- Timeline More from year 1969
More from year 1969
The Beatles’s business difficulties
Paul McCartney sues Sony over Beatles songs
Jan 18, 2017
Michael Jackson buys Northern Songs
Aug 10, 1985
ATV finalizes its acquisition of Northern Songs
September to November 1969
The Beatles and ATV fight for the control of Northern Songs
April - May 1969
Allen Klein becomes business manager of Apple
Mar 21, 1969
The Beatles fight for NEMS / Nemperor
February 21 to August 1969
NEMS / Nemperor is sold to Triumph Investment Trust
January to February 17, 1969
Allen Klein meets with The Beatles
Jan 28, 1969
Allen Klein meets with John Lennon
Jan 27, 1969
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The music publishing company Northern Songs was created in February 1963 by music publisher Dick James and his partner Charles Silver to publish songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. In February 1965, it became a public company on the London Stock Exchange.
After the death of Brian Epstein in August 1967, John Lennon and Paul McCartney sought to renegotiate their publishing deal with Dick James. In 1968, they invited him for a meeting at Apple, filming the encounter and acting brusquely towards him. As a result, already-cool relations between Dick James and the individual Beatles became even cooler.
As Northern Songs was a public company, Sir Lew Grade, head of ATV (Associated TeleVision), started to buy some shares from small shareholders and succeeded to buy about 137,000 of those.
I felt that we ought to be in the music business, and as Northern Songs, which owned the rights to The Beatles’ music, was a public quoted company, I decided that my company, ATV, should buy some shares. Not a lot, but we built up about six or seven per cent. Then, I thought, ‘I might go for it all.’Sir Lew Grade, head of ATV (Associated Television) – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman
ATV had made offers to Dick James to buy his Northern Songs share since August 1967, but Dick James had so far refused.
He’d been romancing me to sell out to him ever since Brian’s death. It was a standing joke between us. “Oh no,” I’d say, “not that again, Lew!”Dick James – From “Shout!: The True Story of the Beatles” by Philip Norman
Late 1968, Dick James became worried about the erratic behaviour of John Lennon – his drug conviction, the nudity of the album “Two Virgins“, his involvement with Yoko Ono and their “bagism” concept – and the consequences it might have on the value of Northern Songs in the London Stock Exchange.
On January 10, 1969, Dick James visited The Beatles at Twickenham Studios, to discuss the recent acquisition of the Lawrence Wright Music catalogue by Northern Songs. The exchange between him and Paul McCartney showed the bitterness of the Beatle about the ownership of the Beatles songs:
Paul McCartney: “Lisp Of A Baby’s Prayer”… “Alphabet Song.” What’s that one?
Dick James: Oh, Christ, I don’t know the whole catalog yet. 4,000 songs is a lot to absorb.
Ringo Starr: “Nobody Loves a Fairy When She’s Forty.” [laughs]
Paul McCartney: This is it? This is the lot?
Dick James: This is a very good list. That’s the entire catalog up to ’65.
Paul McCartney: All of these are ours?
Dick James: Yeah. Yeah.
Michael Lindsay-Hogg: Is this the catalog that’s just gone on sale?
Dick James: It’s the one we just bought.
Michael Lindsay-Hogg: You bought it. Oh, great.
Dick James: Yeah, Northern Songs… Which includes Paul and John. And…
Paul McCartney: Just about.
Dick James: What are you talking about, “Just about”?
Paul McCartney: Nothing. Uh, no comment.
Dick James: Very substantially, sir.
Paul McCartney: Yes, right. Okay.From Peter Jackson’s film “The Beatles: Get Back“, 2021
The valuable Lawrence Wright Music catalog was acquired December 31st by Northern Songs, the Beatles’ publishing company. Northern captured the Wright copyrights in face of heavy European and American competition at the price of £812,500. The catalog was sold by tender by the Trustee Department of the Westminster Bank, and in effect was the last major independent British publishing property not controlled by big international conglomerate organizations, apart Campbell Connelly and Northern itself. Three music publishing companies are involved in the transaction, and Northern have gained perennial money-spinners like “Jealousy”, “Among My Souvenirs”, “Ain’t Misbehavin'”, “Basin Street Blues” and “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” and orchestral standards like “Dream Of Olwen”. A Beatle spokesman was quick to emphasise that the deal was purely a business matter, and the Beatles would not be squaring their image by recording any of the Wright songs themselves. Lawrence Wright, the founder of Britain’s Tin Pan Alley, died in 1964, having contributed several major assets to the catalog like “Among My Souvenirs” under his pen name of Horatio Nicholls. Northern Songs managing director Dick James told Cash Box that the acquisition “brings us a catalog of fantastic standards, and provides us with the basis for expansion and diversification that we want.” Lawrence Wright Music will continue by name within the Northern Orbit, and discussions are taking place concerning its future operation and the disposition of its present staff.From CashBox Magazine – January 18, 1969
The arrival of Allen Klein in the Beatles business (and the difficulties this would likely create considering the reputation of the American businessman) decided Dick James and Charles Silver to finally sell their shares in Northern Songs to ATV for £1,525,000, giving John and Paul no notice or the chance to buy them out. That way, ATV acquired 1,604,750 shares, which, in addition to the 137,000 they already had, gave them nearly 35% of the company.
What I did, I did in their interests as well as mine, and the rest of the shareholders. I hope that, one day, I can justify my decision to them. I was not acting behind their backs. I believed I was acting for them and for the whole future good of the company. Look, I haven’t jumped off the boat. I’m still with it! Over the years, I’ve resisted thousands of offers, including some from carloads of Americans, but the ATV bid seemed to make good sense. […]
Remember that they came to me. I didn’t go to them. But, with their offer and the new dimension and expansion, it meant I felt we should accept. Looking at it objectively, I knew we could all prosper enormously. I really thought I was acting for them. The deal would have been worth similar amounts to each of the two Beatles had they accepted. I just hope that our friendship can go on. I have great faith in the boys, but I felt that, as magnificent songwriters as they are, I had to relieve them of the responsibility for the company’s future affairs. It is a big responsibility and it has got to meet new dimensions and I think I acted for the best. If they object, then I must accept it until they realise I was right.Dick James – From Daily Mirror, April 5, 1969
To telephone John and Paul would have been difficult. The call would have gone through a number of people and there was a need to keep it confidential.Dick James – From Daily Mirror, March 29, 1969
This can’t be true! George Martin had said.
‘Yes, it is,’ Dick replied. ‘I have sold. I’m tired of being threatened by The Beatles, and being got at. So I decided to sell.’
Martin: ‘Why didn’t you ask The Beatles first?’
James: ‘If I’d done that it would have been all over the place and then I could never have done the deal with Lew Grade.’
‘I told him he was a rat,’ Martin remembers. ‘I felt he’d betrayed everything we’d done together and I felt I was in a position where I could say that.’From “And In The End” by Ken McNab
Dick James had seen the writing on the wall; it was in Allen Klein’s handwriting and James was determined to pull out. The value of Northern Songs depended on the willingness and ability of Lennon and McCartney to compose together. Already John and Paul had refused to sign an extension on their songwriting contract with Northern Songs and James had good reason to doubt the longevity of their relationship.Peter Brown – From “And In The End” by Ken McNab
John and Paul invited Dick James to their office at Apple to confront him. James had had enough of them belly-aching and wanting more money and Brian Epstein was dead, so no longer could Dick go to Brian and say, ‘Hey, get these boys off my back.’ So, James looked to sell his shares in Northern Songs …Ray Coleman, journalist – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman
Although he was scared of Klein, James had made his fortune on those two kids [John Lennon and Paul McCartney]. I told him he was a bastard to sell to Grade.John Eastman – From “Apple to the Core: The Unmaking of the Beatles” by Peter McCabe and Robert D. Schonfeld (1972)
We never met this Charles Silver guy, a character who was always in the background. He was “the money”, that was basically who he was, like the producer on a film. He and Dick James went in together, so Silver always got what was really our share. There were the two of them taking the lion’s share, but it was a little while before we found out.Paul McCartney – From “And In The End” by Ken McNab
March 28, 1969
On this day, newspapers reported that Dick James and Charles Silver had sold their shares to Sir Lew Grade’s ATV. Paul was on his honeymoon in the US. John was in Amsterdam for a bed-in for peace and furiously reacted, reading the news:
I won’t sell. They are my shares and my songs and I want to keep a bit of the end product. I don’t have to ring Paul. I know damn well he feels the same as I do.John Lennon – From “The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years” by Barry Miles
We are not going to sell and we advise all our friends to hang on to what they’ve got! Dick James? We don’t think he was very nice! Although he says he was acting in our interests, you would have thought the first thing he would have done would have been to consult us.John Lennon – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman
You can safely assume that my shares are not for sale to ATV.Paul McCartney – talking to the Daily Express
Although he was scared of [Allen] Klein, James made his fortune on those two kids, John and Paul. I told him he was a bastard to sell to Grade.John Eastman – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman
It was also announced that ATV had bid £9.5 million to acquire the rest of the company. Paul and John were then offered £2.3 million by ATV for their shares but turned down the offer.
ATV in secret bid for Beatles’ music company
VIRTUAL control of the Beatles’ music publishing company, Northern Songs, was sold out yesterday to Associated Television — without the Beatles knowing anything about it.
Urgent messages were sent last night to John Lennon in Amsterdam where he is honeymooning with Yoko Ono and attempts were being made to contact Paul McCartney, who is also on honeymoon “somewhere in the Bahamas.”
Associated Television announced that it has agreed to buy just over a third of Northern Songs from its chairman, Emanuel Silver, and the managing director, Mr. Dick James.
ATV plans to bid £9,500,000 for the whole of the company, including the shares owned by John, Paul and Ringo.
Under the deal, Mr Silver and Mr James will each collect £1,168,000 worth of cash and ATV shares. Dick James Music. Ltd. will collect a further £712.000 for the shares it owns in Northern Songs.
ATV will make the same offer, worth 38s a share, to all other shareholders.
At the last count, Paul McCartney owned 744,000 shares – worth £1,413,000 if he accepts the deal. John Lennon has shares worth £1,223,000. Ringo has only £76,000 worth. George Harrison once had the same number as Ringo, but he sold out last August when his shares were worth about £48,000.
Why were the Beatles not told about the deal? Mr James said last night: “To telephone them would have been difficult. The call would have gone through a number of people and there was a need to keep it confidential.“
John Lennon, who is staging a seven-day “lie-in” with his wife Yoko at their Amsterdam hotel, said Iast night: “The Beatles won’t sell.“
But even so, the deal is unlikely to be affected.
Between them Jonn and Paul control just over a quarter of the shares.From Daily Mirror, March 29, 1969
I sold for the Beatles’ sake, says Mr Music
DICK JAMES was aghast. “I’ve shopped the Beatles? If I thought that were true I would rather die or disappear. Or go out of this business with nothing,” he exclaimed.
We were talking about his relations with the Beatles, with whom, it is said, his long and valued friendship is in shreds – because as managing director he dared to sell out Northern Songs to ATV without them even knowing about it.
“What I did,” he said, “I did in their interests as well as mine and the rest of the shareholders. I hope that one day I can justify my decision to them. I was not acting behind their backs. I believed I was acting for them and for the whole future good of the company. Look, I haven’t jumped off the boat. I’m still with it! Over the years I’ve resisted thousands of offers, including some from cartloads of Americans, but the ATV bid seemed to make good sense. Remember. they came to me, I didn’t go to them. But with their offer and the new dimension and expansion it meant I felt we should accept. Looking at it objectively I knew we could all prosper enormously.“
Ex-singer Dick James was a struggling Tin Pan Alley music publisher when the unknown Brian Epstein walked Into his office one day in 1962 and played him a demonstration disc called “Please, Please Me” by a group no one would listen to.
“I flipped when I heard it. I knew they had tremendous talent,” said Dick. And he signed the group on the spot – to make the coolest million in show business. So Northern was formed with Dick as managing director and John and Paul jointly holding a 28 per cent interest. The amiable, bespectacled James had cemented with the Beatles what seemed to promise a life-long association. But now with Lennon and McCartney refusing to sell their shares, the parties are at loggerheads.
“They feel as though they have been sold down the line“, an associate of the Beatles has said.
That sort of remark is deeply wounding to Dick James, a man known for his honesty.
“I really thought I was acting for them” repeated Dick who, under the deal, gets almost £1,200,000. The deal would have been worth similar amounts to each of the two Beatles had they accepted it.
“I just hope that our friendship can go on” Dick continued. “I have great faith in the boys but that I felt that magnificent songwriters as they are, I had to relieve them of the responsibility for the company’s future affairs. It is a big responsibility and it has got to meet new dimensions and I think I acted for the best. If they object then I must accept it until they realise I was right.”
The key question is, of course, whether John and Paul could stop writing songs for Northern Songs.
Hardly. Their contract with Northern Songs goes on to the end of 1973, and they have to write a minimum of twenty-four songs under that contract – and they can’t write for anyone else.
Said John Lennon yesterday: “We’re not going to sell, and we advise all our friends to hang on to what they’ve got.” And Dick James? “We don’t think he was very nice. Although he says he was acting in our interests., you would have thought the first thing he would have done would have been to consult us.”
So there the situation for the moment.From The Daily Mirror, April 5, 1969
Early April 1969
On April 2, 1969, Paul and John met Dick James at Paul’s home in Cavendish Avenue. This was a short meeting that didn’t bring much.
Everything was very civilised. I explained why I had done what I had done, supported by the board. Paul sort of shrugged it off. John, who always placed great emphasis on respect and integrity for each other, was very cynical. I said: “Your financial gain will at least give you, regardless of what your earnings are from records, a substantial income.”
I tried to point out to John that his capital gain, which wasn’t like earnings from records, on which tax was astronomical because his royalties were subject to ordinary tax… the reward he would get from his shares was, in fact, a capital gain and that was at the lowest rate of tax you pay anywhere in the world.
I endeavoured to give John that point of view and I said, “At least that means you can put some money by for your children.” To which he retorted, quite cynically, “I have no desire to create another fucking aristocracy.” That’ll be the only four-letter word that you’ll get from me, but that is verbatim what he said.Dick James – From “And In The End” by Ken McNab
To John and Paul, Northern Songs wasn’t just a collection of compositions, it was like a child, creative flesh and blood, and selling it to their business antagonist Sir Lew Grade was like putting that child into an orphanage.Peter Brown, from Apple – From “Solid State” by Kenneth Womack
April and May 1969 would see a bitter fight for the control of Northern Songs, between ATV (owning 35% of the shares) and The Beatles (owning 29.7%). On May 19, 1969, it would be announced that ATV had partnered with the Consortium, an alliance of some broker firms controlling 14% of the company, to gain control of the company.
Last updated on February 26, 2022
The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years
"With greatly expanded text, this is the most revealing and frank personal 30-year chronicle of the group ever written. Insider Barry Miles covers the Beatles story from childhood to the break-up of the group."
We owe a lot to Barry Miles for the creation of those pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - a day to day chronology of what happened to the four Beatles during the Beatles years!
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