By Jann S. Wenner / May 14, 1970
There is almost no attempt in this new set to be anything but what the Beatles actually are: John, Paul, George and Ringo. Four different people, each with songs and styles and abilities. They are no longer Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and it is possible that they are no longer the Beatles.
- From the review of the White Album (The Beatles)
Rolling Stone, December 21, 1968
The status of the Beatles hasn't changed much since then. Only now bitterness and mistrust have begun to set in. For if they have indeed "broken up," the break took place well before Paul McCartney released his new album and announced he was leaving.
In words of John Lennon, "We were long gone, a long time ago."
What has happened in the last few weeks is the public result of the bitter fight over Beatle business manager Allen Klein and the formal end of the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team.
And underlying that is the passage of time, in which boys turn into men, in which they marry, in which they grow up, in which they grow apart.
"The Beatles haven't had a future, for me, for the last two years," John said after all this hit the papers. "All of us are laboring under this delusion about Beatles and McCartney and Lennon and Harrison and Starr. But, you know, we all have to get over it, us and the public. It's a joke. What we did was what we did, but what we are is something different."
If there is a "reason" the Beatles broke up, it goes back to a series of events that center around the formation of Apple. After Brian Epstein's death and the release of Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles were set adrift to find their own direction without guidance. They started Apple, set up to be "run" by the Beatles as a collective, and in it they installed their longtime friends and associates to take care of the business.
They found out, however, that four musicians and their road managers do not a successful record company make, no matter who they are. John, George and Ringo, bored with the daily meetings over minor business hassles, soon drifted away from it, and it quickly became Paul's trip.
Paul - who in the meantime had married Linda Eastman, whose father and brother are music-business lawyers - couldn't run it either. And it was a mess. Apple turned into a huge financial loss, draining like a sieve, under incompetent management replete with freeloaders, hangers-on, loyal and loving Beatle workers, and all of it bogged down by bickering, with the Beatles unable to resolve it.
John soon let it slip to the papers that the operation had bled the Beatles nearly dry. Then he brought in Allen Klein.
And the fight began. John and Yoko Lennon in one corner, Paul and Linda McCartney in the other. John, with his clothes off and other weird trips, drifting further and further away from Paul, the "nice Beatle" repulsed by John's carryings-on. And John, with George and Ringo, wanting Allen Klein in to bring order to the chaos, versus Paul, whose new in-laws wanted to take over the Beatles.
So it went. And so, they "broke up."
When did the Beatles break up?
John: "The Beatles' White Album. Listen - all you experts listen, none of you can hear. Every track is an individual track - there isn't any Beatle music on it. I just say, listen to the White Album. It was John and the Band, Paul and the Band, George and the Band, like that. Paul and the Band. What I did was sort of say, 'Fuck the Band. I'll make John - I'll do it with Yoko,' or whatever. I put four albums out last year and I didn't say a fucking word about quitting."
The current reports of the breakup were the result of a story released to wire services by McCartney's brother-in-law, New York attorney John Eastman, in which the new album was announced along with statements that Paul had formed his own production company and was planning to do more things on his own.
This was quickly followed by the release of a startling four-page question-and-answer interview in which Paul said he was not planning to make more records with the Beatles, disavowed Allen Klein, made a few "anti" remarks about John and Ringo, said he didn't foresee a time when he and John would write songs again and announced that he had broken with the Beatles.
"I'm telling you," said John, "that's what going on. It's John, George and Ringo as individuals. We're not even communicating with or making plans about Paul. We're just reacting to everything he does. It's a simple fact that he can't have his own way so he's causing chaos. I don't care what you think of Klein - call Klein something else, call him Epstein for now - and just consider the fact that three of us chose Epstein. Paul was the same with Brian in the beginning, if you must know. He used to sulk and God knows what. Wouldn't turn up for the dates or the bookings. It's always been the same, only now it's bigger because we're all bigger. It's the same old game.
"You know, it's like this," John said, "when we read all this shit in the paper, Yoko and I were laughing because the cartoon is this: four guys on a stage with a spotlight on them; second picture, three guys onstage, breezing out of the spotlight; third picture, one guy standing there, shouting, "I'm leaving.' We were all out of it."