The Paul McCartney Project

John Lennon tells the other Beatles he’s leaving the band

Saturday, September 20, 1969 • Posted in “A day in the life

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During a business meeting with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Allen Klein, The Beatles’ manager at that time, John Lennon announced his decision to leave the band. From Wikipedia:

On 8 September, while Starr was in hospital, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison met to discuss recording a follow-up to Abbey Road. In the meeting Lennon and Harrison expressed frustration with having to compete with McCartney to get their songs recorded. Lennon proposed a different approach to songwriting by ending the Lennon–McCartney pretence and having four compositions apiece from Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, with two from Starr and a lead single around Christmas. Harrison referred to the possibility of a new Beatles album in an interview he gave in November, and he called this songwriting arrangement “an equal rights thing”. McCartney later dismissed the new division of songwriting, saying it “wasn’t the right balance” and was “too democratic for its own good”. Speaking to Melody Maker in September, Lennon said: “The trouble is we’ve got too much material. Now that George is writing a lot, we could put out a double album every month …” During the 8 September meeting, McCartney expressed that, before Abbey Road, he “thought that George’s songs weren’t that good”, to which Lennon reacted by saying none of the other Beatles liked McCartney’s “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and that those types of songs should be given to other artists to record.

Soon after the sessions for Abbey Road, Lennon’s heroin use inspired him to record “Cold Turkey” with his and Ono’s conceptual group, the Plastic Ono Band, after the Beatles had rejected the song for release as a single. The formation of the Plastic Ono Band was conceived as an artistic outlet for Lennon and Ono, but the enthusiastic reception afforded their performance at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival on 13 September 1969 ostensibly crystallised Lennon’s decision to leave the Beatles, which he made on the flight back to London. During a band meeting at Apple on 20 September, he informed McCartney, Starr and Klein of his decision (Harrison was not present at the meeting), telling them he wanted a “divorce”. That same day, the band signed a renegotiated recording contract with Capitol Records, guaranteeing them a higher royalty rate. The sensitivity of the negotiations with Capitol led to Klein and McCartney urging Lennon to keep his announcement private, which Lennon agreed to do.

From The Beatles Bible

When I got back [from Toronto] there were a few meetings and Allen said, ‘Cool it,’ ’cause there was a lot to do [with The Beatles] business-wise, and it wouldn’t have been suitable at the time. Then we were discussing something in the office with Paul and Paul was saying to do something, and I kept saying, ‘No, no, no’ to everything he said. So it came to a point that I had to say something. So I said, ‘The group’s over, I’m leaving.’ Allen was there, and he was saying, ‘Don’t tell.’ He didn’t want me to tell Paul even. But I couldn’t help it, I couldn’t stop it, it came out. And 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. I don’t know whether Paul said, ‘Don’t tell anybody,’ but he was damn pleased that I wasn’t. He said, ‘Oh well, that means nothing really happened if you’re not going to say anything.’ So that’s what happened.

John Lennon, from Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner, 1970

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 Yoko’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.

Paul McCartney, from The Beatles Anthology, 2000

There would be many hints in the coming months suggesting that The Beatles were about to break up, but the official announcement would come in April 1970 – eight months after – when Paul McCartney would issue the press release for its first solo album, “McCartney“.

Last updated on June 9, 2020


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