A Beatles Journey: The End
“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.“
With the exception of a short ditty about Her Majesty, the above quote is the last lyric of the last song on the last album The Beatles ever recorded, and the song is aptly titled “The End”. Technically speaking, “The End” was not the last song that The Beatles ever recorded, and at that point in The Beatles career, the four band members were hardly in the studio at the same time, and breakup was inevitably eminent.
Yet “The End” was hardly an epitaph. Regardless of the in-fighting, and the bitter and ugly legal battles to follow, The Beatles music has not only endured… it has flourished. One only needs to do the math to find that it’s been almost five decades since the boys released their last album, yet their relevance seems like a footprint on the moon… unaffected by the sands of time.
“It’s better to burn out than to fade away.“
Unlike so many other performers, particularly rock bands, The Beatles ended on a high note, with a valid argument that they didn’t need to break up at all. Let it Be, their last album to be released, was figuratively a posthumous release, yet it still yielded two number one hits that shared the 1970 charts with solo work by its former members George Harrison and John Lennon. A year later in 1971, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney would also chart with solo work, proving that the creative output was far from depleted, even though they were no longer together. There were countless offers for reunions, with outrageous amounts of money offered, yet there was to be no reunion… and perhaps to their credit. “The Beatles” – as a band – never grew old, they just ended, with millions mourning their breakup.
The Beatles certainly didn’t burn out, as is proven by their individual output as solo artists through the 1970s and into the early 1980s. They still had contributions, just not as the encapsulated Beatles, thus leaving the collective work of the band to stand alone as a body of music recorded over six years. Six years!! All this fuss over a band whose recording life lasted such a short time in the grand scheme of things. Yet, those six years would yield an unprecedented amount of hits both written and performed by The Beatles – a feat never duplicated either before or after.
“If you strike me down, I will become
more powerful than you can possibly imagine.“
~Obi Wan Kenobi
There is no contesting the greatness of The Beatles, and the fact that Ringo Starr – often regarded as the lesser contributor of the four – is worlds wealthiest drummer, is very telling. Although The Beatles didn’t “die” in a literal sense, the bands sudden ending was merely the beginning of their timeless iconicism, not unlike James Dean or Marilyn Monroe. Today, The Beatles exist as a thing of immortalized legend, seemingly surreal to those of us who didn’t live through the 1960s.
Since their breakup in 1970, The Beatles have sold more music and more merchandise than while they were together. Their music continues to be used in movies, television and on Broadway… even in their own Cirque Du Soleil show. In 2010, John Lennon’s toilet sold for $15,000.00… Now that’s Beatlemania!
The assassination of John Lennon in 1980 forever ended the worlds desperate hope that the Fab might reunite once more, but future generations have and will continue to discover their artistry through the music they left behind. More books have been written about The Beatles than any other artist or performer, and will likely continue to be studied, analyzed, discussed and debated about for many years to come.
Full circle, if the line “the love you take is equal to the love you make” were to be applied to The Beatles, the love seems to know no end.
Beatles illustration courtesy of Sean Gallo Designs
The fact that you managed to combine Star Wars quotes with Beatles quotes just made this English girl’s day.
Six years! One year longer then WW2. Minus the death and destruction, both events had rippling effects in our society. I mention WW2 in the same context because the Beatles were born at the time England was being pummeled with bombs. the aftermath of growing up post-war had a liberated effect on the young. Naturally, they turned to the grit of American Blues and the rockabilly sound. Thus, Skiffle was born. This new rage, coupled with the Beatles seaport location, produced the FIRST incarnation of the Beatles. Then their paths crossed with a wild hair Jewish genius. No, not Einstien, but Dylan. Like Einstien, Dylan gave the Beatles the secret to the bomb.
Thereafter, the SECOND incarnation took place. Visits to the San Francisco scene and LSD compelled them to artistically chhange. A collective decision to leave her standing there.
The Beatles didn’t revolutionize the studio album with Sgt Pepper. Zappa was doing this stuff in ’65. The Beatles revolutionized themselves by not playing live or doing jingle jangle songs. The uniqueness is the made conceptual albums with no continuity. Beside the opening of Pepper and the outro, we are intoduced to Billy Shears (who) then left on our own. Yet, it makes sense and becomes one long deranged piece. You don’t know the lights have changed and you just have to laugh…
No other band can go from catch bubblegum songs to hardcore musical art and stay relative. It all comes down to content , talent and exploration. Without that, you would be Gerry and the Pacemakers.
Great article, Craig. Regarding Ringo’s skills, I believe that his one and only drum solo as a Beatle comes at the very end of “The End.”
Not at the very end Andrew, but almost.
And yes, it was Ringo’s only solo… He didn’t like to solo.
A lovely summation of a band that will forever live closest to my heart. That in no small part thanks to the writer.
You once made a great point to me. You said that “A Day In The Life” was a perfect example of how John and Paul needed each other. The smiling, media friend pop wonder that is Paul McCartney and the morose, deeply feeling and in your face wild-man that was John Lennon were never as good apart as they were together.
George Harrison, telling Dick Cavett that the two didn’t physically hold him back while in the Beatles, flourished in his solo life. Both spiritually and creatively, the time watching his idols create music that will never die, George Harrison budded and touched millions of people’s souls.
And Ringo, happy to be playing music with his friends, his mother sitting at home in Liverpool answering all of his fan mail. And when he was asked why he thought he got more mail than everyone else in the band, he answers “More people write to me, I guess.”
Those boys, iconic, legendary, and terribly human.
Although The Beatles have ceased to exist as a reording group, their legacy lives on for all generations and they continue to inspre new talent from classical to rap. When Paul sang those last words and in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make, back in 1969, we never dreamed that that would be the real ending for the group. Yes we all mourned the breakup that following April and were given their swansong Let It Be, The Beatles never did end. They just had to grow up and move on with their lives just like we all have had to. But the music will never end.