Paul McCartney files a lawsuit against the other three Beatles

Thursday, December 31, 1970

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Sunday November 15 Through his solicitors, Paul files the lawsuit against John, George, Ringo and Apple in the High Courts of London to dissolve ‘The Beatles’.

Badman, Keith. The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After The Break-Up 1970-2001 . Music Sales. Kindle Edition.

December At the start of the month, Paul and George’s planned social meeting in New York takes place, but the meeting does not go well. This merely furthers Paul’s desire to dissolve The Beatles’ partnership.

Badman, Keith. The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After The Break-Up 1970-2001 . Music Sales. Kindle Edition.

December 31 For the individual members of The Beatles, the year ends on a very low point, with Paul filing a suit against John Ono Lennon of Ascot, Berkshire, George Harrison of Henley-on-Thames, Berkshire, Richard Starkey of Highgate, London, and Apple Corps of Saville Row in London, in London’s High Court, seeking an end to The Beatles & Company. The writ, issued in the Chancery Division, seeks: “A declaration that the partnership business carried on by the plaintiff and the defendants under the name of The Beatles & Co., and constituted by a deed of partnership dated 19 April 1967 and made between the parties hereto, ought to be dissolved and that accordingly the same be dissolved.” Paul’s suit also requests that a receiver for Apple be appointed until the case is settled, and that Allen Klein is formally charged with the mismanagement of the Apple funds. Both George and Ringo decline to comment on Paul’s action. To all intents and purposes, Paul had decided that the group was finished. He remarks: “For me, I want to get out of the contract. I think the group is finished. We’ve split and everything that we’ve ever earned should now be split. They don’t agree. They think it should continue exactly as planned. But if the three of them want to, they could sit down today and write a little bit of paper saying I’ll be released … that’s all I want!” (Note: A reading of the draft balance sheet up to today’s date, reveals that the total credit of the four individual Beatles, excluding the Apple company, stands at £738,000. Of that sum, it is calculated that £678,000 is still owing in income tax.)

Badman, Keith. The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After The Break-Up 1970-2001 . Music Sales. Kindle Edition.

Was it November 15 or December 31 ?

On this day, Paul McCartney filed a lawsuit against the other three Beatles to dissolve The Beatles’ partnership. From Wikipedia:

[…] McCartney’s wish to dissolve the partnership was problematic, since it would expose them all to enormous tax liability, and his pleas to be released from Apple were ignored by Lennon, Harrison and Starr. McCartney said he struggled all through the summer of 1970 with the idea of having to sue his bandmates in order to be free of Apple and Klein. Anticipating the suit, Klein suggested that the other Beatles invite McCartney to a recording session in October where Lennon and Harrison were due to work on Starr’s song “Early 1970”. Klein reasoned that if McCartney attended, it would show that the Beatles’ musical partnership was still active and undermine McCartney’s case. McCartney did not accept the invitation. In December, Harrison and McCartney met in New York to discuss their differences but the meeting went badly. The press nevertheless interpreted the meeting as a truce between the two parties and, since Lennon was also in New York that month, reports insisted that the Beatles would soon re-form.

On 31 December, McCartney filed a lawsuit against the other three Beatles in London’s High Court of Justice for dissolution of the band’s contractual partnership. For Beatles fans, news of McCartney’s legal action and the publication of Lennon’s two-part “Lennon Remembers” interview in Rolling Stone increased the distasteful atmosphere surrounding the group’s demise. Time magazine dubbed the confrontation “Beatledämmerung”, in reference to Wagner’s opera about a war among the gods. By contrast, according to Guardian journalist Kitty Empire, writing in 2011, Harrison’s All Things Must Pass triple album “functioned as a kind of repository for grief” for the band’s fans. In Doggett’s description, the Beatles-related songs on Harrison’s album “offered a teasing glimpse into an intimate world that had previously been off-limits to the public”, and they introduced a self-referential trait in the ex-Beatles’ songwriting that, for fans and the press, came to represent episodes in a public soap opera. […]

In April 1971, Paul McCartney explained his decision to file this lawsuit against his ex-bandmates, in an interview for Life Magazine:

You see, there was a partnership contract put together years ago to hold us together as a group for 10 years. Anything anybody wanted to do — put out a record, anything — he had to get the others’ permission. Because of what we were then, none of us ever looked at it when we signed it. We signed it in ’67 and discovered it last year. We discovered this contract that bound us for 10 years. So it’s ‘Oh gosh, Oh golly, Oh heck,’ you know. ‘Now, boys, can we tear it up, please?’ But the trouble is, the other three have been advised not to tear it up. They’ve been advised that if they tear it up, there will be serious, bad consequences for them. The point, though, to me was that it began to look like a three-to-one vote, which is what in fact happened at a couple of business meetings. It was three to one. That’s how Allen Klein got to be the manager of Apple, which I didn’t want. But they didn’t need my approval.”

“Listen, it’s not the boys. It’s not the other three. The four of us, I think, still quite like each other. I don’t think there is bad blood, not from my side anyway. I spoke to the others quite recently and there didn’t sound like any from theirs. So it’s a business thing. It’s Allen Klein. Early in ’69 John took him on as business manager and wanted the rest of us to do it too. That was just the irreconcilable difference between us.”

“Klein is incredible. He’s New York. He’ll say ‘Waddaya want? I’ll buy it for you.’ I guess there’s alot I really don’t want to say about this, but it will come out because we had to sort of document the stuff for this case. We had to go and fight — which I didn’t want, really. All summer long in Scotland I was fighting with myself as to whether I should do anything like that. It was murderous. I had a knot in my stomach all summer. I tried to think of a way to take Allen Klein to court, or to take a businessman to court. But the action had to be brought against the other three.”

My biggest problem was I had to sue the Beatles; I tried to sue [Apple Group business manager] Allen Klein, but he wasn’t a party to any of the agreements, so I ended up having to sue my best friends as a technical matter. It was the last thing in the world I wanted to do, but it was pointed out to me that it was the only way to do it. 

Paul McCartney, interview with Billboard, 2001

“I really felt that Klein had to be got rid of because I could see that he wasn’t doing us any good. He got $5 million off us in the first year he managed us and he wanted more and I was just trying to fight for us. I was saying, ‘Don’t give him 20 per cent, give him 15. We’re a massive group,’ and they were saying, ‘Oh come on, you’ve got to give him twenty.’ And I was saying, ‘What do you mean?’ It all got so crazy that I decided that I had to sue Allen Klein. So I got all my lawyers and I said, ‘I’ve got to get out. We’ve got to do this or else he’s going to have everything that I’ve worked for, and the others.’ That’s the way I saw it. The lawyers then got on the case and they said, ‘Oh, oh, we can’t sue Allen Klein.’ And I said, ‘Why not?’ And they said, ‘He’s not a party to any of the agreements. You’ll have to sue The Beatles.’ So I said, ‘Well, I can’t do that. There’s no way that I can do that.’ So about two months later, while I was on the hill up in Scotland, with the mists, I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to do something. But I can’t do what I’ve got to do.’ It took me two months to decide that I had to do it, sue The Beatles! It was murderous. I had a knot in my stomach all summer. It didn’t matter, they were parties to Klein and I had to actually go and sue them. You can imagine what I had to go through suing my best mates and seen to sue my best mates. That was the worst and knowing that no one would understand it. No one would understand why I had to do it, not even if I put out 50 million press releases… My lawyer, John Eastman, he’s a nice guy and he saw the position we were in, and he sympathised. We would have these meetings on top of hills in Scotland; we’d go for long walks. I remember when we actually decided we had to go and file suit. We were standing on this big hill, which overlooked a loch; it was quite a nice day, a bit chilly and we had been searching our souls. The only alternative was seven years with the partnership, going through those same channels for seven years…

“There was a partnership contract put together years ago (January 1967) to hold us together as a group for ten years. Anything anybody wanted to do, put out a record, anything, he had to get the others’ permission. Because of what we were then, none of us ever looked at it when we signed it. We signed in ‘67 and discovered it last year. We discovered this contract that bound us for ten years. So it was, ‘Oh gosh, oh golly, oh heck,’ you know. (I said) ‘Now, boys, can we tear it up, please?’ But the trouble is, the other three have been advised not to tear it up. They’ve been advised that if they tear it up, there will be serious, bad consequences for them.”

Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles: Off the Record 2 – The Dream Is Over” by Keith Badman

“It all comes down to one basic fact, which is, in my opinion, The Beatles haven’t finished as a group and me being in a new group, with a new line-up. I believe that, no matter what the consequences are, the tax consequences, or, ‘Sorry boys, you can’t do that, we’ve got a contract.’ The relationship in which we started the group was that if any one of us was in trouble and wanted to get out and was in a sticky situation, our view was that we’d sit down and see what we could do about it. Well, in fact, it’s just the opposite that has happened. It all boils down to one fact, they have my contract.”

Paul McCartney – talking to BBC reporter Mike Hennessey – From “The Beatles: Off the Record 2 – The Dream Is Over” by Keith Badman

Last updated on January 5, 2022

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