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A legal matter.

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A random happening the other day brought to mind one of the great legends of Beatledom — namely, that the Beatles ceased to exist at Disney World over Christmas break of 1974.

My three loyal readers are all pop music junkies so I probably don’t have to re-tell the story. But just in case someone new comes along, here’s the gist of it:

  • Unraveling the Beatles’ business affairs required four-plus years of legal negotiations following the group’s split as a recording unit in the spring of 1970.
  • Three of the Beatles met in mid-December 1974 to sign the final documents to dissolve the band’s legal partnership. John Lennon, for whatever reason, got cold feet and didn’t go.
  • A week or so later, while on vacation at Disney World with son Julian and personal assistant/companion May Pang, Lennon decided to sign the paperwork after all.
  • An attorney traveled to Florida with the papers.  Lennon signed them Dec. 29, 1974, in his room at Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort — formally consigning the Quarrymen/Silver Beetles/Beatles to history, at least in a collaborative sense. (We’ll leave “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” out of it for the time being.)

A lot of rock n’ roll anecdotes set my BS detector off. And this one would have too, except that May Pang took a photo of Lennon signing the paperwork.

So I indeed believe that the Beatles, in at least one significant sense, reached the end of their long and winding road amidst an oasis of bamboo and tikidrinks in 1970s Florida.

(I believe men landed on the moon, too.)

This started me thinking: I wonder what the circumstances were in which some of my other favourite bands broke up.

After all, any band that makes it big on a national or international scale is long past the stage of being just jam-buddies. These bands are incorporated legal entities with copyrights, and contracts, and jointly owned property, and people on the payroll, and like that.

While most bands’ business affairs probably aren’t as labyrinthine as those of the Beatles, you don’t break up a corporation simply by looking at each other in the dressing room of the Worcester Centrum and saying, “Right, lads. That’s it.”

Take the Kinks, for example. There must have been at least a couple solicitors’ meetings involved in folding an internationally known band of 30-plus years’ standing. One hopes the meetings finished in time for Ray to make it home for tea.

I find it funny to think about all the rocky moments in Kinks history — Ray declaring the band over during a 1973 concert; Ray and Dave throwing guitars at each other; Dave and Mick Avory brawling during shows — and then think the band probably finished not with a bang but a whimper.

Same thing with Led Zeppelin, or the Grateful Dead. Unlike the Beatles, the surviving members split up on (mostly) cordial terms, so those bands might not have had to unknot their legal ties quite as thoroughly.

I bet there was still a fair amount of formal book-closing and multisyllabic hemming and hawing to do as part of the process, though.

(The Dead, for instance, had a fair number of operational and support staffers who lost jobs. I vaguely remember reading online debates between Deadheads who thought the group had given their employees a raw deal, and others who argued, “Dude. These people got to work for the Grateful Dead for 25 years. They should be thankful just to have had that ride.”)

This entire train of thought might be moot in this day and age, since it now seems like no band ever really splits up for good. They just play smaller and smaller halls, for fewer and fewer people.

Still, at some point after Chris Squire eventually passes, a group of lawyers will probably have to meet around a table to work out the final disposition of anything and everything related to Yes — just to name one band that seems bent on touring as long as there’s someone to listen.

It kinda sucks to think that even in the fantasy land of rock n’ roll, the lawyers touch everything last.


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