The Beatles begin Anthology
“It was twenty years ago today”—January 19, 1994– that former Beatle Paul McCartney met with John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono to set into motion what would eventually become the now famous Anthology project. It was the day that Lennon—murdered by a deranged fan in 1980–had been posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. McCartney presented the award and Ono accepted it.
After the show they met to discuss working on a few incomplete solo songs by Lennon that could be part of the early 1990s Anthology CD series. This was the end of a significantly lengthy time of estrangement between the two that dated back to a bit before the Beatles’ official break-up in 1970. In fact, many still blame Ono—at least in part—for the Fab Four’s disbandment.
Ono saw an excellent opportunity to make both money and amends. While she still states: “I did not break up the Beatles” she added that she was suddenly “in a position where I could bring them back together” and she did “not want to hinder that. It was kind of a situation given to me by fate.”
Ono gave McCartney four songs. The then surviving Beatles—George Harrison, Ringo Starr and McCartney met with the Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne to enlist his aid as producer. Their first project was a 1977 demo titled “Free as a Bird”. The tune had been recorded in Lennon’s home in the Dakota Building but remained unfinished.
It would eventually be chosen as the lead single to the new Beatles’ project 17 years later selling over 120,000 copies in the first week of release in the UK alone. “Free as a Bird”–the first new Beatles single since 1970’s “The Long and Winding Road”–would go on to become the band’s 34th Top 10 single in the US and even garner a Grammy.
(Images courtesy of ReunionSessions and BeatlesWikia)