Anyone who’s watched Let It Be, the documentary made from video of the Beatles recording (and arguing about) their final songs together as a four-person group, would assume there was never any way John, Paul, Ringo, and George would be willing—or able—to release another album together. Fans of the band have long assumed that Abbey Road, which was mainly recorded and originally intended to be released after 1970’s Let It Be, was the last proper Beatles album the group had planned to make before their break-up.
As detailed by The Guardian’s Richard Williams, in a profile of Beatles expert Mark Lewisohn, this isn’t the case. A taped meeting from September 8th, 1969 shows that The Beatles had planned to record another album, with its lead single timed for a Christmas release of that year.
The meeting described by Lewisohn and Williams occurred just before Abbey Road’s release. In it, the band (aside from Ringo, who’s in the hospital) talk about the unrecorded album’s format. John “proposes a new formula” that would’ve seen “four songs apiece from Paul, George, and himself, and two from Ringo.” He also “refers to ‘the Lennon-and-McCartney myth,’” hinting his and Paul’s previously shared song attributions “should at last be individually credited.”
This being late Beatles, there’s a good amount of sniping in the recording, too. When Paul (who Williams describes as “sounding, shall we say, relaxed”) hears that George would get “equal standing as a composer with John and himself,” he says: “I thought until this album [Abbey Road] that George’s songs weren’t that good.”
“That’s a matter of taste,” George replies. “All down the line, people have liked my songs.” The tape continues with John “telling Paul that nobody else in the group ‘dug’ his ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’” and that he should instead sell those kind of songs to other artists. “I recorded it because I liked it,” Paul says.
While the passive aggressive dynamic of this period is well-documented already, the really interesting part is the idea that the Beatles may have had at least one more properly recorded LP in them before their break-up. Lewisohn notes that, while recording Abbey Road, “they were in an almost entirely positive frame of mind,” despite what’s shown in films like Let It Be or the hindsight vindictiveness of John and George recording “How Do You Sleep At Night?”
“They had this uncanny ability to leave their problems at the studio door,” he continues. “Not entirely, but almost.” Read the entire piece for more on Lewisohn’s work, the Beatles’ final years, and more.
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