In 1976, promoter Bill Sargent offered the Beatles $50 million for one reunion show. Then Sid Bernstein, the promoter of the Beatles’ Shea Stadium concerts Sid Bernstein, asked them to reunite for a benefit concert for Cambodian refugees, which he estimated would raise $230 million.
So on April 24, 1976, Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels appeared on the live show to offer the Beatles $3,000.00 to reunite. “Divide [the money] up any way you want,” he said. “If you want to give less to Ringo, that’s up to you.”
Lennon told Playboy, “Paul and I were together watching that show. He was visiting us at our place in the Dakota. We were watching it and almost went down to the studio, just as a gag … He and Linda walked in, and he and I were just sitting there, watching the show, and we went, ‘Ha-ha, wouldn’t it be funny if we went down?’”
McCartney later recalled, “[John] said, ‘We should go down there. We should go down now and just do it.’ It was one of those moments where we said, ‘Let’s not and say we did.’ “[i]
Lennon said, “We nearly got into a cab, but we were actually too tired …”
The SNL night was the last time Lennon saw McCartney. “That was a period when Paul just kept turning up at our door with a guitar. I would let him in, but finally I said to him, ‘Please call before you come over. It’s not 1956 and turning up at the door isn’t the same anymore. You know, just give me a ring.’ He was upset by that, but I didn’t mean it badly. I just meant that I was taking care of a baby all day and some guy turns up at the door.”[ii]
In 2000, VH-1 made a good movie about the SNL evening called The Two of Us, written by long-time fan Mark Stanfield. The movie was primarily one long conversation between Lennon and McCartney over the course of the day as they hang out at the Dakota then wander around New York and return in time for the show. (Linda and Ono are not present.)
It was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who had done the Beatles film Let It Be. As he actually knew Lennon, he was able to help Jared Harris in probably the most convincing portrait of the prickly Lennon yet to appear on film. Aidan Quinn did well as Paul McCartney, and McCartney later told him that he liked the film. (A 2000 British TV movie called In His Life: The John Lennon Story starring Philip McQuillen also did a good job of showing all facets of his personality.)
Here’s a clip of the ending. (As I got it off You Tube, it starts in the middle of the prior scene …)
Though they no longer hung out in person, the ex-partners still spoke on the phone about cats and babies, though their relations could be rocky. After one heated conversation, McCartney thought Lennon was affecting a “tough American” pose, so Macca snapped, “Fuck off, Kojak!” and slammed down the receiver.
One Beatle did make it to SNL in 1976, however – George Harrison, who did beautiful duets of “Here Comes the Sun” and “Homeward Bound” with Paul Simon.
Here’s an interesting fan clip from You Tube:
“This is how I think it would have sounded if they went forward that fateful moment. I took John Lennon’s original track from 1975’s “Rock and Roll” album and Paul McCartney’s live performance from the 1991 “Unplugged” bootleg. I had to speed up Paul’s track to match John’s as he had performed it significantly slower.”
1. “And in the End …” Vh1.com 2000, http://www.vh1.com/artists/news/1436073/20000201/beatles.jhtml (10 Oct. 2011).
2. David Sheff, “January 1981 Playboy Interview,” John-Lennon.com, http://www.john-lennon.com/playboyinterviewwithjohnlennonandyokoono.htm (10 Oct. 2011).