Tags

Somewhere in the waning days of 1968 — the exact date does not seem to have been recorded — the four Beatles got together to assess the state of the band and plot their next steps. Bob Spitz, in The Beatles, sets the scene like this:

On one side of the yacht-size rosewood table, George, Paul, and Ringo sat puffing impatiently on cigarettes. Across the way, facing them like legal adversaries, sat John and Yoko.

Paul and John could not have been on more different pages. Paul wanted to go back on the road, playing small clubs in hope of recapturing some of that Olde Beatles Magic. John wanted to break up the band. Spitz quotes him thusly:

I think you’re daft. I wasn’t going to tell you, but I’m breaking the group up. It feels good. It feels like a divorce.

I doubt those were his exact words but you get the idea. He and Yoko were already planning their post-Beatles life, which must have seemed like a blissful escape from the 24/7 Beatlemania bubble.

So in many of the parallel universes, this is the end of The Beatles. Some people might prefer those universes. I am not one of them, as Abbey Road is my favorite Beatles album at least 30% of the time. But it certainly would have been a cleaner, less rancorous breakup.

In this universe, after a long discussion, the other three Beatles talked John off the ledge. But George nixed the idea of going on tour. Eventually, perhaps inspired by Elvis’s recent comeback special, they decided that they would perform live on TV.

After the meeting, Paul apparently went rogue, telling the press that The Beatles would play a show on live TV on or about Christmas. How he imagined that such a complex undertaking would come together so quickly, I have no idea; Paul gets a little carried away sometimes.

But the ball did get rolling. Michael Lindsay-Hogg, director of the promo films for “Paperback Writer,” “Rain,” “Hey Jude,” and “Revolution” — and, most recently, The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus — was hired to run the show. Many ideas for the special were considered: The Beatles would perform in an out-of-the-way pub; they would rent an ocean liner and play there; they would appear at a Roman amphitheater in Libya. Adds Spitz,

They even envisioned a scenario in which a tribe of Bedouins arrive at the empty arena, followed by people of all nationalities who fill up the seats in a powerful display of brotherhood. But that, too, along with an outdoor extravaganza at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, was scotched by George as “being very expensive and insane.”

Be that as it may, some of those ideas sound pretty fun, and I would be interested in visiting the universes where they actually happened. But in this one it was eventually decided that The Beatles would rent space at Twickenham Studios, where, said Paul, “you’d see the Beatles rehearsing, jamming, getting their act together, and then finally performing somewhere in a big end-of-show concert.”

And this did in fact come to pass, sort of. In 1970 Apple Films would release the documentary Let It Be, which included footage of The Beatles playing their legendary rooftop concert. But by then they had broken up for real, a process which was hastened by the miserable time they had at Twickenham.

The challenge awaiting The Beatles Plus 50 in 2019/1969 is to somehow make that misery entertaining when the sessions begin on January 2. There is a lot of material there; a 17-CD box set of the complete Get Back/Let It Be sessions is even now sitting on my desk, glowering at me threateningly. Its time shall come, but first, I think, a nice long nap.

0 0 vote
Article Rating