For decades the orthodoxy was that the Beatles split up in 1970 because they wanted to get out while they were at the top, and John Lennon had decided he’d had enough of the band. But a rarely aired tape of a Fab Four business meeting (minus Ringo, who was in hospital) tells a very different story. John Lennon recorded the meeting when the release of Abbey Road was just a couple of weeks away. According to the mythology, the band knew this album would be their last.
Beatles’ biographer Mark Lewisohn – author of the 2013 book The Beatles – All These Years: Volume One: Tune In, chronicling the Beatles story up to 1962 – is the man behind these new revelations. He has used as his source an obscure tape that John Lennon made back in September 1969, two weeks before the Beatles’ final album, Abbey Road was released.
The tape explodes the idea that the Beatles were on the point of dissolving and that Abbey Road was deliberately planned as their last release. Instead the musicians are discussing the release of their next album. John, Paul and George even talk about releasing a new single in time for the lucrative Christmas market.
And there are some spiky exchanges on the tape. Lennon actually suggests that individuals including George Harrison should get more credit as sole songwriters. He disparages the “the Lennon-and-McCartney myth” that nearly all the songs are written by Paul and himself in tandem. Paul then drops a bombshell. “I thought until this album that George’s songs weren’t that good,” the bassist says. Harrison retorts, “That’s a matter of taste. All down the line, people have liked my songs.”
As Lewisohn told the The Guardian newspaper in September 2019, “It’s a revelation…The books have always told us that they knew Abbey Road was their last album.” Lewisohn added, “And you think that John is the one who wanted to break them up but, when you hear this, he isn’t. Doesn’t that rewrite pretty much everything we thought we knew?”