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Break-up of the Beatles (1967-1976)
The Beatles bursted into the charts for the first time in late 1962 with "Love Me Do". Their music became synonymous with the youth of the era and it was the soundtrack that helped lift the post-war cultural depression. The 'Swinging Sixties' changed the social norms, but it's end (is often said) coincided with the very messy break-up of the group who started it all: The Beatles.
The cracks started to show in late 1967. The Beatles' long-time manager, Brian Epstein, died due to an overdose of sleeping pills on August 27th. Since the group's early days, Epstein had handled the financial and business side of the band. The now grief-stricken Beatles decided to manage themselves, with Paul (in particular) taking control. It was he who set the group's first project, a film called "Magical Mystery Tour".
Filming began on September 11th 1967, only 15 days after Epstein's death. Unlike their 2 previous attempts at cinema ('A Hard Days Night' & 'Help!' respectively), they directed the film themselves, mainly Paul. The film, which aired on Boxing Day (December 26th) on BBC1, bombed. The critics dubbed it a "psychedelic mess".
Around this time, the Beatles reingaged with their interests in spirituality and Indian culture. They had attended meetings several times before with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, leader of the Transendental Meditation movement. They were on a retreat in Bangor, Wales when they heard the news of Brian Epsteins death. In February 1968, the Beatles, along with several of their hangers on such as Mia & Prudence Farrow, Donovan and Beach Boy Mike Love, pilgrammaged to the Maharishi's mountain retreat in Rishikesh. During this period, whilst off LSD, they cleaned their minds and wrote nearly 50 songs in approximately 7 weeks. Another crack began here in their relationship. Ringo left after 2 weeks due to being unable to stomach the harsh vegetarian meals. McCartney stayed on for a few weeks longer, but left in mid-March. Lennon and Harrison, who were both more interested in Indian culture, stayed on for a few weeks, but left abruptly in April due to accusations made against the Maharishi that he was sexually harrasing Mia Farrow. This would be the last time they travelled together abroad.
On May 15th, they announced the founding of their own company, Apple Corps, which would manage the band and their affairs. It had been envisioned by Epstein as a 'tax-shelter', but his death left uncertainty to the running of Apple Corps and it's purpose.
On May 31st, the band began recording their latest album, simply entitled 'The Beatles', also known as 'The White Album' due to it's perfectly white cover. It was to be a double album, which George Martin, who had produced all their albums to date, thought it was a bad idea, and that a stronger single album was better than a weak double album full of 'filler' songs.
The recording sessions for The White Album were plagued from the beginning, with arguments & discourse. On August 27th, Ringo Starr walked out of recording sessions for the day, before they had even begun. As a result, all the Beatles played drums and bass on "Back in the USSR" and "Dear Prudence", mainly McCartney played the drums though. Starr was welcomed back on September 3rd after a week of begging from the other Beatles.
Tensions remained high for the rest of the sessions, the only relief coming when Eric Clapton was invited to play the guitar solo on Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". This is another factor in the break-up of the Beatles, the rise of George Harrison as a song-writer. In the early days, it was a 50-50 split between McCartney and Lennon as to song-writing responsibilities, with Harrison and Starkey adding the odd guitar or lyric here or there. By 1967, Harrison had written a large number of songs of varying quality, although any time he suggested them in a recording session, he was shot down by either Lennon or McCartney. This caused Harrison to become ever de-moralised. By the end of the Beatles, one could say he was on a level par with his former bandmates. His addition to Abbey Road, the beautiful "Something", was the A-side of their single and Frank Sinatra called it his "favourite Lennon-McCartney song". Again, his capabilities were epitomised when he was the first Beatle to get a solo number 1.
On January 1st 1969, filming on their next and final movie, 'Let it Be', began in Twickenham Studios, London. The idea behind was a serious "day in the life" of the Beatles, but it always seemed to be doomed. On 10th of January, George Harrison walked out, due to both McCartney's demanding orders and Lennon's eternal obsession with Yoko Ono. He came back a week later, but the scars remained.
On January 28th, Lennon announced that Apple Corps was "bleeding money". Filming continued on Let it Be on January 20th at Apple Headquarters, 3 Saville Road, according to George Harrison's requests. On January 30th, on the roof of Abbey Road, they held an impromptu concert, which would be used as a finale for the film. There were plans for the concert to take place in a Roman auditorium in the middle of the desert and other complicated plans, but Harrison again didn't wish to travel abroad. The rooftop concert lasted 42 minutes until it was stopped by the police after several noise complaints. Filming ended the next day.
On February 3rd, John, George & Ringo appointed Allen Klein to manage Apple Corps & the band's affairs. Paul disagreed with this appointment, as he preferred the appointment of Lee Eastman, father of McCartney's future wife Linda Eastman, to the same position.
On March 20th, John & Yoko got married in Gibraltar. 5 days later they held their infamous 'bed-in' in the Amsterdam Hilton. On April 3rd, Billy Preston, a brilliant keyboardist, signed with Apple. He was quickly brought into the Let it Be sessions. The band had known him since the early 60's & had even considered inviting him to join in 1962. He instantly improved the atmosphere in the Let it Be sessions, as Clapton had during the White Album sessions.
On June 1st, John recorded his debut single, "Give Peace a Chance". This showed John's ever increasing independance from the band. Although this was an entirely John Lennon composition, he released it as a Lennon-McCartney composition, as was the practice at the time among the band. On July 1st, the group began recording what would be their final album, Abbey Road.
On September 13th, John and his Plastic Ono Band debuted in the "Live Peace in Toronto" concert. It's line-up was Eric Clapton on lead guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass, Alan White on drums with Lennon & Yoko fronted the group. The success of this gig gave John the confidence to announce to the other members of the Beatles that he was quiting the band a week later on 20th September. On October 1st, the Beatles' 'swan-song', Abbey Road was released.
After the failure that was the 'Let it Be' sessions, the group planned Abbey Road as their farewell album, and decided to put aside their various differences temporarily. The album was a huge success, and the Beatles themselves enjoyed the sessions.
On February 20th, the Plastic Ono Band released 'Instant Karma'. The group all seemed to branch out from each other into their own solo projects.
On April 10th, Paul announced that he had left the group to the public, his reasons being "personal and musical differences". 10 days later, on April 20th, he released his debut solo album, entitled 'McCartney'. Finally on May 18th & 20th respectively, the Let it Be album & film were released. Paul's announcement was the 'unofficial' end of the Beatles. The band was officially over on January 9th 1976 after lengthy legal battles. As Lennon said in the song "God" from his debut solo album 'Plastic Ono Band', "the dream is over".
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