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This Week in History: The Breakup of The Beatles, 20th Century’s Most Successful Rock Band

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This undated photo provided by Heritage Auctions from an upcoming Beatles collection sale shows a signed copy of their first hit, “Love Me Do,” which will be auctioned in New York.

“At the actual breakup of the Beatles, it was painful,” Paul McCartney said during a 1990 television interview. "We likened it to a divorce.”

Twenty years earlier on April 10, McCartney signaled the end of the Fab Four during his unveiling of his solo album “McCartney.”

In this Feb. 9, 1964 picture, The Beatles perform at the "Ed Sullivan Show," in New York.
In this Feb. 9, 1964 picture, The Beatles perform at the "Ed Sullivan Show," in New York.

On April 9, McCartney released a Q&A package to the British press in which he explained his reasons for making his solo album. Compiled with the help of Apple executives, the self-interview also contained questions McCartney imagined he would be asked regarding the possibility of the Beatles splitting up.

While stopping short of saying that the band was finished, McCartney stated that he did not know whether his "break with the Beatles" would be temporary or permanent.

It didn’t quite feel real, in part, because of the way McCartney phrased it — and also, the Beatles' final album “Let It Be” was yet to be released.

An image of "Let It Be," the Beatles 12th and final studio album. (courtesy creative commons)
An image of "Let It Be," the Beatles 12th and final studio album. (courtesy creative commons)

From the group’s first studio contract in 1962, it was clear that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were something special.

The Ed Sullivan Show

In February 1964, the group made their first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” during their first American tour. It took no time at all for “Beatlemania” to overtake America.

As Billboard Magazine put it in its 2016 year end issue, under the section called “Greatest of All Time:”

"It’s hard to convey the scope of The Beatles' achievements in a mere paragraph or two.

They synthesized all that was good about early rock n' roll, and changed it into something original and even more exciting. They established the prototype for the self-contained rock group that wrote and performed its own material.

As composers, their craft and melodic inventiveness were second to none, and key to the evolution of rock from its blues/R&B-based forms into a style that was far more eclectic, but equally visceral.”

During a 1971 interview on The Dick Cavett Show, John Lennon addressed the non-stop controversy that Yoko Ono, John’s partner and wife, was responsible for the group’s demise.

“She didn’t split the Beatles because how could…one woman? The Beatles were drifting apart on their own.”

Business disagreements had much to do with the split, which led to an awkward legal suit filed by Paul dissolving the group’s business partnership.

And McCartney himself has said there were ill feelings on all sides.

In the May 14, 1970 issue of Rolling Stone, John Lennon lashed out.

“He ((McCartney)) can’t have his own way, so he’s causing chaos,” John said. “I put out four albums last year, and I didn’t say a f***ing word about quitting.”

This undated photo provided by Heritage Auctions from an upcoming Beatles collection sale shows a set of four psychedelic posters by Richard Avedon commissioned by the German magazine Stern in 1966, which will be auctioned in New York on Sept. 19.
This undated photo provided by Heritage Auctions from an upcoming Beatles collection sale shows a set of four psychedelic posters by Richard Avedon commissioned by the German magazine Stern in 1966, which will be auctioned in New York on Sept. 19.

All of the Beatles had begun working on their solo careers before the official split.

McCartney went on to form the wildly successful band "Wings;" Lennon moved to New York City with Yoko, had a son, and recorded his one collaboration with his wife, "Double Fantasy;" Harrison also made recordings as did Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.

In December 1980, Lennon was shot and killed outside his New York City apartment. He was 40 years old.

A photo of music icon John Lennon and peace sign made of candles sit on the pavement near Lennon's star during a gathering of fans and supporters in front of the Capitol Records building on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California December 8, 2005.
A photo of music icon John Lennon and peace sign made of candles sit on the pavement near Lennon's star during a gathering of fans and supporters in front of the Capitol Records building on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California December 8, 2005.

Lung cancer killed 58-year-old Harrison in 2001.

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