Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison discuss the future of The Beatles

Monday, September 8, 1969
Timeline More from year 1969
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Location:
Apple headquarters, 3 Savile Row, London, UK

Related songs


Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Officially appears on Abbey Road


Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Officially appears on The Beatles (Mono)

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On this day, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison met at Apple headquarters in Savile Row, to discuss their future plans as The Beatles. John Lennon’s assistant Anthony Fawcett brought a portable tape recorder to record the meeting, mainly for the benefit of Ringo Starr who was in the hospital for some tests.

Anthony Fawcett would report some details of this meeting in his 1976 book “One Day At A Time“. In 2019, the tape was rediscovered by Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn:

[The Beatles have] wrapped up the recording of Abbey Road, which would turn out to be their last studio album, and are awaiting its release in two weeks’ time. Ringo Starr is in hospital, undergoing tests for an intestinal complaint. In his absence, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison convene at Apple’s HQ in Savile Row. John has brought a portable tape recorder. He puts it on the table, switches it on and says: “Ringo – you can’t be here, but this is so you can hear what we’re discussing.”

What they talk about is the plan to make another album – and perhaps a single for release in time for Christmas, a commercial strategy going back to the earliest days of Beatlemania. “It’s a revelation,” Lewisohn says. “The books have always told us that they knew Abbey Road was their last album and they wanted to go out on an artistic high. But no – they’re discussing the next album. And you think that John is the one who wanted to break them up but, when you hear this, he isn’t. Doesn’t that rewrite pretty much everything we thought we knew?”

Lewisohn turns the tape back on, and we hear John suggesting that each of them should bring in songs as candidates for the single. He also proposes a new formula for assembling their next album: four songs apiece from Paul, George and himself, and two from Ringo – “If he wants them.” John refers to “the Lennon-and-McCartney myth”, clearly indicating that the authorship of their songs, hitherto presented to the public as a sacrosanct partnership, should at last be individually credited.

Then Paul – sounding, shall we say, relaxed – responds to the news that George now has equal standing as a composer with John and himself by muttering something mildly provocative. “I thought until this album that George’s songs weren’t that good,” he says, which is a pretty double-edged compliment since the earlier compositions he’s implicitly disparaging include Taxman and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. There’s a nettled rejoinder from George: “That’s a matter of taste. All down the line, people have liked my songs.”

John reacts by telling Paul that nobody else in the group “dug” his Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, a song they’ve just recorded for Abbey Road, and that it might be a good idea if he gave songs of that kind – which, John suggests, he probably didn’t even dig himself – to outside artists in whom he had an interest, such as Mary Hopkin, the Welsh folk singer. “I recorded it,” a drowsy Paul says, “because I liked it.” […]

From ‘This tape rewrites everything we knew about the Beatles’ | The Beatles | The Guardian, September 11, 2019

John Lennon: We always carved the singles up between us. We have the singles market, they [George and Ringo] don’t get anything! I mean we’ve never offered George ‘B’ sides; we could have given him a lot of ‘B’ sides, but because we were two people you had the ‘A’ side and I had the ‘B’ side.

Paul McCartney: Well the thing is, I think that until now, until this year [1969], our songs have been better than George’s. Now this year his songs are at least as good as ours.

George Harrison: Now that’s a myth, ’cause most of the songs this year I wrote about last year or the year before, anyway. Maybe now I just don’t care whether you are going to like them or not, I just do ’em… If I didn’t get a break I wouldn’t push it, I’d just forget about it. Now for the last two years, at any rate, I’ve pushed it a bit more.

John: I know what he’s saying ’cause people have said to me you’re coming through a lot stronger now than you had.

George: I don’t particularly seek acclaim. That’s not the thing. It’s just to get out whatever is there to make way for whatever else is there. You know, ’cause it’s only to get ’em out, and also I might as well make a bit of money, seeing as I’m spending as much as the rest of you, and I don’t earn as much as the rest of you! […] Most of my tunes, I never had the Beatles backing me.

John: Oh! C’mon, George! We put a lot of work in your songs, even down to “Don’t Bother Me”; we spent a lot of time doing all that and we grooved. I can remember the riff you were playing, and in the last two years, there was a period where you went Indian and we weren’t needed!

George: That was only one tune. On the last album [“White Album”]. I don’t think you appeared on any of my songs — I don’t mind.

John: Well, you had Eric [Clapton], or somebody like that…

[Silence]

Paul: When we get in a studio, even on the worst day, I’m still playing bass, Ringo’s still drumming, and we’re still there you know.

From “John Lennon – One Day At A Time” by Anthony Fawcett, 1976

It seemed mad for us to put a song on an album that nobody really dug, including the guy who wrote it, just because it was going to be popular, ’cause the LP doesn’t have to be that. Wouldn’t it be better, because we didn’t really dig them, yer know, for you to do the songs you dug, and ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ and ‘Maxwell’ to be given to people who like music like that, yer know, like Mary [Hopkins], or whoever it is needs a song. Why don’t you give them to them? The only time we need anything vaguely near that quality is for a single. For an album we could just do only stuff that we really dug.

John Lennon – From “John Lennon – One Day At A Time” by Anthony Fawcett, 1976

Despite those discussions about the future, two weeks after this meeting, on September 20, 1969, John Lennon announced to the other Beatles that he was leaving the band.

Last updated on November 21, 2021

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