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24 June 2012 @ 11:38 am
Discussion Day: Did Paul or John break up the Beatles?  

I've been reading Peter Doggett's book 'You Never Give Me Your Money' about the Beatles after the break up. I'm finding the business side of things fairly interesting, but what stuck out to me is who 'officially' broke up the Beatles. I know that they all left during certain points, but that they came back. 

Doggett stated that John announced he wanted a divorce from the band during a meeting and that everyone knew that he was serious when he meant that this was the end of the band. Yet, they stayed together (even though they weren't truly together) for the sake of making money and keeping Apple and their many ventures afloat. It seemed that aside from a few people in the know as well as a reporter John told (who didn't report the news) that the Beatles seemed to be done.  

Then Paul had those questions (he wrote for himself) and answered to be the promotion for his first solo album 'McCartney' which became front page news as the official announcement that the Beatles had broken up. Paul never point blank stated the Beatles were finished, but it seemed from that questioner it was over for them.

Who broke up the Beatles John or Paul? John was the one who said it in private, but depending on how much you do or don't read into Paul's answers one might think he was the one to have broken up the band once and for all. 
Selena: JohnPaul by Jennymaccaselenak on June 24th, 2012 04:46 pm (UTC)
Ha. The ultimate can of worms.

Okay, I think for the sake of clarification we need to narrow your question. The breakup of the Beatles had been at least two years in the making, and various factors (involving all four Beatles plus other people, from Brian's death via Apple and the financial disaster to the Eastmans vs Allen Klein, and yes, also the new partnerships/wives factors) led to it, but I think what you want to know is: who made that breakup final, John or Paul?

Which leads us to: a) what did John have in mind when he made his "I want a divorce" annoucement, and b) what did Paul have in mind when he wrote and published that questionaire? With a sideline of: did John when telling reporter Ray Connelly about the Beatles breakup but asking him to keep it confidential, only to later after Paul's questionaire went public complain to Connelly that Connelly hadn't broken the news first, want to make the break-up public but in a way he wouldn't be blamed for? ("It was that reporter who broke a confidence, your honour, not me!")

I could write whole essays on all those questions, but will try for brevity instead. I think John wanted an end but also wanted to keep a door open just in case, not least because of his abandonment issues and his paranoia. Also, this is moody John, changing his mind every other minute. So he said it, but allowed himself to be persuaded not to go public, then told Connolly, then said it was confidential, and so forth, and so on. What he absolutely couldn't stand was to look like the dumpee instead of the dumper in public, hence once the news broke his "Paul didn't quit - I fired him!" reaction, because no matter that it meant Paul got the public blame, the idea that anyone could believe Paul left him as opposed to him leaving Paul was just humiliating.

As for Paul: among other things, I think he wanted payback with that questionaire. Note that he's ambiguous re: playing with the group again ("time will tell" is his answer to that question), but unambiguous about the question whether he thinks Lennon/McCartney will ever be a working partnership again ("No"). He also throws in a put down to John's music while he's at it ("it doesn't give me any pleasure"). I think after two years of trying to keep the group together and to get John back and the constant put downs and rejections, the divorce annoucement by John was the straw that broke the camel's back once it was clear John wasn't going to take it back. As he put it many years later: "I started thinking, 'Well, if that's the case, I had better get myself together. I can't just let John control the situation and dump us as if we're the jilted girlfriends."

Selena: LennonMcCartney by Jennymaccaselenak on June 24th, 2012 04:47 pm (UTC)
I.e.: Paul didn't want to be the dumpee, either, oh no. So he was out for John's blood with that Q & A, imo, in a "you reject me? Fine, I reject you, as publically and irrevocably as possible, let's see how you like THAT" manner, and went for the jugular. Did he also want to end the group? (Different thing from ending Lennon/McCartney for good in theory at least, plus again, he makes a difference in the questionaire between the two issues.) Yesandnoandyesandnoandyesandno. I do think Paul was more invested in the band emotionally than the other three, especially that this point, he defined himself as a Beatle first and foremost, and he had fought against the odds to keep it going for a long time. But: he was invested in the group as a working band. John might have been okay with remaining a Beatle in name only as long as he didn't have to do any group albums again and could do his solo career, and George and Ringo might have been, too, but from all I've read and heard, and given the man's entire subsequent life, for Paul being a Beatle meant being a working musician with a group. That was/is his reason d'etre, so to speak. And in 1970, it was clear that the Beatles would not be able to work with each other as a band again for the foreseeable future. That they managed Abbey Road had been a not so minor miracle already. To let something you loved so much and put so much of yourself continue in name as a parody of itself while not getting what you most want from it? No. So, in conclusion: he phrased it ambiguously, but he did want an end as well for these reasons, and couldn't bring himself to say it clearer than that. Once the news got out and the public reaction was what it was, he backpedalled a bit to "that's not exactly what I meant" (re: Beatles, NOT about Lennon/McCartney), but I think that was for the public.

Lastly: I always found it telling that when Ringo walked out, the other three were sure he'd be back, ditto for George's walkout, and even when John made his "I want a divorce!" annoucement, the first reaction seems to have been "let's see whether he changes his mind again" - but after that interview went public, John, George and Ringo didn't even have a second of doubt that Paul wasn't posturing, he wasn't doing a flounce or a temporary walkout, that this was it. Because Paul wouldn't kid about something like that. And they also didn't seem to have considered for a second replacing him (no Eric Clapton crack from John there), which given who did the majority of the workload in the last year especially isn't surprising.
itsnotmymind: buffy & faithitsnotmymind on June 24th, 2012 07:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, the ultimate philosophical question for Beatles fans: What qualifies as the moment the Beatles broke up, and who was responsible for that moment? And by "philosophical" I mostly mean that you can talk about it for hours, but the answer doesn't actually matter.

That said, here is what I have to say:

You can't actually separate the two.

Technically Paul broke up the Beatles, because he made the break-up public and sued to dissolve their legal partnership, but he only broke up the Beatles because John had already broken up the Beatles, by announcing that he was leaving at that infamous meeting. Paul was always very clear on that, that he broke up the band because John had quit. I don't know if George and Ringo were convinced that John's declaration really meant the end of the band, but Paul was--not at first, but eventually. Paul would not have broken up the Beatles if John had not already done so.

So, maybe John broke up the Beatles. Except--how did John break up the Beatles? I said to Paul "I'm leaving" Paul was not the first person to hear John's announcement--he'd told the people he'd been performing with in Toronto, he'd told their manager, Allen Klein. Nor was he the last member of the band to learn about it--according to Peter Doggett, George wasn't at that fabled meeting, and only found out about later. But still, it's that meeting, that moment when John Lennon informed Paul McCartney
that he wanted a divorce, that is pointed to as the moment when John Lennon broke up the Beatles. John broke up the Beatles by telling Paul, specifically, that he was leaving.

In terms of motivations--I tend to think that neither of them actually wanted the band to be over, and they handled the inevitability of the end of the band (due to the personal differences, creative differences, and business differences) in ways that were sometimes very similar, and sometimes very different. John gave up more quickly, finding Yoko and partially withdrawing from the band, and yet he never completely gave up, staying for a year and half and three albums after Yoko gave him "the strength to leave" (must not have been a lot of strength). Paul, the optimist who had a lot of faith in the idea that you will get what you want if you work hard enough, refused to give up on the group until after it became apparent that it really was over. But once he gave up, he gave up completely, and turned all his willpower that he had been using to keep the band going to ending it. The fact that he was unhappy with their management situation undoubted contributed to that determination.

In other ways, they handled things the same: Neither of them wanted to be alone (hence neither one turning away from the group until they had new partners (Linda and Yoko) whom they were certain of) and neither of them wanted to be the jilted party. They competed over who would end the group first just as fiercely as they had once competed over who would get the A-side of a single--and they watched and imitated each other just as carefully.
Selenaselenak on June 25th, 2012 06:51 am (UTC)
John gave up more quickly, finding Yoko and partially withdrawing from the band, and yet he never completely gave up, staying for a year and half and three albums after Yoko gave him "the strength to leave" (must not have been a lot of strength). Paul, the optimist who had a lot of faith in the idea that you will get what you want if you work hard enough, refused to give up on the group until after it became apparent that it really was over. But once he gave up, he gave up completely, and turned all his willpower that he had been using to keep the band going to ending it.

That's so well phrased, and captures it exactly. It also reminds me of John's quote from Hunter Davies' 1968 biography, "he doesn't beat around the bush, does Paul". It's also telling, imo, that in the mid 70s John was the one who kept asking everybody and their roadie (including Art Garfunkel, which never fails to amuse me) whether he should work with Paul again, and had the incident Doggett reports at a party where he yelled, mid-argument with Yoko, "I wish I was back with Paul!", while Paul, who never was as vicious in his public put-downs as John, also never showed that type of post divorce longing in public. Even in 1984, with John dead for four years, Linda waits till Paul is out of the room in their Playboy interview until she says that not only does she think John wasn’t happy as a house husband, had writer’s block and was eager to work with Paul again but Paul was “desperate” to work with John again and would have done it in a heartbeat if John had asked him directly.

My favourite example of John and his waffling is this head-desk inducing passage from the 1971 St. Regis interview:

Reporter: I asked Lee Eastman for his view of the split, and what it was that prompted Paul to file suit to dissolve the Beatles' partnership, and he said it was because John asked for a divorce.

John: Because I asked for a divorce? That's a childish reason for going into court, isn't it?

Err, John. That's what a divorce is. You go to court and you split the goods. If you didn't mean that, you should have said "temporary separation" instead, Mr. Wordsmith. Unsolved mystery of the Beatles breakup No.1: how did John expect Paul to react to "I want a divorce, just like my divorce from Cynthia"?

Edited at 2012-06-25 06:52 am (UTC)
itsnotmymind: buffyitsnotmymind on June 25th, 2012 07:54 am (UTC)
I've thought about John's "that's a childish reason for going to court", and sometimes I wonder if maybe he didn't realize at the time that Paul had legitimate business reasons for suing. Maybe he thought Paul was suing just to hurt him. Because I do think that Paul announced the break-up the way he did just to hurt John, and I'm sure John knew that, and John's response to that would probably be to conclude that he had to be even more paranoid about Paul's motives.

"I'm going to court because John asked for a divorce" could mean "I love you and wouldn't have left you but since you left me I want to put an end to our legal partnership", or it could mean, "You hurt me by asking for a divorce, so I'm going to hurt you by suing you". And if John thought Paul meant the latter--well, that is childish. And he was taking his financial advice from Allen Klein, who probably wasn't likely to say, "Oh, yes, Paul was legitimate reasons for not wanting me as a manager".
Selena: Band on the Run - Jackdawsonsgrlselenak on June 25th, 2012 08:41 am (UTC)
Maybe he thought Paul was suing just to hurt him. Because I do think that Paul announced the break-up the way he did just to hurt John, and I'm sure John knew that, and John's response to that would probably be to conclude that he had to be even more paranoid about Paul's motives.

Oh, good point. And I agree re: Paul's reason for announcing the break-up the way he did, see my own comments above, with the primary evidence being one separate question for "Lennon/McCartney", and one for the Beatles. Incidentally, I know you read it already, but in case others haven't, this is a great legal analysis of Paul's initial lawsuit, arriving at the conclusion that "With the benefit of 30 years of hindsight, McCartney's decision, from a purely business standpoint, was a "no-brainer". While some of Klein's actions as manager had been approved by McCartney, those had occurred during the initial stages of the relationship (the Nems settlement and the Capitol renegotations). For over a year, things had gone from marginally tolerable to completely insufferable. (...) The wonder of it all is not that McCartney filed suit, but rather that it took him so long to do so. But as you said: that's just the opposite of what Allen Klein would have told John. Of course, this is the same interview in which Allen Klein is described as "shy" and misunderstood by John and Yoko, we get the Linda-is-tweedy-and-what-does-he-see-in-her? rant complete with aside Jim McCartney outburst, such Lennonian masterpieces as, re, will he tour again:

You know what I was thinking - I know I've told you this before - when Paul's going out on the road, I'd like to be playing in the same town for free next door! And he's charging about a million to see him. That would be funny. And of course he's going to think that I'm going out on the road because he's said he's going out on the road

which, this being the time when Paul did his dropping by at the universities to play for a tuppence thing he originally wanted to do with the Beatles and then did with the UrWings, is just, well, John logic at its finest, and concludes in deciding to bash George for a change, complete with comparing him to his disadvantage to Paul, which, given that George just supported him by playing in "How Do You Sleep?", makes it more look like Dad-uses-rebellious-teen-in-divorce-against-Mum-then-discards-him than ever:

John: (...) George and Ringo were getting restless and didn't want to do it anymore. And then George would say, "I've had enough. I don't want to do it. Fuck it all. I don't care if I'm poor." George goes through that every now and then. "I'll give it all away." Will he fuck? He's got it all charted up, like monopolo money.

Int.: Let's talk a bit about George. He's perhaps the most enigmatic Beatle. Are you saying George is more conventional than he makes himself out to be?

John: There's no telling George. He always has a point of view about that wide, you know. [John places his hands a few inches apart.] You can't tell him anything.

Yoko: George is sophisticated, fashionwise. . . .

John: He's very trendy, and he has the right clothes, and all of that. . . .

Yoko: But he's not sophisticated, intellectually.

John: No. He's very narrow-minded and he doesn't really have a broader view. Paul is far more aware than George. One time in the Apple office in Wigmore Street, I said something to George, and he said, "I'm as intelligent as you, you know." This must have been resentment, but he could have left anytime if I was giving him a hard time.

itsnotmymind: toshitsnotmymind on June 25th, 2012 05:51 pm (UTC)
Poor George! Although, really, after both having gone along with the edict to cut off contact with Cynthia and playing guitar on "How Do You Sleep", he should have realized that was only a matter of time before John would turn on him, too.
Selenaselenak on June 25th, 2012 08:14 pm (UTC)
True, he should have. But then, we're all like that, aren't we? Telling ourselves "he/she may do that to all the others but not to me because I'm the one who really understands him/her"?

...no wonder George finally exploded in 1974, though.
Selenaselenak on June 25th, 2012 10:07 am (UTC)
Also: what did John think would happen once he said he wanted a divorce to Paul? Because sometimes, in light of his later reactions such as the ones quoted, I wonder whether it wasn't a Mexican standoff/Ultimatum gone wrong for him. I.e. What he thought would happen may have been: Paul, confronted with John's divorce announcement, finally sees the light, fires the Eastmans and divorces Linda while he's at it. Which would fit with all the "I'll give you two years" and later "five years" re: Eastmans (including Linda) in the various Melody Maker letters and interviews, Yoko in the St. Regis interview saying "Allen said he gives Paul two years, Lindawise", and John saying Allen Klein would "love it if he (Paul) came back".
itsnotmymind: willow/taraitsnotmymind on June 25th, 2012 06:01 pm (UTC)
Sometimes I think it was something like that--that John thought if he scared Paul, then Paul would start making concessions in terms of power over the band (scaring Paul by bringing into the studio had worked, after all, to a certain extent). Sometimes I think he sort of thought that Paul was going to end it eventually, but that he didn't think, judging from Paul's behavior in 1969, that this was going to happen soon, so he thought that he still had time to gradually extricate himself from the group without Paul leaving first. Or maybe it was just like a child saying he doesn't want ice cream when he really does, and if his parent cares about him enough, the parent will know what he really means.

(I'm thinking of that quote about "I Know (I Know)": It's sort of complicated but sometimes you say things, but it's not really what you meant to say. If I say something to you and you hear it different from what I've said it, and you answer back and we're not really getting down to it. I'm really talking like that you know. Like somebody says 'do you want ice cream?' and I'll say no, and actually I meant yes. You find yourself saying the opposite of what you mean. This happens to me quite a lot. I speak a lot, but what I say is not always what I mean.
Selenaselenak on June 25th, 2012 08:22 pm (UTC)
Half of what I say is meaningless, indeed. Basically, he wanted people (read: primarily but not exclusively Paul and Yoko) to be able to read his mind. If he did expect the divorce announcement to scare Paul into submission, though, it must be the most painful tactic ever to misfire when Paul called his bluff. (And I think that's where Yoko took notice and drew the right conclusions, so that when a few years later it was her turn, she provided herself with continuing access to John and the ability to take him back by.)

I wasn't familiar with that quote, but it fits headache-inducingly well. Especially considering the likely subject of (I Know) I Know.
itsnotmymind: buffy/spike lsitsnotmymind on June 25th, 2012 09:07 pm (UTC)
As opposed to poor George, Yoko seems to had no confidence that she was special in terms of John's treatment--even though she had much more reason to think so than George did.

I'm reminded of Robert Hilburn telling the story of interviewing John and Yoko a few months before John died. He spoke to John alone, and John told him, "I love Yoko more than music." Later, Robert relayed this comment to Yoko, and she said something along the lines of, "John doesn't necessarily mean that. He's a poet."

I think that might actually be my favorite story of John and Yoko as a couple.
Selenaselenak on June 25th, 2012 09:40 pm (UTC)
It is made of win.:). Mind you, Yoko has also been busy in the John idealisation business both before (when I always compare what she did to what Brian Epstein did with the Beatles - Brian didn't invent the Beatles any more than Yoko invented solo John, but they both took part of what there, focused the public image on that and blocked out the parts that didn't fit with said image) and after his death (which is human, and everyone does it with people we lose and miss). But in terms of their personal interaction while he was alive, she doesn't, as you say, seem to have regarded herself as special or immune to John's turnarounds and strategized accordingly.

It occurs to me that this is true even for that stream of consciousness recording she did at Abbey Road Studios in May 1968, in the white hot honeymoon period, so to speak. Which has a lot about John being a genius and wanting John and what not (and the "vibe with me, Paul and John" passage), but also fears that any day could be the last and he could dump her. And when she tries to figure out the John and Cynthia relationship (i.e. why they remained together for as long as they did, a decade - which btw means she's counting their girlfriend and boyfriend period as well, which makes sense), she wonders about the connection to John's passive-aggressiveness; "weakness" is the actual word she uses which is fascinating given this is the same monologue where we get a lot of "John is such genius" and "John, I'm missing you already".

The other thing that occurs to me is that in May Pang's book, she (May) has this incredibly telling passage where she describes how, when listening to John giving interviews in his "honest, sincere" manner during the publicity for Mind Games and Wall and Bridges, it suddenly hit her that John was so good in turning on the "I'm ruthlessly honest and completely frank with you" voice when he was actually selling something and not being frank at all that she had no way of knowing whether he was also doing this in private, with her. And then she decides that no, he doesn't, she chooses to believe everything he tells her because he wouldn't lie to her. Whereas Yoko, imo, never was under the delusion that John wouldn't lie to her. Cynthia seems to have been. I think George was, too. Paul? Tricky. Extremely so. I can't make up my mind on this one. Mostly I think both Paul and John were aware that the other could be very manipulative, but they also believed each other to be a special category, until, etc.