Classic Rock Corner

Remembering 1969, Part 3: The Beginning of the End for the Beatles

Note: see Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

For most of 1969, the Beatles were pretty much comatose - after the disastrous Get Back sessions (which would later spawn the Phil Spector-produced Let It Be), they reconvened to the studio that spring to record the music for what would become their final recorded opus, Abbey Road.

But the soon-to-be former members of the band were not in any way inactive. On September 13, John Lennon and Yoko Ono assembled a pick-up band formed by Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman and drummer Alan White to perform at the Live Peace Festival in Toronto. According to Eric Clapton's autobiography, everything was pretty much unrehearsed except for a run-through of a few rock standards plus "Instant Karma," "Yer Blues" and "Give Peace a Chance."

At the time, Lennon was hooked by Yoko Ono's avant-garde experimental thing, as Clapton writes:

"At the end John told us to take off our guitars, turn them up and lean them against the amplifiers. He did the same thing, and the amps and the guitars just started howling in feedback while we either stood to one side or got off stage. Yoko started to sing along to this, a song she had written called "Oh John." It sounded pretty strange, more like howling than singing, but that was her thing. John thought it was all pretty funny, and that's what closed our set."

The other soon-to-be ex-Beatles were also doing their thing. Ringo Starr made a film with Peter Sellers called The Magic Christian, while Paul McCartney composed the theme song, "Come And Get It," which would later become a hit for Badfinger. In the meantime, George Harrison released his first solo disc, the very experimental Electronic Sound.

That same year, Lennon married Yoko and McCartney wed Linda Eastman. In September, Lennon quietly left the band, leaving the others to polish their work for Let It Be. Their final session (for Harrison's "I Me Mine") took place on January 1970.

In the spring, Blind Faith, the "supergroup" formed by Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood and Ric Grech released what would become their only album in August with gems like "The Presence of The Lord" and "Can't Find My Way Home." Unfortunately, due to pressure within the group and also because of fans' expectations, the band dissolved about a month after ending their U.S. tour that September.

1969 also marked the return of Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan to regular live shows, Dylan had been sidelined for three years after a motorcycle accident, and his live comeback came at the Isle of Wight Festival in England. After the previous year's hugely successful "'68 Comeback" TV special, Presley began his series of regular appearances in Las Vegas, where he began wearing his trademark karate-inspired jumpsuits.

Many new bands appeared in 1969, including King Crimson, Yes, Black Sabbath and the Doobie Brothers, all of whom would help shape the music scene for the following decade.

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Ernest Barteldes