Why John Lennon Didn’t Show Up for the Last Beatles Recording Session

When The Beatles took the roof of the Apple building in January 1969, spectators got a glimpse of the Fab Four making Let It Be, the band’s final release. And, though no one could have known it at the time, they were witnessing the last live Beatles performance.

Though the group didn’t announce it had broken up until April 1970, there hadn’t been a Beatles (as everyone knew it) for months. In fact, the last time all the band members were in a studio together was August ’69, when they wrapped up Abbey Road.

But Let It Be still needed some work prior to its release. So Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr met in the Apple studios for one last session in early ’70. And the band finished Harrison’s “I Me Mine.”

If you check the credits on that track, you won’t find John Lennon listed anywhere. John wasn’t even in the country at the time.

Lennon had already left the band by January ’70

John Lennon carries his wife, artist Yoko Ono, across the snow in North Jutland, Denmark, January 1970. | Keystone/Getty Images

After telling his bandmates he was leaving the group in September ’69, John went about his business. That included new music recorded with Eric Clapton and released as a Plastic Ono Band single that October.

At the end of December, John and Yoko Ono flew to Denmark to spend time with Yoko’s daughter, Kyoko. They stayed there until late January. In the meantime, the other three Beatles had finished “I Me Mine” and tied up the other hanging threads on Let It Be. But John wasn’t interested.

So Paul, George, and Ringo wrapped up the work without him. After John returned to Apple studios, he did arrange for Phil Spector to prepare Let It Be for release. But during the final Beatles studio date (Jan. 4, 1970), John was nowhere to be found.

In one “I Me Mine” take on Anthology (the above video), George jokingly acknowledges John’s absence. “You all will have read that Dave Dee is no longer with us,” George said. “But Mickey and Titch and I would just like to carry on the good work that’s always gone down in [Abbey Road Studio] No. 2.”

John skipped playing on several of George’s songs in The Beatles

30th January 1969: The Beatles perform their last live public concert on the rooftop of the Apple Organization building. | Express/Getty Images

If you watch Let It Be, a moment between John and George stands out. While George introduces “I Me Mine” to the band, John takes the opportunity to dance a waltz with Yoko. (It must have driven George nuts.)

So when the band got together the finish the track the following year, no one was surprised John didn’t show. In fact, skipping George’s songs wasn’t anything new for John. He didn’t play on three of George’s four White Album tracks and didn’t turn up on “Here Comes the Sun.”

Certainly, the two Beatles needed a break from one another by the start of 1970. But their relationship didn’t stop there. When John recorded Imagine the following year, George joined him on slide guitar (even on “How Do You Sleep?”).

In 1973, they worked together again (this time, on Ringo’s album). Encouraged by the results, George asked John about starting a new band together. John wasn’t interested.

Also see: The Beatles Song Ringo Said Made His Solo Career Possible