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#askNat – concerning proposed and rumored Beatles reunions in the seventies

This week on #askNat we have another question from Gary Walker of Bluff City, Tennessee who sends this to me:

Hey Nat,

I have a few questions in mind but I will ask this one this week. In 1976 or 1977, I will never forget hearing the news about how the Beatles were in the process of “signing” papers to get back together.  On the radio the DJ was talking about it saying all they needed was George Harrison’s signature and everything was a go.  I remember this because I was riding in the car with my sister and she said everyone will go crazy if it happens.  This was after they were offered $230,000,000 by Sid Bernstein.  My question is what happened to the reunion? Did George Harrison not want to?

Good one Gary! In the seventies, The Beatles were still in demand and countless fans not only wanted them to get back together – they fully expected they would. It was only a matter of time. It had to happen. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t in the cards, despite a few close calls.

 

The Beatles, 1963

The Beatles, 1963


 

In 1974, promoter Bill Sargent offered $10 million for them to reunite for a reunion show. John and Paul did get together that same year and record a little as I describe in more detail here. By 1976, following lots of activity on the charts from each of the Beatles’ post-breakup material, as well as the heightened Beatles-awareness brought on by Capitol’s recent repackaging/re-issue of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Music 2-LP compilation and “Got To Get You Into My Life” single, the demand for a Beatles re-union was at an all-time peak. Bill Sargent made another offer to pay $50 million for a one-time concert. Without actually naming who they were quoting, People magazine said in their April 5, 1976 issue that a ‘top-level rock functionary’ says “I know for a fact that George, John and Ringo have talked among themselves about a reunion, and their attorneys say it is possible. But they would rather go with someone less carnival-like than Sargent.”

Then came Sid Bernstein (catch my 2010 interview with Sid here), who The Beatles had met during their heyday as the man who had promoted their early tours of America in 1964-66, including Carnegie Hall and Shea Stadium in New York. Sid asked them to reunite for a one-time-only benefit concert for Cambodian refugees that he estimated would raise $230 million. He also suggested alternative causes to include victims of a recent major earthquake in Italy or the homeless or parent-less children of the Republic of Biafra. Sid placed ads for the offer in the European Herald Tribune and Sunday Times in England but received no response. Paul McCartney later admitted that they considered Sid’s offer but nothing came of it unless you attribute it as the inspiration behind a subsequent concert by Paul to raise money to save the city of Venice, Italy from sinking.

As sort of half-serious joke, Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels appeared on the show on April 24, 1976 and offered The Beatles $3,000 to reunite. He said “Divide the money up any way you want. If you want to give less Ringo, that’s up to you.” A month later on May 22 he reappeared on the show to up the ante to $3200 – “an extra $50 each!” he declared.

John Lennon told Playboy magazine:

Paul and I were together watching that show. He was visiting us at our place in the Dakota. We were watching it and almost went down to the studio, just as a gag … He and Linda walked in, and he and I were just sitting there, watching the show, and we went, ‘Ha-ha, wouldn’t it be funny if we went down?’ We nearly got a cab, but we were actually too tired…

In 1979, Sid Bernstein envisioned The Beatles reuniting for a special concert to aid the Vietnamese Boat People. He believed The Beatles name, concert, recording and television rights could raise $500 million worldwide. He took out an ad in the New York Times outlining a plan for the benefit. There was an inquiry about it from John Lennon and Sid made a package with all of the details and gave it to the doorman at the Dakota to give to John, but there was no further response from him. Referring to the ad, George Harrison later told a reporter:

It was cute the way the ad in the New York Times tried to put the responsibility for saving the world on our shoulders.

So Gary, and everyone reading, as you can see, getting The Beatles back together in the seventies was a major dream and a few key people mentioned here came arguably close to bringing it to fruition. Along with these attempts came lots of rumors of upcoming reunions, much of which was “poppycock” (is Klaatu really The Beatles??). I’m not sure about the source of what you specifically heard on the radio – or how it came about about as George just needs to sign on the dotted line – but it likely stemmed from Sid’s, Bill’s or Lorne’s offer from around that time.

Thank you Gary for a great topic and I hope anyone who has something to add will do so in the comments section below. Thanks all for reading!


Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions! Keep #askNat going by sending your questions to me in any of the following ways:

1) There is a contact form that you fill out right on the website where you can give your name, location, email address and submit your question. The form is right here and is the same form used to submit requests for BROWs (Beatles Rarity Of The Weeks).

2) If you are a Facebook user, you can submit your question right on TheBeatlesRarity FB page at www.facebook.com/beatlesrarity. If you think about it, try to remember to flag your question with “#askNat”.

3) Similarly, if you are a Google+ user, you can submit your question on TheBeatlesRarity Google+ page at www.gplus.to/beatlesrarity. Google+ supports hashtag searchability so it will be helpful if you preface your question with “#askNat” here too.

4) For you Twitter users, www.twitter.com/beatlesrarity gets you to the right place. Post your question and be sure to add “#askNat” somewhere in the tweet.


Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase music related to this post:

Beatles/Beatles-related Music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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5 Comments

  • I went to Wings’ Concert For Kampuchea in December 1979. On the morning of the concert, the Daily Mirror reported that John Lennon had checked into the London Hilton the day before, and that there would be a Beatles reunion, or at least a Lennon and McCartney on-stage reunion, that night. (I still have the newspaper clipping somewhere.

    The buzz of anticipation was extraordinary. McCartney closed the show, after Elvis Costello and Rockpile, and the audience were convinced we were going to see the Beatles.

    But, obviously, the reunion didn’t happen. McCartney referenced the rumour, and played with the audience a little, announcing ‘a very special guest’ on to stage, which turned out to be a robot-like rhythm box which he used on Goodnight Tonight.

    So no Beatle reunion, but the show ended with the Rockestra and Townshend, Bonham, Plant etc. And there was, up in the balcony, a sign held up that said ‘Greetings from New York’, which some took to be a message from the Dakota.

    • Happy Nat says:

      Thanks for sharing Simon – the anticipation must have been extraordinary. Shame on Paul for leading people on like that! I know that had to be a good show though – still in possession of two copies of the vinyl double album covering the highlights of the event.

  • Nat – I have spent a lot of time researching the Beatles – I even teach a course on it at my college – and I find your blog posts to be interesting and informative. Thanks for doing this – you’re doing a great job.

  • Michael Whelan says:

    Nat,

    I don’t know if these would qualify but the other two great “possible reunion” stories were Eric Clapton’s wedding in 1979 (Paul, George and Ringo were there and played together, and John said he would have come if invited). And court papers filed two weeks before John was killed in which he said he Beatles intended to do music together for what later was the Beatles Anthology (then titled “The Long and Winding Road). This was done in part to keep the “Apple” trademark alive.

    Michael

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