Much has been made in the media over the last few days about a tape recording made by The Beatles of a business meeting at Apple at 3 Savile Row. The recording was made as Ringo was in hospital and the other wanted to hear what had happened at the meeting.
Media reports say it has just been discovered, but actually, it’s been known about in the Beatles’ world since the late 70’s. Anthony Fawcett quotes from it in his book ‘ John Lennon’ One Day at a Time’, published in 1976, and Nicolas Shaffner reports on it in his excellent book ‘The Beatles Forever’ in 1977.
The meeting took place on September 8th 1969. The Beatles had just finished the Abbey Road Album, which was due to be released in 2 weeks time. Many people have assumed since that the Beatles themselves thought it would be the last album they recorded. This meeting shows something different. The Beatles were contemplating a new album, and even a new single, to be released around Christmas time. The Album would be very different though. On the tape, the John, Paul and George, discuss the idea that there would be four songs each by John, Paul and George, and maybe two by Ringo. This seems to acknowledge that the Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership is over, and that George is going to have equal and equal number of songs to John and Paul. John says on the tape “We always carved up the singles up between us,” he told Paul. “We have the singles market, they, (George and Ringo) don’t get anything”
Paul replies “Well the thing is, I think until now, until this year, our songs have been better than George’s. Now this year his songs are at least as good as ours”
At this point, George was sitting next to Paul, and countered, “Now that’s a myth, ’cause of these songs I wrote last year, or the year before, anyway. Maybe now I just don’t care whether you are going to like them or not, I just do ’em..if I didn’t get a break I wouldn’t push it, I’d just forget about it. Now for the last two years, at any rate, I’ve pushed it a bit more. Most of my tunes I never had the Beatles backing me”
“Oh Come on George!” John shouted. ” We put a lot of work in your songs, even down to ‘Don’t Bother Me’: we spent a lot of time doing all that and we grooved. I can remember the riff you were playing, and in the last two years there was a period where you went Indiana and we weren’t needed!”
“That was only one tune”, George said, “on the last album [The White Album] I don’t think you appeared on any of my songs – I don’t mind”
“Well you had Eric [Clapton], or somebody like that” replied John.
Paul said to this “When we get in a studio, even on the worse day, I’m still playing bass, Ringo’s still drumming, and we’re still there you know”.
Even though a new album was discussed, it was of course never made. Right after this meeting, John and Yoko flew to Canada for the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival Show. On that trip he told his fellow musicians, including Eric Clapton, he was thinking of leaving the Beatles.
On September 20th, a further meeting was held at 3 Savile Row, this time with George absent. That day, the Beatles signed a new improved recording contract with Capital Records. It had been negotiated by Allen Klein, and despite his hate of Klein, Paul signed the contract with the others. However Paul said at the meeting that he wanted the Beatles to go back to basics, and start playing live again in small venues.
John told of his reply in the ‘Beatles Anthology’
“Then we were discussing something in the office with Paul and Paul was saying to do something, and I kept saying, ‘No, no, no’ to everything he said. So it came to a point that I had to say something. So I said, ‘The group’s over, I’m leaving.’ Allen was there, and he was saying, ‘Don’t tell.’ He didn’t want me to tell Paul even. But I couldn’t help it, I couldn’t stop it, it came out.”
Ringo had left the Beatles during the White Album sessions, and George during ‘Let it Be’, and both came back. However this was John Lennon, and he didn’t change his mind. The dream was over.