Sunday, October 13, 2013
Music Sunday: The "The Beatles Go Their Separate Ways" Edition
1969 ended on a down note, as I've written about before here, with the disastrous December 6 free concert headlined by the Rolling Stones at Altamont Speedway in California.
Things didn't get any better in 1970, which was the year the Beatles broke up. Actually, John Lennon had told the group he was leaving in late 1969, but agreed to keep his departure quiet until after "Abbey Road" was released so as not to hurt sales of the record. The first public announcement that the band was breaking up came on April 10, 1970, from Paul McCartney, ten days before he released his first solo album, "McCartney", which he had started working on after Lennon made his announcement.
"McCartney" was truly a solo album, with every instrument on the record played by McCartney. The only contribution from anyone other than McCartney himself were some background vocals and sound effects by his wife, Linda. The most memorable song from that album was "Maybe I'm Amazed". It got considerable radio airplay in the US when the album came out despite the fact that it was not released as a single at the time:
The Beatles' last studio album, "Let It Be" was released on May 8, 1970, followed on May 20 by the release of the documentary film "Let It Be". The documentary is interesting in that it shows the band in the process of breaking up. The film didn't get very good reviews, but it managed to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score, and is remarkable for the rooftop concert that the band gave, the last time all four members of the band played in public together. This clip is "Get Back" from that performance:
It wasn't just Paul McCartney who released a solo album that year. In fact, Ringo Starr released two solo albums in 1970. The first, "Sentimental Journey", had come out on March 27, 1970 in the UK. It was a collection of old standards, and was a project that the rest of the band members are reported to have encouraged him to do. Later in the year, on September 25, he released "Beaucoups of Blues", with more of a country-music flavor. Here is the title song of that album:
George Harrison released "All Things Must Pass" on November 20, 1970, but it was not his first solo effort. It was his third solo album, after 1968's "Wonderwall Music", the soundtrack from the film "Wonderwall", which was mostly instrumental in nature, and 1969's "Electronic Sound", which consisted of two long tracks featuring the use of a Moog synthesizer.
Harrison's 1970 effort was ambitious, with three discs and 23 songs, including "My Sweet Lord" and "What is Life". The album did very well both critically and popularly, reaching number 1 on both the US and UK album charts. "What is Life" wasn't as popular as "My Sweet Lord" (it only reached number 10 on the Billboard singles chart, while "My Sweet Lord" hit number 1), but I like it better:
Despite being the first of the Beatles to say he was leaving, John Lennon was the last of the four to release a solo album, with "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band" coming out on December 11, 1970. It was well-received critically at the time it was released and has been named to several "best album of all time" lists, including placing at number 23 on Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2006, Time magazine rated it one of the 100 Best Albums of All Time. It is a remarkable album. My favorite song on the album, and one of my favorite songs of all time, is "Working Class Hero":
All of the members of the Beatles went on to make interesting music, although John Lennon and George Harrison left the world way too soon. Paul McCartney is still recording and touring; in fact, he has a new album, "New", set to be released tomorrow (which I just found out as I was researching this post). Ringo Starr last released a new album in 2012 called, appropriately enough, "Ringo 2012", and he and his band, the All Starr Band, toured the Pacific Rim earlier this year.
Still, it's sometimes difficult to fathom that it has been 43 years since the rock band that changed the world broke up, and a bit longer than that since all four were in a recording studio together.