Paul McCartney’s 1970 press release was the end for the Fab Four, but it had been coming for years, and by the time Yoko Ono was answering for John Lennon in band meetings, the writing was on the wall. Mark Beaumont details the flash-points, fights, and behind-the-scenes tensions that led to the rift that never healed
fter eight years that shook the world, redefined music and rerouted popular culture, it took just one word to kill off the best band that ever lived. “Are you planning a new album or single with The Beatles?” Paul McCartney was asked in a press release for his first solo album McCartney, sent to journalists on 9 April 1970. Answer: “No”. And to drive the final nail home: “Do you foresee a time when Lennon-McCartney becomes an active songwriting partnership again?” “No.”
With that, the dream was over. On 10 April, the Daily Mirror ran the front-page headline “Paul Quits The Beatles”, and the media across the world ignited. Fans and reporters gathered outside the offices of Apple Corps at 3 Savile Row, distraught or eulogising. “The event is so momentous that historians may, one day, view it as a landmark in the decline of the British Empire,” reported a CBS News crew from America. “The Beatles are breaking up.”
A generation was plunged into shock and mourning. Not just the screaming hordes of Beatlemania, still barely in their twenties, but the counter-culture dreamers and social activists of flower power who had found mainstream acceptance in the band’s mid-period albums, and the darker rock and psychedelic experimentalists for whom The White Album and Abbey Road were such rich and influential pickings. For almost a decade, through The Beatles and their acolytes, music had owned the world; for many this felt like a full stop not just on the greatest band in history, but on the onward rush of an evolving, revolutionary youth culture.