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The Story of Paul McCartney’s Lawsuit to Break up the Beatles

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One of the reasons the Beatles defined the ’60s is because they broke up shortly after that decade had ended. On Dec. 31, 1970, Paul McCartney took the first step in dissolving the group by filing a lawsuit against his three bandmates and their parent company, Apple Corps.

In the previous two years, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr had all temporarily left the band, only to eventually reconcile. But when McCartney released his self-titled debut in April 1970, he issued a press release saying that he was leaving the group. The other three members would soon follow suit with their own recordings, but the lawsuit officially confirmed for the world that, as John Lennon sang in “God,” “The dream is over.”

According to the court documents, McCartney’s main reason for wanting to legally break up the group stemmed from the decision taken by the others to to appoint Rolling Stones manager Allan Klein as their manager over McCartney’s opposition. McCartney, who didn’t trust Klein, had wanted his new in-laws, Lee and John Eastman, to look after their affairs, but the others balked, fearing that McCartney would get preferential treatment in what had previously been an equal partnership.

McCartney also stated that he had never received audited accounts of Apple Corps’ books since its founding in April 1967. Further, since the Beatles were no longer going to record or perform together, there was no need for the group to continue to carry on as a legal entity.

In addition to seeking the dissolution of the group, McCartney asked for a court-appointed receiver to look after Apple Corps for the duration of the suit, and for Klein to officially be charged with mismanagement of the group’s funds.

The suit took more than four years to work its way through the courts, with the group officially disbanding in January 1975. McCartney’s concerns about Klein would eventually prove to be correct, as it was soon discovered that he had screwed over the Stones for the rights to their pre-1970 material. The other three Beatles eventually soured on him, and by 1977 all their litigation towards Klein had been settled, with him receiving approximately $4 million. Klein died in 2009 from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease.

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