Suppose the Beatles had not broken up when they did and stayed together at least until 1975. Since we are engaging in fantasy, let’s also say that John Lennon was not murdered in 1980 and lived a long and happy life.
If the Beatles had continued to record together, at least occasionally, while each branched off for solo work, maybe they would record at least one more album together. Based on their 1970’s recordings, let’s put together what might have been their next group album, released in 1975.
Again, it was likely that each Beatle would maintain and thrive in a solo career, so some of their most famous or personal songs might have been saved and released on solo albums. Since John Lennon stopped recording in 1975, let’s stop there, but luckily, the first five years of the decade were busy years for John, Paul, George and Ringo.
“Imagine” (John Lennon)
“Give Me Love” (George Harrison)
“My Love” (Paul McCartney)
“It Don’t Come Easy” (Ringo Starr)
“Another Day” (Paul McCartney)
“Far East Man” (George Harrison)
“I’m the Greatest” (Ringo Starr)
“Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” (John Lennon)
“You” (George Harrison)
“Jet” (Paul McCartney)
“Mind Games” (John Lennon)
“Photograph” (Ringo Starr)
In this fantasy, each Beatle gets three songs; how’s that for democratic? In actuality, Paul, John and George would maintain very active solo careers and funnel many of their personal songs to their own albums, and Ringo was enjoying a very successful period.
Since many of George’s songs had already been rejected by the Beatles, nothing from his first solo album would likely wind up on a later Beatles project. His first album All Things Must Pass, had an energy and momentum that would not have been altered by his ongoing membership in the Beatles. The Concert for Bangladesh would have continued on, but George would have probably held back a few songs in anticipation of the next Beatles project. At this point, George would have wanted his “A” material on Beatles albums where he could become equal partners with John and Paul, and compete for singles. “Give Me Love” would have been his next song for the Beatles, not too personal, but definitely George. “Far East Man”, written with Ron Wood, is one of his better songs, and it might have been even better with John and Paul’s influence. An alternate choice, also from album of the same name is “Dark Horse.”
The Quiet Beatle might have enjoyed getting that song onto a group album as a reference to himself and to his own record label. “You”, from George’s final Apple release was not a new song, it was a holdover from sessions earlier in the decade, but it was a rocking, upbeat song.
John was quick to record and release songs so he would not have banked some of his most topical songs. Remember, he and Paul quickly recorded and released “The Ballad of John and Yoko”, without the help of Ringo and George in 1969. “Instant Karma”, “Cold Turkey”, “Power to the People”, “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” were all recorded quickly and released as Lennon singles (also credited to Plastic Ono Band). John Lennon was often about the moment. I believe that John would have brought “Imagine” to the Beatles even though it is essentially a solo performance, it would be lead single from the album and become the classic that it is. John’s output was uneven during the first half of the decade and was very personal. His contributions to the group effort would include his most commercial work, before retiring for five years. That retirement might have spelled the end of the Beatles.
Paul might still have started Wings as a side project apart from the Beatles. Paul has always liked being in a group of familiar musicians as long as he was calling the shots. In Wings, he had that, so it fit his style. “My Love” was a big solo hit although it was criticized as schmaltzy not up to his better work.
“Another Day” was a non-album single, a commercial hit, but hardly the type of songs that John or George would have been thrilled about playing on. “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” was a number one hit, and familiar McCartney musical territory, in fact the album Ram, while often dismissed at trite and too homespun, contains some of his best melodic efforts. “Jet”, from the ultra successful Band on the Run album, is much more of a group rocker, was more in the vein of “Get Back”, something the others could get their teeth into.
Band on the Run was very much a product of his adventures of Wings in Nigeria, something that did not really fit the Beatles. “Live and Let Die”, written for the James Bond film, would likely have stayed a solo project, not something the Beatles would have been involved with. After a slow start in the decade, McCartney did not really hit his commercial stride until around 1974, and would finish the decade strong.
Ringo is a bit of a wild card. On past Beatle albums, with the exception of Let it Be, he either wrote or was given a track. In the early 1970’s, he started to write, often with George’s help, and enjoyed steady chart success through mid decade.
“It Don’t Come Easy” was one of the best solo singles of the first half of the decade, with a big assist from George. It would have been perfect for the group album although it might have sparked some jealousy. His other two selections were from the Ringo album, “Photograph”, also a Ringo-George collaboration, and “I’m the Greatest”, written by John, would have been perfect for the group album.
In the early 1970’s, John and Paul were accused of taking potshots at each other in their lyrics, so these songs are naturally not considered for a group effort. Had they not broken up in 1970, some of that animosity might not have happened or had been directed in other fashions. The music of John, Paul and George is complicated, reflective of their relationships and of their personal beliefs. Political and religious themed, or deeply personal songs might have posed internal conflict.
“Imagine” or “Give Me Love” would have been accepted, but “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” or “Woman is the Nigger of the World” or “The Light That Has Lighted the World” likely would have been rejected unless included as a “B” side of a single. While the Beatles were certainly into messages and statements, they were also protective of their brand and commercialism. As solo projects, each Beatle could choose what was appropriate and personal, but band decisions, evidenced by songs rejected in the 1960’s that later surfaced on solo albums showed that not anything would go under “The Beatles” name.
Who would have produced this album? George Martin? Possibly, but probably not. Would the Beatles have produced it themselves? Probably, but working mostly separately, like how they did the White Album. John, Paul and George were their own producers by then, although it might have helped to give up some of their power to a unifying force, like they did when working on the unfinished John Lennon songs for the Anthology. More likely, they would have picked one or more engineers that had worked with them in the past like Phil McDonald, Ken Scott, Geoff Emerick or even Glyn Johns.
There was no album recorded by the four Beatles after Abbey Road. John and George worked on Ringo projects, as did Paul; Ringo worked on several George projects during the 1970’s. It is both fun and sad to think about what might have been.
“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” – Lennon/McCartney