As the title indicates, McNab’s subject is the final days of the The Beatles being the The Beatles, and it includes the last time all four were in the same studio together as they completed their masterpiece, Abbey Road.
According to McNab, Lennon “always reacted well to constructive criticism from his songwriting partner.” At the same time, the “Lennon/McCartney” songs weren’t always “Lennon/McCartney” songs. As Lennon put it, their compositions were co-creations mostly “out of guilt” as “we always had that thing that our names would go on songs even if we didn’t write them. It was never a legal deal between Paul and me, just an agreement when we were fifteen or sixteen to put both our names on our songs.”
McNab clarifies throughout the book: Harrison didn’t come into his own musically until much later than Lennon and McCartney. While they all evolved in remarkable fashion, the Harrison of 1963 was musically very far from the one who contributed so impressively to Abbey Road, and who was at Beatles’ end moonlighting with the one musician that the bandmates looked up to: Bob Dylan.
In addition to “Here Comes the Sun,” Harrison’s other major contribution to Abbey Road was “Something.” It’s a song that Frank Sinatra famously said was the best love song of the last fifty years, that Elton John described as the greatest…The list of tributes to Harrison’s composition is long. But at the time, the band was unsure. McNab notes that producer George Martin “had dismissed the song as lightweight and derivative.” Harrison’s bandmates had “made two passes at the song on 28 January before tossing it aside.”
About Apple AAPL -2.4% Corp. McNab writes that “L20,000 a week was leaving the company, and no one could account for where it went.” The Beatles’ Apple Corp. The Beatles’ Apple Corp. personified “Parkinson’s Law” as a bureaucracy grew in concert with a great deal less productivity.
The above had implications beyond finances for McCartney, Lennon, Harrison, and Ringo Starr. As it became apparent that in Lennon’s words, “We haven’t got half the money people think we have,” the band’s members started to look for new management. McCartney settled on Lou and John Eastman, respectively the father and brother of wife Linda McCartney, while the rest of the band felt Allen Klein (who’d managed the Rolling Stones, among others) was the answer. McCartney lost the battle, but it’s intensely bruising nature meant the biggest loser was the band itself.
All of this serves as a backdrop for Klein’s ultimately failed efforts to retrieve rights to the band’s remarkable musical catalog.
Let’s never forget that particularly back in the 1960s, very few got to make records. That was the case because studio time was incredibly expensive. Whereas today most anyone can produce music and movies with the supercomputer that sits in their pocket, that wasn’t true when the Beatles made their way up.
There’s so much that’s so interesting in McNab’s book, but arguably the most appealing part is when McCartney and Lennon, clearly distant as one might expect after six years of non-stop work, touring, fame, etc., wind up in the studio together. August 20, 1969 was the last day all four were in the same studio together. EMI Studios was on Abbey Road. The album was by some accounts the band’s best.
And In the End is a great, wildly engrossing read about amazingly talented people.