John Lennon handed me the biggest scoop in pop history and I blew it! The writer closest to the Beatles has a confession to make

John Lennon handed me the biggest scoop in pop history and I blew it! The writer closest to the Beatles has a confession to make

We were in Canada when John Lennon told me he’d left The Beatles. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
It was just before Christmas 1969, and a few nights earlier, while discussing his Beatles’ song lyrics on the phone, he’d suddenly invited me to join him and Yoko in Toronto, where he was going to meet Canada’s Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
So, there I soon was being driven through snow-covered Canadian fields to the home of rock singer Ronnie Hawkins, where John and Yoko were staying.

Almost as soon as I arrived, John, who had just washed his hair, excitedly insisted I follow him and Yoko up to the secrecy of their bedroom.
And then, giggling happily, he casually announced his destruction of the world’s most popular musical attraction.
‘I’ve left The Beatles,’ he said smiling, and carried on drying his hair with a towel.
I was speechless.

At the time, The Beatles absolutely dominated the world of popular culture, with their latest album, Abbey Road, still at No. 1 in the charts everywhere.
Why would anyone in his right mind decide to destroy the most popular entertainment ensemble the world had ever known?
It didn’t make sense. But I wasn’t only astonished. I was devastated, too, because I was as big a Beatles fan as anyone.
There was, of course, something else. As a journalist, I knew that the break-up of The Beatles would be the biggest story I would ever get in my life. John, however, had something more to say.
‘Don’t tell anyone yet,’ he went on. ‘I’ll let you know when you can put it out. Allen Klein (then The Beatles’ new manager) doesn’t want me to make it public until after Let It Be (the film) comes out next year.’
As we left the bedroom, John was very pleased with what he’d just told me, but I was already hoping that, on reflection, he would change his mind.
Later, I would learn that was what Paul McCartney was hoping, too.
Not that I hadn’t seen The Beatles’ problems coming.
As a more-than-frequent visitor to the Apple headquarters in London, I’d been there one afternoon a few weeks earlier playing some of their record out-takes, when I’d heard a great slamming of doors and the sound of people running up and down the stairs.
An acrimonious Beatles’ board meeting had, apparently, just broken up.
No one at Apple was commenting, but the signs were ominous. So a little later, flying a kite, as we say in journalism, I wrote an article for the London Evening Standard outlining the situation.
It was headlined ‘The day The Beatles died’, referring, in a metaphorical sense, to how the group’s camaraderie had disintegrated after they’d finished touring three years earlier.
I must admit, I was half-expecting a sharp rebuke from Apple, telling me that I was exaggerating the difficulties. But the exact opposite had happened.
The following day, a single white rose encased in a see-though plastic box was delivered to my desk with a card. ‘Love from John and Yoko,’ was all it read.
The unwritten message couldn’t have been clearer. I was on the right track.
From then on, I was to have my own mole, or Deep Throat, as the term then went, inside The Beatles’ organisation, leaking me a steady flow of information.
His name was John Lennon, and over that weekend in Canada, he told me how, at that angry board meeting, Paul McCartney had begun suggesting that as the band weren’t getting on as they used to, they should perhaps go back on the road and start playing in little clubs again.
To which John had replied words to the effect of: ‘I think you’re daft, Paul. I’m leaving The Beatles. I want a divorce.’
I didn’t write the break-up story then. I’d promised not to.
Looking back with a more cynical point of view, I’ve sometimes wondered if John had actually half-wanted me to make his decision public, thinking that as a journalist I wouldn’t be able to keep it secret. But I could. Besides, I absolutely didn’t want The Beatles to break up. I don’t think anyone in the world, apart from John, and perhaps Yoko, did. And no matter how much he carped to me about how badly he thought the other Beatles had behaved towards her, and how, as an artist, he wanted the freedom to work with other musicians, I just didn’t get it.
No one, I thought, would make a better musical partner for him than Paul McCartney. I think events proved me right about that.
So, Christmas 1969 came and went and I sat on my big secret, waiting to be given the nod to publish my world exclusive.

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2 thoughts on “John Lennon handed me the biggest scoop in pop history and I blew it! The writer closest to the Beatles has a confession to make

  1. I am not going to even read this article, I do think when Yoko came into the picture with all the Beatles together, it must have been HeLL on Wheels! I can’t imagine trying to rehearse with a woman in a room Every day when your use to the four Beatles !? I think I would have to pull my hair out or hers. The tension must have been severe, I love my husband but Space is Required ! I like Yoko better now, I’m not always sure how much she Likes Paukie?? Oh Well Luv Ya CG

  2. Who is the author of that article? I don’t see a byline.
    As the Paul song said, John “took (his) lucky break and broke it in two.” :(

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