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How the Beatles' messy breakup 52 years ago actually went down: 'The dream is over...'

The news of the Beatles' breakup knocked the wind out of many, as few at the time were aware of the fissures that had developed within the band.

How the Beatles' messy breakup 52 years ago actually went down: 'The dream is over...'
Cover Image Source: The Beatles at a press conference held at the west London home of their manager Brian Epstein. (Photo by John Pratt/Keystone/Getty Images)

On April 10, 1970, Paul McCartney made a small but explosive statement that would leave his three bandmates and the rest of the world stunned. When asked in an interview during press for his first solo album, "McCartney," whether he was planning a new album or single with the Beatles, the bassist replied: "No." Although he didn't elaborate on whether the separation might prove permanent, the headline that took up almost half of The Daily Mirror's front page, conclusively stating: "Paul Quits the Beatles." The news knocked the wind out of many, as few at the time were aware of the fissures that had developed within the band since their manager, Brian Epstein, died in August 1967.

According to The Conversation, McCartney's unexpected exit from the group left the others worried that it could affect the sales of the band's "Let It Be" album and film, which were slated to come out in May. However, when Ringo Starr was picked to play the role of peacemaker and sent to McCartney's London home to talk him down from releasing his solo album ahead of the band's record, McCartney was in no mood for conciliatory agreements. "I went to see Paul. To my dismay, he went completely out of control, shouting at me, prodding his fingers towards my face, saying: 'I'll finish you now' and 'You'll pay.' He told me to put my coat on and get out. I did so," Ringo reportedly said of the situation in an affidavit read out in court during the 1971 hearings to end the Beatles partnership.



 

Meanwhile, John Lennon—who had been active outside the band for months at that point—felt particularly betrayed by McCartney leaking his intention to leave the group. Just a few months prior to his bandmate's shocking revelation, Lennon had asked the others for a "divorce." However, they'd convinced him to hold off on any announcement to prevent disrupting some delicate contract negotiations. By beating Lennon to it, McCartney controlled the narrative of the band's breakup and undercut the other three's interest in keeping it under wraps as their new album hit stores.



 

Ray Connolly, a reporter at the Daily Mail who knew Lennon well enough to phone him up for comment, faced an enraged artist when he spoke to him. During a 2008 interview, Connolly revealed that in December 1969, Lennon had shared with him his secret about leaving the band, off the record. However, when the journalist spoke to him after McCartney's announcement, Lennon lambasted Connolly for not leaking it sooner. "Why didn't you write it when I told you in Canada at Christmas!" he reportedly exclaimed to Connolly, who reminded him that the conversation had been off the record. "You're the f**king journalist, Connolly, not me," Lennon snorted in response. "We were all hurt [McCartney] didn't tell us what he was going to do," the singer later told Rolling Stone. "Jesus Christ! He gets all the credit for it! I was a fool not to do what Paul did, which was use it to sell a record..."



 

The discord between band members had reportedly been bubbling beneath the surface for years. Although arguments about creative control and the return to live touring were concealed by timing and sales, the facade broke down when Lennon brought in American producer Phil Spector—best known for girl group hits like "Be My Baby"—to revive the group's "Get Back" project behind McCartney's back. Because the album was originally conceptualized as a band-only back-to-the-basics recording without the artifice of studio trickery, McCartney was not happy when Spector added a female choir to his song, "The Long and Winding Road."



 

"Get Back"—later renamed "Let it Be"—moved forward nonetheless with Spector mixing the album and a cut of the feature film being readied for summer. McCartney's announcement and release of his solo album effectively short-circuited the plan. Throughout the remainder of 1970, fans watched in disbelief as the widely beloved band parted ways. Fans hoped against hope that the four would get back together, but when Lennon sang "The dream is over..." at the end of his own 1970 solo debut, it echoed the sad truth that the Beatles would never record together again. 

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