With apologies to American Pie singer Don McLean, the real day the music died was April 10, 1970.
That was the day the breakup of the most beloved band in music history, the Beatles, went from rumour to reality.
In a press release issued that day for his first solo album, McCartney, Paul McCartney leaked his intention to leave. Interviewing himself, Paul said he could not "foresee a time when Lennon-McCartney becomes an active songwriting partnership again."
Britain’s Daily Mirror ran a front-page headline screaming: "Paul Quits The Beatles." For the past 51 years, disgruntled fans have placed the blame for the breakup squarely on the singer’s shoulders.
But in a new BBC Radio interview to be aired in full Oct. 23, McCartney has revealed it was, in fact, John Lennon who broke up the band. "I didn’t instigate the split. That was our Johnny," he told interviewer John Wilson. "I am not the person who instigated the split.
"Oh no, no, no. John walked into a room one day and said, ‘I am leaving the Beatles.’ And he said, ‘It’s quite thrilling, it’s rather like a divorce.’ And then we were left to pick up the pieces.
"The point of it really was that John was making a new life with Yoko and he wanted... to lie in bed for a week in Amsterdam for peace. You couldn’t argue with that. It was the most difficult period of my life."
Breaking up is hard to do, as we see from today’s fractious list of Five Famous Acts (Other Than the Beatles) That Decided to (Sort of) Call It Quits:
5) The battling group: ABBA
The bad breakup: If you have never heard an ABBA song, you have probably spent the bulk of your life hiding in a drainpipe.
The Swedish supergroup dominated the charts worldwide from 1974 to 1982, with a remarkable 48 hit singles. They were catapulted to global fame in 1974 when they became Sweden’s first winner of the Eurovision Song Contest with their smash hit Waterloo, which in 2005 was chosen as the best song in the competition’s history. They continued to top the charts until they quietly called it quits in 1982, abandoning a proposed followup album to their successful eighth studio album, The Visitors.
Abba was made up of two sets of couples: Agnetha Faltskog was married to Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson to Anni-Frid Lyngstad. They didn’t so much break up as they fizzled out, vanishing at the height of their fame after the two couples went their separate ways. The huge demands of fame apparently took a toll on the two marriages. One couple divorced in 1980 and the other a year later. There was never an official announcement of the band’s breakup, but the writing was on the wall.
Abba’s hit The Winner Takes It All was written during this stressful period and Agnetha told reporters she found it hard to find the emotional strength to sing: "Tell me does she kiss/Like I used to kiss you?" Speaking in 2013, Agnetha said: "Björn wrote it about us after the breakdown of our marriage. The fact he wrote it exactly when we divorced is touching, really."
In 2000, they refused a consortium’s offer of $1 billion to reunite for 250 shows. But, after 40 years, one of the most longed-for comebacks in music history is now happening. The group has reunited for an album of new songs, Voyage, and digital versions of themselves, so-called avatars, will appear in concert in London in 2022.
4) The battling group: Sonny & Cher
The bad breakup: OK, Sonny and Cher were not so much a group as they were one of the 20th century’s most iconic couples.
With a string of pop hits in the mid-1960s that began with the 1965 smash hit I Got You Babe, Sonny and Cher Bono established themselves as arguably the most famous married couple in the world of popular music. They didn’t project the image of marital bliss so much as that of a fun-loving, constantly bickering couple that could also sing.
In 1962, Salvatore "Sonny" Bono was working as a gofer for famed producer Phil Spector when he met Cherilyn Sarkasian in a Los Angeles coffee shop. She was 16 and he was 27 at the time. The couple released one unsuccessful single under the name Caesar and Cleopatra before scoring a No. 1 pop hit with I Got You Babe under their new name, Sonny and Cher. They weren’t exactly hit machines, though they had another top song with 1967’s The Beat Goes On.
At the end of the ’60s, with tastes changing, they were no longer a viable musical act, so they hit the nightclub circuit and their between-song bickering led to the next part of their career — two Top 10 variety shows, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and The Sonny & Cher Show. "Though their careers had been reborn, their personal life was in trouble. Sonny wasn’t faithful to Cher, who once remarked, ‘One woman, or even five,’ was not enough for him," according to biography.com. In 1972, Cher told Sonny she was involved with a guitarist in their band, but they stayed together for the sake of their TV careers. They stayed married but found new partners.
"After 13 years together as a couple and six years of marriage — the last three for the cameras — Sonny and Cher were legally divorced on June 26, 1975," notes history.com. They sold 40 million records worldwide and Rolling Stone magazine ranked them No. 18 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time. Cher remains a huge star, while Sonny became a U.S. congressman and died in a skiing accident in 1998.
3) The battling band: The Spice Girls
The bad breakup: There was a time in the 1990s when the Spice Girls were the world’s biggest all-female musical act and stood at the forefront of pop culture.
Unlike most groups that form organically as a group of friends, the Spice Girls were manufactured by music managers through auditions of more than 400 women. The best-selling female group of all time consisted of Mel B, a.k.a. Scary Spice, Melanie Chisholm, a.k.a. Sporty Spice, Emma Bunton, a.k.a. Baby Spice, Geri Halliwell, a.k.a. Ginger Spice, and Victoria Beckham, whom everyone knew as Posh Spice.
Their mantra was "girl power" and they redefined the notion of "girl groups" by targeting a young female fan base. But their decade of dominance came to an abrupt end in 2000 when they announced the decision to go their separate ways, taking an indefinite hiatus to focus on their individual careers. The cracks began to show in May 1998 when Halliwell announced she was quitting the group.
The breakup even hit the front page of the Winnipeg Free Press. "Why do you want to leave?" Victoria asked, according to Halliwell’s 1999 autobiography, If Only. "I’ve had enough," Geri replied. It seems the Spice Girls’ insane schedule had taken a toll and Geri’s eating disorders had returned at full force. Her life, she felt, was spiralling out of control. Things reportedly turned sour and the group was rife with infighting. "When Geri left the group, it was so bad," Mel B said in 2014. "She left on my birthday and didn’t tell anybody. She just didn’t show up…. We fight, we argue, we make up... it’s always been like that. It’s been like that with all five of us over the years. I’ve had punch-ups with Mel C in the past."
There have been a number of reunions since 2000, including 2019, when they toured without Beckham, who this month ruled out performing with the group again. She said she’s giving fans what they "really, really want" by focusing on fashion.
2) The battling band: The Everly Brothers
The bad breakup: On stage, the Everly Brothers — Don and younger brother Phil — became famous for their stunning harmonies. Off stage, they didn’t exactly make beautiful music together.
They were in the first group of artists to be inaugurated in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, alongside Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis. "The Everly Brothers’ well-crafted songs floated between country and city and moved with the rhythms of a dream," the Los Angeles Times said of these country-rock pioneers in an obituary for Don, who died in August. Their harmonies influenced everyone from the Beatles to Simon & Garfunkel.
In a five-year span from 1957 to 1962, they had 15 top 10 hits, including Bye Bye Love and All I Have to Do Is Dream. "Following years of infighting, label switcheroos and secret drug addictions, the brothers decided to pull the plug. They agreed that their two-night stand at Knott’s Berry Farm in July 1973 would be their last gig. Rather than end up as a quiet goodbye to their fans, this show became one of the most spectacular flameouts in rock history," notes groovyhistory.com. The first night was a legendary disaster — Phil smashed his guitar into the stage of the John Wayne Theatre and thundered off. Don, who wrapped up the two-day engagement alone after Phil’s outburst, told the audience: "The Everly Brothers died 10 years ago."
For the following decade the duo refused to speak to one another, with the exception of their father’s funeral. They mended fences onstage in 1983 with a show at the Royal Albert Hall in London. They continued to perform together as a nostalgia act into the early 21st century, even doing a guest spot on a Simon & Garfunkel reunion tour in 2003. Phil was 74 when he died in 2014 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which his widow attributed to smoking. The brothers still hold the record for the most top 100 singles by any duo in history.
1) The battling band: The Eagles
The bad breakup: What we’re talking about here is one of the best-selling bands of all time, a legendary group that ruled the 1970s.
On the surface, their mellow tunes made them seem like an easy-going bunch. But there was more than a little pent-up aggression hidden beneath their mellow melodies. "The ’70s superstars broke up in 1980 after two of the band members actually threatened each other with physical violence onstage in front of a concert audience," recalls the website tasteofcountry.com.
The band’s peaceful, easy feelings came to a dramatic end on July 31, 1980, when the group — already worn down after the interminable process of recording 1979’s The Long Run — wound up its tour in support of the album with a benefit show for California Sen. Alan Cranston. According to ultimateclassicrock.com, during a meet-and-greet before the concert, an exchange between Cranston and guitarist Don Felder proved too much for frontman Glenn Frey to take. According to Frey, when Cranston thanked each member of the band for doing the show, Felder responded with, "You’re welcome, Senator... I guess."
Embarrassed and enraged, Frey fired back at Felder, sending years of pent-up tension unravelling onto the stage. "I felt Don Felder insulted Sen. Cranston under his breath, and I confronted him with it. So now we’re onstage, and Felder looks back at me and says, ‘Only three more songs till I kick your ass, pal.’ And I’m saying, ‘Great. I can’t wait,’ " Frey later recalled. "We’re out there singing Best of My Love, but inside both of us are thinking, ‘As soon as this is over, I’m gonna kill him.’ That was when I knew I had to get out."
The gig ended with Felder smashing a guitar against the wall backstage and speeding away in a limo, and the group went their separate ways. They reunited in 1993 for a video and have since toured with a variety of different lineups. Felder was fired in 2001, and Frey died in 2016.
Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.