John Lennon announces he's leaving the Beatles

On September 20th 1969, John Lennon announced he was leaving The Beatles. Lennon had already formed the Plastic Ono Band with Eric Clapton and played at the Rock and Roll Revival festival in Toronto, one week earlier on September 13th.

On this day The Beatles had a meeting with Allen Klein to discuss a new recording contract, and John just blurted out to Paul that he was leaving the group. McCartney tried to convince John, his friend and songwriting partner of 12 years to stay, saying the band would get back to their roots and play smaller shows, but John's mind was clearly made up. The magic of old it seems, had long since passed them by and it was time to move one. Ringo has stated that he would have remained with the group for a few more years. But nothing was going to hold them together now for very long.

"I'd said: 'I think we should go back to little gigs – I really think we're a great little band. We should find our basic roots, and then who knows what will happen? We may want to fold after that, or we may really think we've still got it.' John looked at me in the eye and said: 'Well, I think you're daft. I wasn't going to tell you till we signed the Capitol deal' – Klein was trying to get us to sign a new deal with the record company – 'but I'm leaving the group!' We paled visibly and our jaws slackened a bit.

I must admit we'd known it was coming at some point because of his intense involvement with Yoko. John needed to give space to his and Yoko's thing. Someone like John would want to end The Beatles period and start the Yoko period; and he wouldn't like either to interfere with the other. But what wasn't too clever was this idea of: 'I wasn't going to tell you till after we signed the new contract.' Good old John – he had to blurt it out. And that was it. There's not a lot you can say to, 'I'm leaving the group,' from a key member.

I didn't really know what to say. We had to react to him doing it; he had control of the situation. I remember him saying, 'It's weird this, telling you I'm leaving the group, but in a way it's very exciting.' It was like when he told Cynthia he was getting a divorce. He was quite buoyed up by it, so we couldn't really do anything: 'You mean leaving'? So that's the group, then...' It was later, as the fact set in, that it got really upsetting." - Paul McCartney

Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Allen Klein, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr at 3 Saville Row, September 20th 1969.

Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Allen Klein, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr at 3 Saville Row, September 20th 1969.

Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Allen Klein, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr at 3 Saville Row, September 20th 1969.

Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Allen Klein, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr at 3 Saville Row, September 20th 1969.

"After the Plastic Ono Band's debut in Toronto, we had a meeting in Savile Row where John finally brought it to its head. He said: 'Well, that's it, lads. Let's end it.' And we all said 'yes'. And though I said 'yes' because it was ending (and you can't keep it together anyway, if this is what the attitude is) I don't know if I would have said, 'End it.' I probably would have lingered another couple of years.
But when we all met in the office, we knew it was good. It wasn't sulky and we weren't really fighting. It was like a thought came into the room, and everyone said what they said. John didn't think we should leave, just that we should break it up. It was not: 'I'm leaving, you're leaving.' It was: 'Well, that's it! I've had enough. I want to do this...'
If that had happened in 1965, or 1967 even, it would have been a mighty shock. Now it was just 'let's get the divorce over with', really. And John was always the most forward when it came to nailing anything." - Ringo Starr

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Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Allen Klein, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr at 3 Saville Row, September 20th 1969.

Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Allen Klein, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr at 3 Saville Row, September 20th 1969.

Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Allen Klein, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr at 3 Saville Row, September 20th 1969.

Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Allen Klein, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr at 3 Saville Row, September 20th 1969.

Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Allen Klein, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr at 3 Saville Row, September 20th 1969.

Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Allen Klein, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr at 3 Saville Row, September 20th 1969.

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