It was 48 years ago today (April 10th, 1970) that Paul McCartney’s departure from the Beatles was made public, in effect announcing to the world what many fans had suspected over the past six months — the Beatles had broken up. McCartney’s statements regarding the end of his songwriting partnership with John Lennon, along with his wish to record apart from Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, came as part of a question-and-answer sheet included with press copies of his debut solo album, which was simply titled McCartney.
The news had first leaked out three days prior to that. McCartney’s brother in-law and attorney John Eastman let McCartney’s break with the band slip while announcing plans for McCartney’s plans for an animated film of the British animated character Rupert the Bear and the upcoming release of McCartney’s debut album.
In the Q&A for the press, which was actually written entirely by McCartney, he asked himself several pointed questions about the future of the group. McCartney explained his reasons for going solo, citing “business and musical differences, but most of all because I have a better time with my family.” McCartney went on to issue what most fans read as the ultimate death knell to the Beatles: “I do not foresee a time when the Lennon & McCartney partnership will be active again in songwriting.”
In truth, the group had been dormant since Lennon privately announced his split to McCartney and Starr during a business meeting the previous September. By all accounts, George Harrison was not present for the announcement. Lennon ended the meeting by revealing to the pair that he wanted “a divorce” from the group. Tensions had been building between the Beatles since their return from India in the spring of 1968. And a year later, when Lennon, Harrison and Starr out-voted McCartney into hiring manager Allen Klein to run their company Apple Corps, the rift began to deepen.
True to his decision, Lennon didn’t attend what turned out to be the group’s final recording session on January 3rd, 1970, when the Beatles taped Harrison’s song “I Me Mine.”
In the months that followed Lennon’s private announcement, the Beatles gave interviews in which they all deliberately refrained from announcing the split. That February, nearly five months after quitting the group, Lennon told Rolling Stone that, “We still might make Beatles product. We just need more room. The Beatles are just too limited.”
That next month, both Starr and Harrison spoke to Britain’s New Musical Express, with Starr stating that, “I’ve got things to do, George has things to do, and Paul has his solo album to come, and John has his peace thing. We can’t do everything at once. Time will tell.” Harrison added that, “Say we’ve got unity through diversity. . . We had to find ourselves individually, one day.”
George Harrison told us in 1995 that the Beatles’ split in 1970 was a completely liberating experience for him as an artist: “The situation at that time, the Beatles had, y’know, gone past the ‘sell by’ date or whatever you call it. Y’know, it’s kinda like the Beatles had sort of finished, y’know? Everybody was. . . We were all tired of that, and so it was kind of exciting, the fact that I had all these songs — been collecting for over a period of time, and I was gonna be able to get an album out and release all this stuff so I can get on with my life, basically. Most of these songs were written over a couple of years prior to, actually, ’70.”
Although the split cemented the fact that the Beatles would no longer record as a single unified group, in December 1970 McCartney sued Lennon, Harrison and Starr to formally dissolve their business partnership. His suit ultimately put all the monies earned by the group in escrow for the next five years. The Beatles formal partnership stretched on until early 1975.
Their business problems carried on through the next 20 years before all their interpersonal lawsuits were settled. Today, the group’s company, Apple Corps, is jointly owned by McCartney, Starr and the estates of Lennon and Harrison, and handles all past and future Beatles business.
In 1999 McCartney recalled the split for his Wingspan project, saying that, “It doesn’t matter who broke the Beatles up — the Beatles were ready to break up. We’d come full circle and now we had to get on with something new, all of us.”
In the years following the group’s split, McCartney went on to become the most commercially successful of the four ex-Beatles. Since 1970, McCartney has scored 22 Top Ten hits, including nine Number Ones, seven Number One albums, nine Grammy Awards, and two Oscar nominations.
McCartney returned to the stage in 1972 with Wings. Although his initial solo tours excluded any Beatles material from the concert setlists, by Wings’ final tours he was including a handful of Beatles songs in his shows.
Since his return to the road in 1989 after a decade of only a handful of performances, McCartney’s live shows have been dominated by Beatles material, most of which the band had never performed live.
Beginning in 2010, to the delight of many fans, McCartney began delving deeper into his classic Wings catalogue.
Photo Courtesy of Apple Corps Ltd.