Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: September 13, 1969

The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival was a one-day festival held at the Varsity Stadium of Toronto University. The 20,000 ticket holders were unaware that Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band were to perform until the festival was underway.

However - John Lennon woke up regretting that he agreed to perform that evening. Eric Clapton, however, was eager to play, and convinced Lennon that it was too late to back out.

The festival was headlined by The Doors, and also featured Bo Diddley, Chicago Transit Authority, Tony Joe White, Alice Cooper, Jerry-Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Cat Mother & the All Night Newsboys, Gene Vincent, Junior Walker & The All-Stars, Little Richard, Doug Kershaw, Screaming Lord Sutch, Nucleus, Milkwood, Tony Joe White, and Whiskey Howl.

Alice Cooper's group was the backing band for Gene Vincent, while local act Nucleus provided support for Chuck Berry. The Doors closed the festival. At approximately 10pm the Plastic Ono Band's black limousine arrived in the backstage area, while Cat Mother was onstage. The group was accompanied by festival promotor John Brower, and the car was escorted by 80 motorcycles from the Toronto Vagabonds.

As they arrived photographers scrambled to get a glimpse of the car. Police escorted the Lennons towards the musicians' dressing room, where they remained until midnight.

John just stood in the dressing room, which was admittedly rather tatty, beforehand saying, 'What am I doing here? I could have gone to Brighton!' After all, it was a long way to go for just one concert. He did a really great thing. He had all the lights in the stadium turned right down and then asked everyone to strike a match. It was a really unbelievable sight when thousands of little flickering lights suddenly shone all over the huge arena. Lennon later admitted he was addicted to heroin at the time of the performance.

Said John "We were full of junk too. I just threw up for hours till I went on. I nearly threw up in Cold Turkey – I had a review in Rolling Stone about the film of it – which I haven't seen yet, and they're saying, 'I was this and that.' And I was throwing up nearly in the number. I could hardly sing any of them, I was full of shit. "


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: September 12, 1969

Was today that John Lennon decided to leave the Beatles? First today, Live music promotor John Brower telephoned the Apple office and spoke to John inviting him and Yoko Ono to the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival taking place the following day. He offered eight first class tickets for the couple and their friends. At the time sales for the festival were slow, and he needed some high profile guests to boost its appeal. To his surprise, Lennon agreed on the condition that he could perform at the event. An astonished Brower accepted without hesitation.

Since The Beatles hadn't performed in a live concert since August 1966, and there was little enthusiasm within the group for a return to the stage, Lennon had to swiftly assemble a new group.

Lennon called Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann and Alan White, each of whom agreed to fly to Canada the next day. Clapton wasn't Lennon's first choice as guitarist, however.

When the Plastic Ono Band went to Toronto in September John actually asked me to be in the band, but I didn't do it. I didn't really want to be in an avant-garde band, and I knew that was what it was going to be.

He said he'd get Klaus Voormann, and Alan White as the drummer. During the last few years of The Beatles we were all producing other records anyway, so we had a nucleus of friends in the studios: drummers and bass players and other musicians. So it was relatively simple to knock together a band. He asked me if I'd play guitar, and then he got Eric Clapton to go – they just rehearsed on the plane over there.

Brower arranged their visas and immigration papers, and Mal Evans was instructed to sort out the musical equipment for the new group's debut performance.

John said that it was very, very quick. "We didn't have a band then – we didn't even have a group that had played with us for more than half a minute. I called Eric and I got Klaus, and we got Alan White and they said, 'OK.' There was no big palaver – it wasn't like this set-format show that I'd been doing with The Beatles where you go on and do the same numbers – I Want To Hold Your Head – and the show lasts twenty minutes and nobody's listening, they're just screaming and the amps are as big as a peanut and it's more a spectacular rather than rock'n'roll."

The event was not just the live debut for the Plastic Ono Band; it also marked the point at which Lennon decided to leave The Beatles.

"We were in Apple and I knew before I went to Toronto, I told Allen [Klein] I was leaving. I told Eric Clapton and Klaus that I was leaving and I'd like to probably use them as a group. I hadn't decided how to do it, to have a permanent new group or what. And then later on I thought, 'Fuck it, I'm not going to get stuck with another set of people, whoever they are.' So I announced it to myself and to the people around me on the way to Toronto the few days before. On the plane Allen came with me, and I told him, 'It's over.'"


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: September 11, 1969

The Beatles' final recorded album, Abbey Road is completed and waiting for release. Now the Beatles turned to other projects.

What's The New Mary Jane had been recorded during the sessions for the White Album, but was left off at the last minute. Today, however, John Lennon oversaw the creation of new stereo mixes.

Three mixes were made, each of which ended with Lennon's closing comments: "Let's hear it, before we get taken away!" The session lasted from 2.30-5.30pm, at the end of which the mixes were copied onto a separate tape reel which were taken back to Apple by Malcolm Davies.

Lennon was considering releasing the song as a Plastic Ono Band single, although the song remained unreleased until 1996's Anthology 3. This day's mixes were never used, however, as further overdubs were added on 26 November 1969.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: September 10, 1969

Two films by John and Yoko were premiered today at the New Cinema Club at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. The names of the films were Self-Portrait and John & Yoko's Honeymoon.

Mr & Mrs Lennon's Honeymoon was a documentary about the couple's honeymoon bed-in for peace in Amsterdam. Directed by Peter Goessens, it was filmed in colour and lasted 40 minutes. It begins with scenes from the city intercut with Lennon and Ono singing "Hair peace, bed peace", followed by scenes of the couple sleeping and reading newspapers. The second half contains interviews and footage of Lennon talking into the camera.

The event was billed with the words: "John and Yoko's evening of film events will end towards midnight. It will happen once. It will be what they want it to be." Two people sat in a white bag beneath the screen at the ICA throughout the evening, leading many to believe the couple was actually present.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: September 9, 1969

It's been a quiet week so far.......

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: September 8, 1969

Nothing to report today.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: September 7, 1969

The Beatles were not doing much together today.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: September 6, 1969

Not much happening today on this date.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: September 5, 1969

No recordings were taking place. Did the Beatles know it would soon be over?

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: September 4, 1969

Nothing much happening today.