On this day in 1970, the Daily Mirror ran a devastating headline: “Paul Quits the Beatles”. Across the world, print and television news crews exploded with similar headlines, leaving millions of fans distraught. The headline was born from a press release meant to generate buzz about Paul McCartney’s first solo album release McCartney. To the question, “Are you planning a new album or single with The Beatles?” Paul answered a simple “No”. This was taken as an official announcement of the band’s split.
Beatlemania was born in the United Kingdom but blossomed on American soil. The band made their first televised appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 and was watched by 73 million people. As they grew in creativity, style, and fame, their fanbase widened to include not just young women but counter-culture revolutionaries and social and political activists who protested the Vietnam War. Though their breakup was announced officially by the press, sources close to the band revealed later that the cracks had started to form long before.
As each band member struggled to retain their unique artistic, spiritual, and creative visions the end of the Beatles’ time together became more fraught. There was friction, resentment, betrayal, and hostility among the four musicians. The failed expectations of a spiritual retreat to Rishikesh, India, the death of their manager Brian Epstein, Yoko Ono’s relationship with Lennon, drug abuse, and tension in the McCartney-Lennon songwriting partnership all cemented the inevitable. Before McCartney made the split official, each band member had seriously considered quitting too. George Harrison, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr were caught by surprise when the press made the announcement on 10th April. They believed that McCartney engineered the breakup to promote his new record. When the news broke, John Lennon responded “You can say I said jokingly, ‘He didn’t quit, I sacked him!’” McCartney himself insisted that his statements had been misinterpreted by the media and announced that he was devastated by the reaction from reporters and fans.