There are many, many “what if”s to ponder in Beatles history.
What if they hadn’t sacked Pete Best in favour of Ringo?
What if Brian Epstein had been straight and therefore less able to see the potential to create the world’s first boy band?
And what if John had never met Yoko? Well, for one thing, they would never have split up when they did.
In 1970 the four Beatles were far from creatively spent. Looking back at the early 70s it seems that for the first few years after the breakup , all four members were furiously engaged in trying to out-do each other as to who could put out the best songs and sell the most records.
I’ve never subscribed to the theory that “they never reached the heights they reached together”.
It is more accurate to say “they never reached the sustained heights” – and it is my contention that the only reason for this was that they were no longer working together.
Paul would have vetoed John’s more indulgent experiments, and John would have continued to rein in the more overt examples of Paul’s whimsy. And both would have encouraged George to new heights.
Simple mathematics tells us that if the same creative team makes four albums separately, these are, on average going to be only 25% as good.
Weight the average in favour of John and Paul and against Ringo and you’d probably expect a Lennon or a McCartney album to contain 40% Fabs-quality material, George’s album would have a one in five hit-rate and anything Ringo could come up with would be a bonus.
So, suppose the Beatles had taken a year off after the release of Let It Be, gone their separate ways, but then reconvened at Studio Two, Abbey Road around mid-1971.
The resulting album could have been their best yet. They would have argued about the tracks and the order, with John finally winning the battle to finish on a political, rather than a feel-good song.
What Is Life (George)
Back Off Boogaloo (Ringo)
Another Day (Paul)
Wah Wah (George)
Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul)
Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (Paul)
Instant Karma (John)
The Back Seat Of My Car(Paul)
Give Peace A Chance (John)
It Don’t Come Easy (Ringo)
C Moon (Paul)
My Sweet Lord (George)
Working Class Hero (John)