Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Today in Beatles history: the breakup

From History.com:
The legendary rock band the Beatles spent the better part of three years breaking up in the late 1960s, and even longer than that hashing out who did what and why. And by the spring of 1970, there was little more than a tangled set of business relationships keeping the group together. Each of the Beatles was pursuing his musical interests outside of the band, and there were no plans in place to record together as a group. But as far as the public knew, this was just a temporary state of affairs. That all changed on April 10, 1970, when an ambiguous Paul McCartney "self-interview" was seized upon by the international media as an official announcement of a Beatles breakup.

The occasion for the statements Paul released to the press that day was the upcoming release of his debut solo album, McCartney. In a Q&A format in which he was both the interviewer and the interviewee, Paul first asked and answered a number of straightforward questions involving the recording equipment he used on the album, which instruments he played and who designed the artwork for the cover. Then he got to the tough ones:

Q: "Is this album a rest away from the Beatles or the start of a solo career?"

PAUL: "Time will tell. Being a solo album means it's 'the start of a solo career...and not being done with the Beatles means it's just a rest. So it's both."

Q: "Is your break with the Beatles temporary or permanent, due to personal differences or musical ones?"

PAUL: "Personal differences, business differences, musical differences, but most of all because I have a better time with my family. Temporary or permanent? I don't really know."

Q: "Do you foresee a time when Lennon-McCartney becomes an active songwriting partnership again?"

PAUL: "No."

. . .

A few years back, I blogged about this article, which contains some perceptive observations on why The Beatles' divorce was a net positive. Below are my thoughts on the matter, taken from the same post:

I belong to the camp that doesn't tend to lament The Beatles' breakup or long for what might have been had they reunited. Perhaps this is attributable to my young age: I wasn't around to enjoy The Beatles in their heyday or even shortly after it. That visceral connection to them as a living, breathing, life-changing entity was never formed. When I look back on The Beatles in their twilight, I see a band which had made an incomparably productive and creative run in a very short span, a band which had nothing more to prove or accomplish, and a band which was collapsing, and often in a most ugly, scarring fashion. They had to break up, and did.

And they did before their music could take a dramatic turn for the worse. That's the paramount concern in my eyes. The fact that The Beatles didn't tarnish their legacy with inferior late-period work is all I need to feel okay about when their dissolution occurred. (Yes, Let It Be isn't top-notch, but what a tonic they produced with Abbey Road.) They didn't tempt the vengeance of the gods with hubris or folly. No, they called it quits, leaving us with a body of albums that is untouchably classic and also somewhat charming on account of its easily consumable size (you don't get lost in The Beatles' discography as you do in Elvis' or Bob Dylan's). I suppose what I'm saying is, when it comes to the breakup of the greatest band ever, focus on the positives. There's more to be content with than your emotions might let you think.

. . .

I'll always be content - extraordinarily content - in the knowledge that we'll never know what the '70s might have done to The Beatles. Just think of them transitioning to a more recognizably classic-rock sound. Think of more albums in the vein of Let It Be, with "I've Got a Feeling" as the lead indicator of what was come. (This is the scenario I always imagine - the horror, the horror!) Think of all that could have gone wrong. None of it did because The Beatles were wise enough to realize that their historic partnership had run its course. They disbanded, and more than 40 years later they remain the biggest, the best, and the most influential group in pop music history. All things considered, it seems to me their breakup worked out perfectly.

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