The video playlist for the songs the Solo Beatles wrote venting about the group’s acrimonious split. To play the mix continuously, please go to the YouTube playlist below and select “Play All”.
In 1969, the Beatles’ Apple Records label was hemorrhaging money due to the idealistic hippie chaos that defined its operation for a year, with many employees stealing. Lennon wanted to bring in manager/accountant Allen Klein to clean it up, since Klein had succeeded in getting the Rolling Stones the best record deal in the business. But Klein also ended up owning the copyrights to all the Stones’ songs written before 1971 — not Jagger and Richards — and McCartney didn’t trust him. His wife Linda’s father Lee Eastman was a successful New York music lawyer, so McCartney pushed for him. But the other Beatles naturally did not want to be managed by McCartney’s father-in-law. Why they didn’t all choose a third, neutral manager is a tragic mystery. In the end, Lennon, Harrison and Starr went with Klein and McCartney went with his in-laws. (By the early ‘70s, Lennon, Harrison, and Starr would grow disenchanted with Klein themselves and file lawsuits to split with him.)
Whereas Lennon had once been the leader of the group, he now often felt like a sideman to the increasingly perfectionist McCartney, and began turning to Yoko Ono as his new collaborator. The other Beatles resented her presence in the studio and finally, in the summer of 1969, Lennon snapped and told the Beatles he was leaving. Klein was in the midst of negotiating a better contract for the group that would impact their future royalties, so he convinced Lennon to keep it a secret from the press. Thus the Beatles existed in a strange limbo for almost a year. Devastated, McCartney retreated to his Scottish farm and disappeared so completely the rumor spread that he was dead.
In April 1970, McCartney emerged from isolation with his first solo album, McCartney. In the press release accompanying the LP, McCartney stated that he no longer foresaw a time that the Beatles would record together, effectively announcing the end of the group. Lennon was enraged at McCartney “scooping” him on the demise of the Beatles, yet also admired his P.R. acumen in using it to hype his record release. However, the move backfired on McCartney, as he became known as the one who “broke up the Beatles.”
To promote his own debut album, Plastic Ono Band, Lennon gave a legendary interview to Rolling Stone magazine’s Jann Wenner that pulled the curtain back on everything that had been censored about the Beatles over the previous decade: the groupies, drugs, and bribery on tour, all the backbiting of the last few years. He was out to bury the image of the lovable moptops forever.
He railed against how McCartney and Harrison – “the most big headed uptight people” — treated Ono, regretting he didn’t punch Harrison when he told Ono she had a “bad vibe” reputation.
“I don’t forgive them for that,” he simmered. Then he laughed, remembering all the incendiary things he’d said over the course of the session. “This is gonna be some fucking thing. I don’t care, this is the end of it.”
He permanently alienated George Martin and the rest of the Beatles’ support team — Neil Aspinall, Mal Evans, and Derek Taylor – for saying that they had the gall to think they were actually Beatles themselves. He couldn’t even stop himself from saying his good friend Starr’s first album embarrassed him.
Someone who felt especially lacerated was McCartney. Shortly after the interview, he started the court case to dissolve the partnership they had all signed on August 19, 1967. McCartney had wanted the group more than anyone, but he was such a dominant control freak that none of the others wanted to work with him anymore — yet they didn’t want to end the Beatles’ company because then they’d each get taxed individually at a much higher rate. They wanted him to stay stuck in the same company with them even though they didn’t like him, release his albums by their schedule, and deal with their manager — who McCartney thought was probably crooked.
McCartney never truly let loose in the press back at Lennon, because, as he admitted, he knew Lennon would verbally destroy him. Instead he began a not-so-subtle assault through his music. Even though he changed the words of “Too Many People” from “Yoko took your lucky break and broke it in two,” Lennon soon blasted back with “How Do You Sleep.”
Harrison also chronicled everything from his walk out during the Let It Be sessions in “Wah Wah,” the endless court cases in “Sue Me, Sue You Blues,” and his sadness at their crumbling brotherhood in “Run of the Mill.” And Starr was still smoldering over the time McCartney shoved him out of the house with “Back Off Boogaloo.”
It was a dark two years in Pepperland until McCartney called a ceasefire at the end of 1971 with “Dear Friend,” and the healing gradually began.