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The 1981 Beatles Reunion That Never Happened

Updated on April 10, 2015

John Lennon being asked the same old question...

The significance of the date April 10, 1970 should be known by die-hard Beatles fans alike: it was the day that Paul McCartney announced his departure from the band via a press release in promotion for his first solo album McCartney. With this, the Beatles were no more and a lawsuit filed by McCartney at the end of the year made it official. Years after the band's split, the members of the Beatles were often asked the same question: when are you getting back together?

George Harrison and Paul Simon perform on SNL

As McCartney has revealed in recent years, the Beatles had discussed about getting back together during the 1970s. This obviously never happened, as all of the members were busy with their own careers. There was also concern about preserving the band's legacy.

"...It could have spoiled the whole idea of the Beatles," McCartney told Rolling Stone Magazine in 2012. "So wrong that they'd be like 'Oh, my God, they weren't any good.'"

Some people went to great lengths to get the band to reunite. Even Saturday Night Live executive producer/creator Lorne Michaels got in on the action, famously proposing on SNL for the band to reunite right there. In the end, only George Harrison ended up visiting the show in 1976 when Paul Simon hosted.


Shortly after the Beatles' split, road manager Neil Aspinall went to work on putting together a documentary on the band. The project, originally called The Long and Winding Road, was to be a documentary that spanned throughout the band's entire career from their roots in Liverpool to their 1970 break-up. Aspinall had planned for the documentary to be a TV special as well. Aspinall also considered the idea of possibly having the Beatles reunite for a one-off concert. The footage from the show would've been used to end the film. Towards the end of 1980, the members of the Beatles were planning to meet sometime in 1981. According to Yoko Ono in later years, John was making plans to travel back to England for January 1981. England was where the concert was scheduled to take place. Unfortunately, this would never happen: On December 8, 1980 John Lennon was assassinated outside of his apartment by a crazed fan. Lennon's untimely passing put an end to any plans of a reunion.

Paul, George and Ringo jam in 1995

"Free As a Bird" music video (1995)

A little over a decade after Lennon's murder, the documentary was resurrected. From 1992 to 1994, filming for the documentary took place- filming new interviews with Paul, George and Ringo as well as Aspinall, George Martin and Derek Taylor. Archival audio and video recordings of Lennon were also used for the project. The documentary was renamed The Beatles Anthology and aired on ABC in 1995 for three nights. An expanded version was released for home video shortly after and in 2003, a DVD set was released.

The Anthology project also resulted in the release of three two-disc albums of the same name- featuring never-before-released studio outtakes . This included the release and recording of two "new" Beatles songs, "Free As a Bird" and "Real Love." Produced by Jeff Lynne, the then-three surviving Beatles recorded new music to demos Lennon had recorded sometime in the 1970s.

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