The Beatles had recently finished recording Abbey Road in early September 1969, but they still had much business to deal with. On 9 September 1969, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison met at the Apple Corps headquarters at 3 Savile Row, London, to discuss their future.
Lennon’s assistant Anthony Fawcett brought a portable tape recorder to document the meeting, which also allowed the absent Ringo Starr to hear the discussions. At the time Starr was in hospital, undergoing tests for an intestinal complaint.
Ringo – you can’t be here, but this is so you can hear what we’re discussing.
The Beatles began the meeting by discussing plans for a new album, and maybe release a Christmas single. Lennon suggested that they should each bring in compositions for consideration, and proposed a formula for the next Beatles album: four apiece by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, and an optional two from Starr “if he wants them”.
We always carved the singles up between us. We have the singles market, [George and Ringo] don’t get anything! I mean, we’ve never offered George b-sides; we could have given him a lot of b-sides, but because we were two people you had the a-side and I had the b-side.
One Day At A Time, Anthony Fawcett
McCartney’s response to this was to say that he had thought Harrison’s pre-1969 songs had been substandard.
“Well the thing is,” Paul answered, without even looking at George who sat a few feet away, “I think that 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.”
George was quick to correct Paul: “Now that’s a myth, ’cause most of the songs this year I wrote about 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.”
“I know what he’s saying,” John said, “’cause people have said to me you’re coming through a lot stronger now than you had.”
“I don’t particularly seek acclaim,” George said. “That’s not the thing. It’s just to get out whatever is there to make way for whatever else is there. You know, ’cause it’s only to get ‘em out, and also I might as well make a bit of money, seeing as I’m spending as much as the rest of you, and I don’t earn as much as the rest of you!”
Like the others, George was now out on his own musically. “Most of my tunes,” he said, “I never had the Beatles backing me.”
“Oh! C’mon, 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 Indian and we weren’t needed!”
“That was only one tune,” George said. “On the last album [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,” John replied, in a hurt tone of voice.
There was a long pause as each Beatle seemed lost in contemplation, wondering. Not wanting to admit that they were becoming individual musicians, Paul grasped at the remnants of truth and spoke slowly, almost whispering. “When we get in a studio, even on the worst day, I’m still playing bass, Ringo’s still drumming, and we’re still there, you know.”
Lennon also told McCartney that none of the other Beatles had “dug” ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, additionally indicating that not even McCartney had liked it.
It seemed mad for us to put a song on an album that nobody really dug, including the guy who wrote it, just because it was going to be popular, ’cause the LP doesn’t have to be that. Wouldn’t it be better, because we didn’t really dig them, yer know, for you to do the songs you dug, and ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ and ‘Maxwell’ to be given to people who like music like that, yer know, like Mary or whoever it is needs a song. Why don’t you give them to them? The only time we need anything vaguely near that quality is for a single. For an album we could just do only stuff that we really dug.
One Day At A Time, Anthony Fawcett
Lennon also referred to the “Lennon and McCartney myth”, suggesting a belief that their future songs should be individually credited rather than the traditional Lennon-McCartney partnership of old.
This was, of course, largely moot, since The Beatles never came together to record another album – and, indeed, never again recorded as a quartet. On 29 September 1969, three weeks after this meeting, Lennon told the others that he was leaving the band.
The Beatles’ final session as a group was on 4 January 1970, to finish Let It Be songs, and the final session to feature a member of the band was on 1 April 1970, when Ringo Starr added more drums to ‘Across The Universe’, ‘The Long And Winding Road’, and ‘I Me Mine’.
Also on this day...
- 2018: Ringo Starr live: Century Center, South Bend, Indiana
- 2016: Album release: Live At The Hollywood Bowl
- 2014: The Art Of Paul McCartney tribute album announced
- 2014: The Beatles’ remastered mono vinyl collection gets worldwide release
- 2009: The Beatles’ mono and stereo remasters are released
- 1971: US album release: Imagine by John Lennon
- 1968: Recording: Helter Skelter
- 1962: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (evening)
- 1961: Live: Aintree Institute, Liverpool
- 1960: Live: Indra Club, Hamburg
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.