Friday, 7 January 2011

Miss O'Dell and the Final Beatles Meeting

When were the four Beatles together in the same room for the last time? Having reviewed all the evidence, I reckon that the answer is either 16 or 17 September 1969. As I wrote in You Never Give Me Your Money, on one of those dates "all four Beatles endured a turgid discussion about voting rights and share options, which broadened into a desultory fight between Lennon and Harrison about the latter's right to equal exposure on any future Beatles record" (p. 99). Various accounts of the Beatles' break-up have suggested that all four men were together on later occasions, notably on 20 September, when Lennon announced he was leaving the group. But my research showed that there were only ever three Beatles present on these days, with Harrison (for example) being the missing party when John made his historic declaration of independence.

In Miss O'Dell, however, Chris O'Dell claims - without any fanfare - to have been present six months later at an event which all four Beatles attended. She recalls helping Pattie Boyd to organise a birthday party soon after the Harrisons had moved into Friar Park, in March 1970, and casually mentions that all of the other Beatles, and their wives, were there. I checked with Pattie Boyd's own book, but she doesn't mention the party at all (indeed, her chronology falls to pieces around 1970/71). So is Miss O'Dell right, and does Beatles history need to be rewritten?

I can't prove the point either way, but I firmly believe that O'Dell slipped up, and that Paul and Linda McCartney weren't at Pattie's party. It took place on 17 March 1970, just as McCartney was finishing work on his solo album, and was doing his best to avoid visiting the Apple offices, or spend any time with his Beatle colleagues. Phil Spector was about to start work on remixing the Let It Be album tapes, and the other Beatles were about to ask McCartney to delay his album to make room for theirs. Meanwhile, three of the Beatles had invited Allen Klein to become their manager, and McCartney had refused to sign the contract. Under the circumstances, it's difficult to imagine Paul choosing to spend time with Lennon, Harrison and Starkey, with the risk that even the most casual conversation might turn into a blazing row about money, managers or the McCartney album.

In fact, I'm dubious about the idea that the Lennons attended the party, either. A couple of days earlier, psychotherapist Arthur Janov had arrived at their home to begin weeks of intensive Primal Scream Therapy. If you'd spent the day rolling around on the floor screaming about the frustration of being a Beatle, is it likely that you'd choose to devote the evening to socialising with the rest of the group?

So I reckon that, quite understandably, Chris O'Dell has confused her dates, or combined several different social occasions into one, and thinks that she remembers a four-man reunion that never took place. But I'd love to be proved wrong - with photos too, please.


  1. Hi Peter, First of all I would like to compliment you on the book. I enjoyed it very much. It was so refreshing to read a book about the Beatles' last years from someone who took a completely unbiased approach. Also thank you for clearing up the mystery about Pattie Harrison's b'day party. I also read Chris O'Dell's interesting book, and I was puzzled when I read about this party which all 4 Beatles had allegedly attended. In light of everything that was going on at that time, I found it hard to believe that Paul would have been there. And you make a good point when you say that it's hard to imagine John would go either since he was immersed in his therapy. (Although I thought that was later in the year) Anyway, it makes complete sense that Chris probably simply misremembered and took two or more incidents and put them together. A very common thing to do when trying to remember long ago events.

  2. Hi Peter - You Never Give Me Your Money was recommended to me by David Hepworth at a recent Word event, I started it today (just finished the prologue)and can see this is a gem to be cherished..

    I started the book following on from Howard Sounes McCartney biog, which although balanced and could have been worse (Hamish Stuart's 2007 claims), did seem to keep a grinch-eye view of Macca in places