How many times have you mused, “What would I do if I could go back in time?” For me, I would try to get the Beatles to make amends and get back together because that, in itself, would have righted so many wrongs in the world. And as far-fetched as that sounds, it could have happened so many times. Let’s review some of those possible reunion moments — including one that might have included a killer shark.
Though they’d not worked together as a foursome since they recorded “The End” in 1969 for Abbey Road, and despite Lennon telling McCartney and Starr that he wanted “a divorce” from The Beatles later that year, the group didn’t officially, legally split until 1974 with the signing of what became known as “The Beatles Agreement.” And while Lennon and Harrison suggested that there could be a reunion soon, with Harrison assuring that there should be, “given the meaning their music meant around the world,” at that point, each ventured into solo careers. And the offers to reunite began pouring in.
The most renowned among them happened on April 24, 1976, when on the air, SNL producer Lorne Michaels satirically offered a whopping (!) $3000 to John and Paul each if they showed up on the show and performed together. Lore has it that Paul was with John at his Dakota apartment and they seriously discussed it – since the location of the apartment was within walking distance of the studios. But the two decided against it.
In June of that year, the “International Committee to Reunite the Beatles” was formed by inventor and entrepreneur Alan Amron. He placed radio and newspaper advertisements asking people around the world to donate $1 towards paying for the group to reunite. In 1977, he even enlisted the assistance of Muhammad Ali, who suggested instead that if they did regroup, the money be donated to needy children. While there was passing interest from George Harrison, that reunion did not occur.
In September 1976 Sid Bernstein, who brought The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Kinks, among others, to the United States, ran full-page newspaper ads asking the Beatles to reunite and play a charity concert.
In 1978, an environmental group called Project Interspeak planned a concert to raise money to “Save the Whales” with the intent of having The Beatles participate.
In a partially successful effort, a series of concerts in support of the Vietnamese boat people called “Concerts for the People of Kampuchea” was held. While Bernstein again pursued The Beatles to participate, the best he could get was Paul McCartney performing with his solo band Wings. Still, not too shabby — but not The Beatles.
Which brings us to 1980 when Lennon’s untimely murder closed all real possibilities of a Beatles reunion.
And as we know, in the mid-1990s, the remaining Beatles members joined Jeff Lynne of ELO to release re-mastered versions of classic Beatles songs, along with many alternate takes and demo tapes. As part of this effort, two songs were identified as demos that John had recorded with the potential for collaboration: “Real Love” and “Free as a Bird.” Working with audio experts, the three Beatles added their voices and instruments to these tracks and released them as Beatles songs. Not quite the reunion but certainly something special.
Which brings us to perhaps the most outrageous request for a band reunion, as recently relayed by a Ringo Starr interview with Entertainment Tonight, Canada. The interview refers to an article in the April 5, 1976 issue of People magazine that describes an offer by Bill Sargent in February of that year that would pay the Beatles $50 million if they would reunite and perform via closed-circuit television. But apparently, even that wasn’t a big enough draw, as part of the event included Wally Gibbins, famed Australian aquatic adventurer who would attempt to fight “to the death” a 14-foot, 1-ton Great White shark in the shallows of Western Samoa — on live TV.
According to Ringo, when the Fab Four heard the offer, they did take it seriously and contacted each other to see if it was even a possibility.
Since their breakup, the group each had commented at various times that they fully expected to get back together one day, once some of the emotions had died down. In fact, while they never performed as a foursome, they each would appear on the others’ albums, with all of them playing on separate songs on Ringo’s 1974 album Ringo. According to Ringo “I didn’t leave the studio thinking that will be the last record we’d ever make. I never thought that. I didn’t think it would be the last time we’d ever tour together either.”
But in this case, again according to Ringo, the answer was no because “the opening act was a guy biting a shark.”
Which leaves me to sadly wonder, if none of those efforts or vast sums of money thwarted any catalyst to reunite, would me in my time machine and my urgings have made any difference? No matter, it would be worth the effort.
-Photo: Beatles at Tittenhurst Park/”Hey Jude” cover by Ethan Russell