When did The Beatles break up and who left first?

The Beatles broke up over 50 years ago (Picture: Bettmann Archive)

It’s nearly 60 years since The Beatles made their chart debut, kicking off a career which included 17 number one singles, classic albums including Revolver, Abbey Road and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band – and total world domination.

Even to this day they remain one of the most influential acts in music history – and now they’ve come under the spotlight again in Peter Jackson’s new feature-length documentary Get Back.

The film follows Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison as they recorded their Grammy-winning studio album Let It Be, released in 1970 – at which point the band were said to be extremely unhappy.

Jackson dissected around 55 hours of footage to make the film, which includes the famous studio argument between Paul and George which featured in the 1970 movie Let It Be.

It was to be the band’s final studio album together – but just when did they break up, and who was the first member to leave?

When did The Beatles break up?

The Beatles officially broke up in 1970 – with a number of factors having been attritbuted to the band’s decision to go their separate ways.

Many have traced their eventual break-up as far back as 1966 when the band decided to stop touring, due to being exhausted from a relentless schedule of live shows.

The sudden tragic death of their manager Brian Epstein in 1967 is also cited as a contributing factor, which left them without managerial support having to handle their own conflicts and own business affairs – specifically around their company Apple Corps, which suffered financial difficulties in the late 60s.

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The band also faced creative differences during the final years of the decade, as each embarked on solo material – and when they were together there were disagreements in the studio as they recorded their final album Let It Be.

Meanwhile Paul McCartney was unhappy that the other band members signed a management contract with US music mogul Allen Klein, in 1969.

Yoko Ono has previously been cited as a factor in the break-up although Paul McCartney has said he does not consider her responsible (Picture: Disney+)

John Lennon’s then girlfriend Yoko Ono is also often cited as a factor in the split, with fans suggesting she created a rift between him and Paul McCartney – but McCartney has said he does not hold her responsible for what happened.

He described the pair as a ‘great couple’ in an interview with Radio 4 this year, saying: ‘There was huge strength there. Lennon wanted to go in a bag and lie in bed for a week in Amsterdam for peace – you couldn’t argue with that’.

Who was first to leave the band?

Paul McCartney released his first solo album in 1970, leading to many thinking the band had broken up (Picture: Redferns)

It is usually claimed that Paul McCartney was the first to leave the band, with the story going that he announced his departure in April 1970 in a statement he released to coincide with his debut solo album McCartney.

The ‘self-interview’ he released asked the question: ‘Is this album a rest away from the Beatles or the start of a solo career?’ to which he replied: ‘Time will tell. Being a solo album means it’s ‘the start of a solo career…and not being done with the Beatles means it’s just a rest. So it’s both.’

He also asked the question ‘Is your break with the Beatles temporary or permanent, due to personal differences or musical ones?’ and replied: ‘Personal differences, business differences, musical differences, but most of all because I have a better time with my family. Temporary or permanent? I don’t really know.’

The band had been facing difficulties for some years before their break-up (Picture: Rex Shutterstock)

He added that he could not ‘foresee a time when Lennon-McCartney becomes an active songwriting partnership again’ – leading many to interpret that he was announcing the break-up of the band.

However McCartney has since said that John Lennon was in fact the first to quit.

Speaking to Radio 4 he explained that he was ‘not the person who instigated the split’ but that it ‘was our Johnny’.

‘John walked into a room one day and said I am leaving the Beatles,’ he explained.

‘And he said, “It’s quite thrilling, it’s rather like a divorce.” And then we were left to pick up the pieces.’

Both Ringo Starr and George Harrison had also previously quit the band, Ringo taking leave of them for two weeks during the recording of The White Album in 1968, and Harrison amid creative differences in 1969 – although he was later persuaded to return.

Get Back is available to stream on Disney+ now.


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