Just why The Beatles broke up - exactly 50 years ago

It’s exactly 50 years ago this week that The Beatles split up.

The Beatles
The Beatles

Peter Doggett, Bognor Regis-based Beatles historian and the best-selling author of You Never Give Me Your Money, was to have examined the landmark moment in a special talk Who Broke Up The Beatles? for this year’s Festival of Chichester. The Festival has been cancelled, but the question remains

The answer is a complex one: “I think obviously it was a question of four people growing up and growing apart and lots of other people becoming involved as well. And then you have got the consequences of fame and money and all the pressures coinciding.

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“For the talk, I was going to go through all the suspects. People will say they split because of John Lennon or they split because of Yoko Ono. Or because of Paul McCartney or George Harrison. Or they split because of Allen Klein.

“I was going to go through all those suspects and then give the audience the chance to vote at the end. But in fact, I suspect the real answer is that it was because of all of these people – and also because of us, the fans.

“But I don’t think that The Beatles would have broken up if John Lennon had not met Yoko Ono, but that certainly doesn’t make it Yoko’s fault. But it altered everything. It altered the internal chemistry of the band. In physical terms, it stuck Yoko into the middle of four people who were used to being in a room together, creating together and looking at each other. And then John was suddenly so madly in love with Yoko both physically and romantically, but also artistically in love with her… and he insisted on having her in the room as his equal. That completely ruined the line of communication between him and Paul, the most important line of communication. John wanted to move his music and his creativity in Yoko’s direction. The whole axis of his creative life moved from the most important thing being The Beatles to the most important thing being John and Yoko, and it was impossible to come back from that.”

Compromise wasn’t possible: “They had known each other too long. It was like marriage or family. The better you know people, the harder it becomes to stand back and make rational decisions. You just carry so much baggage. They were kids when they started out together. You just get locked into a certain way of thinking about people and the way you see people.”

Part also of the context was that George Harrison was becoming more interested in all things Indian and his spiritual life than he was in rock music. And so it ended…

Peter Doggett

But the band’s impact remains... and is massive still.

“The Beatles, almost without realising it, embodied all the most positive qualities of the 60s, the optimism, the idealism, the spontaneity, the discovery, the enormous creative endeavour…

“And there is also great joy in their music. You don’t hear much joy in pop music now, except in dance music. The rest of it is almost all ‘I hate myself’ type music. There is that very dark element of much of pop music now.

“But The Beatles managed to focus on the most idealised elements of the 1960s and there was definite joy in what they did.”

Oddly it mostly passed Peter by first time round.

Peter was six when he first heard She Loves You: “That made a big impression on me. Everybody at school went around singing all The Beatles songs, but within six to nine months I had lost interest and was far more interested in football and cricket instead.

“I returned to The Beatles in 1970. I went to the cinema to see a double bill of Yellow Submarine and Let It Be… It must have been three or four months after Let It Be came out, and I just fell in love with them – and was horrified to learn that they had broken up! I find it amazing that I could have got to the age of 13 and yet not have heard that The Beatles had split!”

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