The Beatles Wind Down in 1970

Beatles 1970

Beatles 1970

On the first day of March 1970, the Beatles returned, more or less, to The Ed Sullivan Show. Six years before, their first appearance on television’s most insanely eclectic variety series had been viewed by seventy-three million people (a colossal number then and later) and transformed the culture and a generation. Now, for one of his recurring thematic shows, Sullivan decided to dedicate a full hour to their music.

This time, though, there would be no actual Beatles present. Instead, viewers witnessed an oddball, largely non-rock parade of entertainers interpreting their songs: Dionne Warwick sang “We Can Work It Out,” Peggy Lee crooned “Something,” ballet star Edward Villella leapt to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” The lounge-lizard duo of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, two of Allen Klein’s first clients, popped up as well. The show was a testament to the ways in which the Beatles, and rock itself, had become mainstream culture. But the Beatles themselves appeared only on film, performing “Two of Us” and “Let It Be” in a preview of their in-the-works movie, now retitled “Let it Be”. Even on their own show, they were a spectral presence.

No one seemed to notice, and to most of the world beyond the Apple Corps building on Savile Row, Beatle business continued as usual. In February Klein had announced the imminent arrival of two movies: Let it Be and another called The Long and Winding Road, which he described as a documentary about their travels and escapades over the previous two years. With dreams of a financial windfall no doubt dancing in his brain, he confidently announced both would arrive in spring. By the penultimate day of spring, ads for “Let It Be,” their new single, were spotted in the States and the U.K. The Beatles were on their way back.

The Sullivan show even coincided with the release of a new Beatles album. But it too felt half-hearted, perhaps even quarter-hearted. Hey Jude was entirely given over to songs and singles that hadn’t made it onto previous Beatle albums, like the title hit and “The Ballad of John and Yoko.” Originally titled “The Beatles Again”, it had been spearheaded by Klein, who was eager to ship as much new Beatle product to stores as possible after he’d renegotiated their contract with EMI the previous fall. For a grab bag, the album was still exceptional – any record that contained both “Paperback Writer” and “Lady Madonna” couldn’t be anything but. Yet even the cover photo, taken the previous August at Lennon’s Tittenhurst estate, was dated. Dan Richter, Lennon and Ono’s friend, had accidentally walked in on the shoot and was surprised not only by their presence but their mood; they all seemed glum and morose.

Beatles 1970 Can We Go Home Yet

Can We Go Home Yet?

Shortly after the Sullivan telecast, the Chicago chapter of the Beatle fan club – l25 diehards, mostly women – congregated in a room at the Executive House Hotel on the Chicago River. They traded souvenirs and made contests out of remembering the dates of Brian Epstein’s death and the premiere of Help!

As hard as everyone tried to revive the spirit of l964, the general mood was less than festive. One club member pulled out a photo of Lennon and Ono in their prisoner-of-war haircuts, which led to gaping, eye-rolling’ and arguments. The original Beatlemaniacs, the ones who’d first watched them on Sullivan, dismissed Ono, while the new fans at the meeting, the twelve-year-olds, were more accepting of her quirks. As the meeting wound down, the club’s secretary twenty-four-year-old Vikki Paradiso, called off plans for any further gatherings. Across the ocean, Beatle Book, a monthly London fanzine, announced it would be shutting down; circulation had plunged from 330,000 copies an issue to a mere 26,000.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Moe Green

It was that damn Ed Sullivan who was really the one responsible for thebreak up! He allowed Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme to sing a Beatles song and that my friend was the beginning of the end for the Fab Four. What was he thinking for Gods Sake! And everyone blames Yoko! The real truth will get out some day.

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Leidi

When I was younger, I was much more into the Beatles than I am now. I kinda burnt out on them in my 20s. There’s no denniyg their contribution to music, but the older I get, the more I find myself annoyed by Lennon’s legend and McCartney’s increasingly chirpy old age.George, though, can do no wrong.

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Julia

I savour, lead to I found just what I was tankig a look for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

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Pahlawan

No it wasn’t. Most of that record was alradey recorded before the tour began. I’m A Loser is probably the most notable song that was written after Dylan. The rest of it was either written or recorded beforehand. That’s why there were a lot of covers on that one. They didn’t have time to write new material.

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