Biographies & Memoirs



Gone Your Way, I’ll Go Mine


He knew the question was coming; it was only a matter of when and how to respond. But somebody was bound to bring it up. In those early days of autumn, one person or another always did.

His hair pulled back in a ponytail, his bearded face gaunt and vigilant, George Harrison took his place behind a small bank of microphones in London in the middle of September. Joined by his friend Ravi Shankar, Harrison was making his first public appearance in months to promote a series of Indian music concerts at the Royal Festival Hall. With rock fans’ interest in Indian raga declining—for Western ears, the novelty had worn off—a plug by a Beatle was guaranteed to bring out the press and, with any luck, sell a few more tickets to the shows.

At first the questions from the assembled reporters focused on Harrison’s love of India’s music, culture, and religion, to which he’d been introduced four years before and which he had incorporated into Beatle records and his side projects. Casually dressed in denim, Harrison neither looked nor sounded happy to be on display. He answered a question about whether he still meditated with a curt “yes,” then spoke of how Eastern music was far superior to Western. “These Indian singers have more soul than Aretha Franklin will ever have and you can quote me on that,” he said, a revealing moment of honesty, haughtiness, or both.

Eventually, the moment he’d been dreading arrived: A reporter asked about the future of the Beatles, especially now that McCartney had published his damning letter in Melody Maker. To the surprise of no one who knew him, Harrison said nothing, turned, and walked away, and the press conference disintegrated. “George could be very disagreeable,” recalled Apple’s Peter Brown. “He was argumentative and stubborn. More than most.” Then Harrison quickly paused and, over his shoulder, said, “It looks like we need a new bass player, doesn’t it?” He’d tossed off that joke at least once before, in the studio with Dylan and Charlie Daniels, but this time the edge in his voice was more apparent.

Harrison had reason to be grumpy. The past few months had found him clashing with McCartney and Phil Spector, and he was beginning to suspect something was taking place between his wife, Pattie, and his friend Eric Clapton. Yet one encouraging bit of news was in the air: At the time of the press conference, Harrison had only a few more songs to complete for his first album proper, All Things Must Pass, whose title alone was a less-than-veiled comment on life after the Beatles.

Harrison had considered making an album even before McCartney’s announcement; Chris O’Dell, the former Apple employee and Harrison friend, recalled him talking about cutting a single during the early months of 1970. But McCartney’s news inspired Harrison to finally compile all the material he’d been storing away. Fresh off the Let It Be experience, Harrison hired Phil Spector, who, with Harrison, assembled a veritable army of musicians, from Clapton, Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker, Billy Preston, and former Traffic guitarist Dave Mason to old friends Klaus Voormann and Ringo Starr. With an impressive cadre of players and nearly two dozen songs, Harrison would finally make the case for his own career, just as the other Beatles already had with their individual albums and singles.

The bushel of material amounted to a journey through Harrison’s mind, past and present. The songs dating back to the waning days of the Beatles revealed the strain on his psyche and patience at the time. Written during the filming of Let It Be, “Wah-Wah” equated band meetings with a massive, lingering headache. Harrison would later claim “Isn’t It a Pity” was a comment on a low point in an unspecified relationship— presumably with Boyd—but its coda, a sarcastic take on the sing-along finale to McCartney’s “Hey Jude,” couldn’t have made the subject of his words more apparent. “Run of the Mill” chronicled, with admittedly oblique imagery, the time when the business of running Apple began to wear on the band, while “Beware of Darkness” was, he later wrote, “selfexplanatory”—a take on the sinister side of the music business some felt was aimed at Harrison’s otherwise ally, Allen Klein.

The post-Beatles George, or the one he hoped to become now that he was free of them, poked through optimistically. His relaxed, inspiring bonding with Dylan emerged in a version of Dylan’s “If Not for You” and “I’d Have You Anytime,” a country-lilt ballad they’d written together. Harrison made Dylan the subject, again abstractly, of “Behind That Locked Door,” a show of love and support for his songwriter friend. The Krishna George, the one who would find peace and tranquility on his own, commandeered “My Sweet Lord” and “Awaiting on You All.”

Fortunately, Spector didn’t allow Harrison’s tendency toward stern, sour-faced lyrics to derail him. Applying his Wall of Sound approach to a rock orchestra, Spector transformed “Wah-Wah,” “What Is Life,” and “Awaiting on You All” into joyful cacophonies—thundering herds of multiple guitars, percussion, and choirs that did a more than commendable job of smoothing over Harrison’s sometimes strained voice and rhymes (“visas” and “Jesus” in the case of the latter song). Spector brought out the hooks and energy in Harrison’s songs; he even made the chant “Krishna, Krishna” in “My Sweet Lord” palatable. The ballads, like the title song, had a stately, nineteenth-century eloquence, the musical equivalent to Harrison’s Friar Park mansion. From the springy guitar lick that drove “What Is Life” to Pete Drake’s sweet pedal steel in “Behind That Locked Door,” the album—the two LPs of original songs, anyway, not the third disc of ho-hum jam sessions with the musicians—was unflaggingly warm and inviting, as if Spector had yanked out the best side of his collaborator’s personality.

Far more than McCartney’s or Starr’s projects, the start of Harrison’s record sealed the band’s fate for those who worked regularly with them. “It was, ‘This is what we’re going to be doing now—four solo albums,’” recalled engineer John Kurlander, who worked on some of the sessions. To Spector’s frustration, though, All Things Must Pass took months to complete. The sessions began in late May and stretched out, languidly, throughout the summer. In a corner of the studio, Harrison constructed a small shrine, complete with lit incense sticks and a framed picture of the beloved spiritual teacher and yoga master Paramahansa Yogananda. “George took his time,” Voormann recalled. “He got comfortable. He made the studio into his little home.”

As the work dragged on, far longer than he expected, Spector grew bored and irascible. Drummer Alan White, who’d played on Lennon’s “Instant Karma,” noticed a gun sitting on the recording console. He’d heard stories about Spector’s unpredictable, explosive side, but the sight of a weapon took White and others off guard.

One day, late in the sessions, Spector showed up drunk, and Voormann watched as the producer fell backward off a chair, hurting his arm. Visibly unhappy, Harrison told Spector he’d finish the record without him. By then, the bulk of the project had been completed, and Harrison wrapped it up himself at EMI Studios in September and October. Once and only once, he popped into an adjoining room to check on the status of another historic event, the album on which John Lennon was putting the consequences of his primal scream therapy onto record for the first time.


To Dan Richter, the change in the Lennons was apparent as soon as they returned home to Tittenhurst from Bel Air. For starters, their hair was longer, the close-cropped look of six months before relegated to history. Lennon made jokes about gaining weight from eating too much ice cream in Hollywood, and his sense of humor, his engagement, were again on display.

So, apparently, was his relationship with Ono. “Take a picture of us,” Lennon asked him one fall day, “we’ve got this drawing.” Lennon showed Richter a sketch of a man and woman sitting together against a tree. Once, Richter had been able to tell Lennon and Ono’s handwriting apart. But no longer; the penmanship on this piece of paper was such a melding of their two styles that he couldn’t tell which one had drawn it. Wow, Richter thought, they’re even drawing alike. Whatever turbulence had been taking place between Lennon and Ono had been resolved, at least for the time being.

Richter grabbed what he called a “cheap plastic camera” and the three of them headed out to the front of the main house, right off the large front yard. It was a sunny, beautifully crisp afternoon, and Lennon and Ono ran between the trees together like children just dismissed from school. “They had a lot of energy,” Richter recalled. “The whole purging that had taken place with the Janov thing put them in a very positive space.” With their original sketch in mind, Lennon and Ono finally sat down and leaned against a tree, Ono in Lennon’s lap. Richter snapped away before Lennon and Ono reversed positions, Ono now cradling Lennon.

From the start, the photos were intended to grace the covers of separate albums Lennon and Ono had finished making after they’d arrived back in England. In late September, Lennon reached out to Starr and Voormann, telling them he had a group of new songs he wanted to record, quickly. When Voormann heard Lennon had hired Spector again, he envisioned another crowd-of-thousands production. Instead, he found himself in the studio with only Lennon and Starr, Spector keeping an exceedingly low profile and allowing Lennon to shape his own sound. (Coming on the heels of the Harrison sessions, Spector may have been humbled; he also instinctively knew Lennon was opting for a different approach and went out of his way to respect his wishes.) “Phil was very subdued and melded in,” Voormann recalled. “He did not push any Phil Spector sound on us.” Starr later recalled having no memory whatsoever of Spector being around.

That sound, as Voormann and Starr discovered, was naked and minimalist; most of the songs were played only by the core trio of Lennon, Voormann, and Starr. Lennon wrote out the lyrics on large pieces of paper, the chords listed underneath them. The trio ran through each song a few times, Lennon alternating between piano and guitar, and then recorded them. Voormann flubbed a few notes here and there, but in they stayed. Lennon was taking the original concept of Let It Be and pushing it as far as he could.

One night, Lennon insisted on recording in spite of a voice raspy from oversinging. With special guest Billy Preston accompanying him with churchly, dramatic piano flourishes, Lennon launched into “God,” which worked itself up to a relentless, unapologetic list of everything in which he no longer believed: Jesus, John Kennedy, Buddha, yoga, Elvis, the Bhagavad Gita, Dylan (“Zimmerman,” as he called him), and, finally, the Beatles. Beforehand, he pulled Voormann aside. The last line was going to be “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” Should he add, “and Yoko,” he asked? He didn’t want to hurt her feelings. Voormann didn’t know what to say; it was Lennon’s choice. In the final version, he had it both ways: He believed in “me . . . Yoko and me.” Clearly Lennon wanted to keep everything copacetic with Ono.

If McCartney didn’t demand much, Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band demanded everything—complete concentration and immersion in Lennon’s state of mind, and a tolerance for a sonic approach that was akin to stripped-down wood. It was pop music, but not pop like anyone, especially Beatle fans, had envisioned. “Mother,” his way of confronting the mommy and daddy issues that haunted him, was more a pained mantra than a song, Lennon’s voice rising up to a scream at the end of each line. “I Found Out,” which lashed out equally at Jesus and Harrison’s beloved Krishna, was gut-bucket Liverpool blues. “Working Class Hero,” featuring just Lennon’s voice and shuddering acoustic guitar strums, was as unflinching as the starkest black-and-white photograph. The songs were open wounds, the arrangements—like Lennon’s voice and guitar on “I Found Out” or his equally ravaged guitar work on “Well Well Well”—scratching at them until they bled.

Lennon and Spector were savvy enough record-makers to know a few gentler moments were called for, so out came “Hold On,” Lennon’s reassuring words to himself, Ono, and the world, floating along on his gentle tremolo guitar, and “Love,” a gorgeous quasi-prayer whose delicate arrangement—Lennon’s guitar, Spector’s piano, and Voormann’s bass—enhanced its natural beauty. Starting with the funeral bell that opened it, Plastic Ono Band was neither easy to listen to nor meant to be.

During the same month of October, the band and Spector dashed off a very different project, Ono’s own Plastic Ono Band. Again, Spector stayed largely out of the way, allowing Lennon and Ono to call the shots. If Lennon’s record of the same name was his way of exorcizing his personal demons, Ono’s album was Lennon’s way of exercising his musical ones. The music was feral and ferocious (“Why”) or defiantly eccentric (“Why Not,” which sounded like country blues from outer space, thanks to the strings sticking to the magnets on Lennon’s National slide guitar). Ono’s voice, a quivery siren wail one minute or a delicate coo the next, rode roughshod over it all. The music was entirely improvised, and even Starr, who kept any self-indulgent tendencies as a drummer in check, let loose from time to time.

When the packaging was finished, Lennon and Ono intentionally chose a shot of Lennon leaning on Ono for his cover, and Ono in Lennon’s lap for her own. To Richter, the idea was “classic John and Yoko. And it was a very Yoko idea, of a man and woman as yin and yang.” The choice of photographs also spoke to what Lennon told Richter were his masculine and his feminine sides, the intertwining of men and women that Ono championed.

Lennon was justly proud of both albums and knew his record especially was far more accessible than previous projects with Ono, like the sound collages of Life with the Lions. When executives at EMI and Apple saw the dual covers and heard the music, though, their guards went up. Why wasn’t Lennon’s face on the cover? “Can’t you talk to him?” a label executive said to Richter one day, pulling him aside. “This is going to ruin his career. It’s another nail in the coffin.” In particular, they were concerned that the albums, especially Lennon’s own, didn’t have “that Beatles sound.” What was he thinking, they thought? And why did Ono have to put out her own album too?

At the very least, the Lennons had one attentive audience. In Los Angeles, Arthur and Vivian Janov received a copy and played it for one of their group sessions at the Primal Scream Institute. Everyone, including the Janovs, listened raptly. Few could believe they were listening to a John Lennon album whose thoughts and concepts had originated in that very room on Sunset Boulevard.


In honor of Lennon’s thirtieth birthday, October 9, Harrison saluted his friend in song: “It’s Johnny’s Birthday,” a silly, playful sing-along, sounded like a carousel speeding up and slowing down. (Harrison liked it so much he included it on All Things Must Pass.) Despite all that had transpired and collapsed over the past year, Harrison, Lennon, and Starr remained close. Lennon stopped by at least once during the All Things Must Pass sessions, and Alan White found himself in the mind-boggling position of jamming with two Beatles while a third, Starr, whacked a tambourine. White asked Starr to play drums, but Starr demurred.

The odd Beatle out remained McCartney, who’d spent much of the year in Scotland and had also taken his family on vacation to Barbados. Needing another change of scenery, he, Linda, Heather, and baby Mary relocated to New York City in early fall. In Manhattan, he and Linda melted into the city woodwork, taking long, unencumbered walks through Central Park and horseback-riding in the Hamptons with Peter Brown. Nothing if not prolific, eager to work as much as possible, McCartney already had a new group of songs he wanted to start recording. During the first week of November, he rented out the SS France and jammed with members of the Rascals, the New York pop-soul band who’d had a string of hits (“Good Lovin’,” “People Got to Be Free,” “Groovin’”) almost as long as the Beatles’ own. Drummer Dino Danelli’s moptop bangs and babyface even resembled McCartney’s.

In at least one slim regard, McCartney shared one concern with his former Beatles. The previous year, the first bootleg LP—Great White Wonder, a collection of unreleased Dylan recordings from several stages in his career—had started mysteriously appearing in independent record stores. No one knew how the bootleggers had obtained the rare tapes, but clearly a new illicit industry had been launched. Fearing any further leaks, Charlie Daniels became the courier for Dylan’s Nashville tapes to New York City. The Beatles and their representatives were also on their guard, especially when Lennon’s complete set at the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival and the Beatles’ 1965 Shea Stadium show became two of the next boots to slip out. In the spring, John Eastman had personally delivered McCartney to Capitol Records in the States. Now, in late October, Harrison and Boyd flew to New York with the master tapes for All Things Must Pass in hand—the one way to ensure the record didn’t end up in the hands of an unauthorized middleman.

In general, money was far from a pressing concern; all the Beatles were profiting from the unflagging business of the band. In September, the Beatles, by way of EMI, received a check for $10,738,198, representing royalties for American sales of Beatle records between September 1, 1969, and June 3, 1970. Still, little had been resolved financially between them. McCartney wasn’t yet seeing any earnings from his solo album, nor were he and his team receiving what they considered fair treatment. In November, John Eastman called William Bernstein, the general counsel of United Artists, the film company that had distributed Let It Be. To Eastman’s frustration, Bernstein refused to give any confirmation of how much the film had made or how much McCartney was owed; even if money was forthcoming, Bernstein said McCartney’s “adversary position” (in Bernstein’s words) with Allen Klein stood in the way.

Confusion over the royalties from the McCartney album dragged on. On November 12, four months after his initial inquiry, Eastman wrote to EMI, saying he thought the issue had been resolved and his client would be paid. On December 1, EMI informed Eastman that, at long last, the funds would be sent to Apple, thereby bypassing Klein. By then, the amount had grown to 487,000 British pounds. Yet the fact that McCartney and Eastman had had to endure such frustrations and foot-dragging only made them feel they’d made the right decision about how to resolve it all. By then, Eastman had brought in two other attorneys to map out an airtight strategy. In drawing up a list of possible complaints and gripes for a lawsuit, the New York-based Eastman flew back and forth to London so frequently that Pan Am knew to save him four seats in the back so he could sleep. His morning shaves took place at Heathrow.

During his visit to New York City, Harrison reached out to McCartney by phone. What began as a friendly chat turned, once again, into a shouting match. When asked for comment by a reporter, Klein denied any such conversation had occurred. But to Brown, Klein’s vehement denial only confirmed that something ugly had indeed taken place and that the gashes wouldn’t heal for some time.


Everyone, not merely the four Beatles, was scattering. Feeling he had little further role in the Beatles’ affairs, Brown left Apple Corps Ltd. in the fall. Robert Stigwood, the manager and music magnate who’d worked with the Bee Gees and Eric Clapton, offered Brown a job in his New York office, and Brown, who felt Klein wanted him gone anyway, took it. Quickly and quietly, Brown, one of the Beatles’ key advisors and insiders for the previous three years, was out of the picture.

In search of a new line of work, Richard DiLello, the “house hippie” fired from Apple’s Press Office, decided to try his hand at photography. At a festival in a small town outside London, he shot two new bands, Black Sabbath and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, whose first albums were released that fall. The music—thundering, intentionally ugly fury from Birmingham in the former, a merger of classical music chops and arena bombast in the latter—was new to many, especially DiLello. After listening to and photographing both, DiLello sensed a cultural shift around the corner. “I suddenly realized music was changing radically,” he recalled. “It was a very different vibe from what the Beatles had given off. I thought we were entering a darker period.”

Like a bleak murder of crows, other signs of a generational shift were circling above and around them. Lennon and Starr were both now thirty, with Simon, Garfunkel, and Crosby soon to follow in the coming year. In September, Melody Maker published the results of its annual readers poll. For the eight consecutive years prior, the Beatles had taken first place. Now they were usurped by Led Zeppelin. Zeppelin was rooted in the ’60s—its founder, Jimmy Page, was an ex-Yardbird, and singer Robert Plant had fronted a hippie-folkie band, Band of Joy—but its monolithic music was louder and more domineering than any rock that had come before. It sternly lorded over its audience—the next generation of rock fans, the teenagers who had only faint memories of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. As DiLello realized, Black Sabbath, along with Grand Funk Railroad and Led Zeppelin, were the disquieting sound of a new era. It was the rise of a generation for whom the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel, among others, were their older siblings’ quaint relics from the previous decade.


When it arrived in record stores in late September, Starr’s country album, Beaucoups of Blues, looked the way many Beatle fans felt by year’s end. On the cover, Starr sat forlornly, chin in palm and cigarette in hand. The photograph evoked the disconsolate quality of the record’s downand-out Nashville ballads, but intentionally or not, it also bespoke something about Starr’s own state of mind after six uncertain months.

To help pay his bills, Starr withdrew 69,000 British pounds (about $200,000) from his Apple savings—not as much as Lennon, who’d taken out 77,000 pounds, but more than Harrison, who used a mere 19,000, and McCartney, who opted for 20,500. Although The Magic Christian hadn’t turned him into a movie star, other roles beckoned; already, Starr was lined up to star as a heavy in Blindman, a violent homage to spaghetti Westerns, to begin filming the following year. His third child, a daughter named Lee, arrived in mid November.

Along with “It Don’t Come Easy,” he wrote and recorded another song, “Early 1970,” that took playful digs at the other Beatles. The song devoted verses to McCartney’s time on his farm, the Lennons’ primal scream therapy, Harrison’s gardening, and Starr’s own limited musical chops. “When I come to town, I want to see all three,” he sang optimistically at the end, as if the events of the previous year hadn’t happened.

Yet many aspects of his career felt uncertain, his future far fuzzier than that of the other Beatles. The reviews of Beaucoups of Blues were warmer than those for Sentimental Journey—Starr sounded far more at ease and natural singing lachrymose country songs than sophisticated standards—yet it sold less. In America, Beaucoups of Blues limped to number 65 on the charts, more than forty spots lower than Sentimental Journey . According to Voormann, Starr had been unnerved during the recording of Lennon’s and Ono’s albums. “John and Yoko were sitting on chairs together and walking together,” Voormann recalled. “You couldn’t part them. That was very sad for Ringo. He felt he lost a friend. It was very strange for him, and he didn’t feel comfortable.”

As always, Starr betrayed little of his uncertainties to others; to everyone, he remained agreeable, easy-to-be-with Ringo, the man with a ready if sometimes sad smile and few cares in the world. On certain nights he could be found at Tramp, a members-only London watering hole that had opened the previous year. Starr’s friend Peter Sellers was a regular, as were musicians and actors from Keith Moon to Joan Collins. In the early-morning hours of December 3, Starr ran into a friend. Greetings and champagne were shared. For both, the world was a different place than it was when they’d met ten months before. Both Starr and the friend, Stephen Stills, were now on their own.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!