like an exhausting narcissist... so I wonder if Yoko may have been helping John keep himself together so he could bear to be in the same room as Paul.
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:42 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Well, Ringo has 16 post-Beatles albums compared with McCartney's 22...

quantity is meaningless


For what it's worth, my favourite solo Beatles song is "It Don't Come Easy"...
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:26 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


... which is very much a George Harrison, Ringo Starr partnering. I also loved Back Off Boogaloo, which I've heard was basically a f*** you to Paul ...
posted by philip-random at 8:36 PM on August 20, 2013


I was very disappointed they released the stupid Let It Be...Naked instead of releasing Get Back.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:06 PM on August 20, 2013


Yoko Ono wasn’t hugely popular with the other members of the band, to say the least. And to make things worse, where there had previously been a “no girlfriends in the studio” rule, John had begun insisting on bringing her to their sessions.

After George’s walkout in the summer of 1969, the band went back to work after lunch and Michael Lindsay Hogg recalls the moment Yoko joined in on an impromptu jamming with the band.

“Yoko sat on the edge of the rostrum on the blue cushion which had been George’s and howled into his mike.”

Ringo Starr also remembers the jam session:

“George left because Paul and he were having a heated discussion … 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.”


Holy shit, these guys needed ask.metafilter.com to figure out what to do.
posted by karathrace at 12:10 AM on August 21, 2013


hippybear: Unrelated: I hope Paul outlives Ringo. Not that I want Ringo dead, just that I want Paul to love longer.

Ringo seems to have had more fun across the years than Paul, and seems to have embodied the original spirit of The Beatles much better than Paul over the decades.

Ideally, they would both die together, on stage, performing some symbolically-perfect Beatles song during some global satellite-broadcast concert. The song would hit a climax and they'd both just collapse.

It's a cruel image on some level, but also somehow poetic and perfect.
It's 2032, and an emphysemic Ringo Starr, tubes in his nose, beats out a regular pattern on the heart monitor. His wife and companion of 41 years, Barbara Back is at his side, holding his hand.

"Barbara?"

"Yes, Ringo?" She leans closer, his voice weak.

"At least Paul still lives."

The monitor goes flat.

--

Ironically, less than one hour before, and over 2,000 miles away in a New Jersey cancer clinic, ...
posted by IAmBroom at 3:14 PM on August 21, 2013


This is giving me bad memories of The Onion the week after George died, which featured one of their mini-headlines:

RINGO NEXT
posted by scody at 3:55 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Addendum: here's the uncropped, undistorted version of the photo used as the cover for Rubber Soul.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:58 AM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


flapjax! that rubber soul pic is a great find!
posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:14 AM on August 22, 2013


Also, I have always wondered: what is up with that big weird belt John is wearing?

John always struck me as the sort of person who would see some crazy-ass thing in a shop and feel compelled to buy it and base an outfit around it. Or he employed a stylist of that persuasion. Or, when the wardrobe mistress was passing stuff out and nobody wanted something, he'd go, "What the hell,I'm game."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:22 PM on August 24, 2013


the uncropped, undistorted version of the photo used as the cover for Rubber Soul.

after which long hair for boys (and men) was never going to be just a fad anymore.
posted by philip-random at 10:06 AM on August 25, 2013


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