A London Times reporter who covered the Beatles at the end of their musical partnership has gone through some old tapes and written an interesting article about John Lennon and his views on the end of The Beatles. He says it was 40 years ago that the Beatles really broke up, when John Lennon said “I want a divorce.” The writer’s thesis is that Lennon had an unerring sense about the shifting sands of popular culture and ended the Beatles at just the right time, when they were at their peak and hadn’t disappointed anyone with a bad, or even mediocre, album. I think that may be giving Lennon too much credit; more likely he was just tired of being typecast as a Beatle and wanted to forge his own path. Still, it is true that the Beatles are one of the very few musical groups who managed to quit at the top, leaving the public still ravenous for more of their music.
This particular article is an enjoyable read because Lennon does not come across as bitter, as he does in so many post-Beatles interview pieces. He seems proud about the Beatles’ music and work and his contribution to it, and he says some kind words about Paul McCartney. I never liked (or, frankly, truly believed) some of the harsher things that Lennon apparently said about McCartney after the break-up. There is no way that two individuals could have worked so closely together for so many extraordinary years without having tremendous respect and affection for each other.
It is fascinating that the Beatles have had such extraordinary staying power. Even now, their albums continue to sell, books about their lives make the best seller lists, and their music is the main feature of a Las Vegas show. I enjoyed them when I was a kid, I listened to them constantly when I was in college in the late ’70s, and I still find so much to enjoy in their music. I took Richard to an excellent Paul McCartney concert for his 18th birthday, and he gave a his junior speech at Columbus Academy on the Beatles’ music. I’ve relished their music, and so has my son. Why not? So many of their finest songs are timeless.