There is breaking Beatles news, of a sort, here in 2019: In an article that just appeared in The Guardian, author and Noted Expert Mark Lewisohn claims to be in possession of a tape made on September 8, 1969 in which a post–Abbey Road album and new single are seriously discussed. I’m not saying this isn’t true, just that I haven’t heard the tape, and the whole thing seems rather strange.

In Lewisohn’s telling, John proposes that the next Beatles album be made up of four of his songs, four of Paul’s, and four of George’s — as well as two from Ringo, “if he wants them.” Part of the deal was that John and Paul’s songs would be credited separately for the first time.

Not only does this account upend the generally accepted narrative that everyone knew Abbey Road would be the last album, it portrays John as eager to start working on a new Beatles single — just about a week before he officially (if secretly) quit the band.

So what the hell? Lewisohn does not explain the apparent contradiction. Maybe it was John’s last-ditch effort to continue The Beatles on terms he could live with — terms that would also recognize George as an equal songwriting partner, perhaps motivating him to stay on board as well. As we all know, it didn’t work out that way.

We also know that John was in the studio on this day in 1969 remixing “What’s the New Mary Jane,” which he apparently intended to release as a Plastic Ono Band single. This also did not happen, possibly because George had played on it as well as John. “Mary Jane” would not see the light of day until in appeared on Anthology 3 in 1996.

As for The Album That Never Was, it’s not like no one has ever thought about what a follow-up to Abbey Road would have been like. You can cherry-pick some pretty great songs from All Things Must Pass, Plastic Ono Band, and even McCartney (but no “Maybe I’m Amazed,” please); who knows whether Ringo would have wanted his allotted slots. It’s fun to speculate, but in end these things are just phantoms, Ghosts of Beatles Future that never found their way into being. Perhaps it’s best just to let it be.

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