After The Beatles split in 1970, Paul McCartney and John Lennon never played together again publicly. There were many attempts at getting the pair to reunite, including a possible reunion on Saturday Night Live. A new book reveals that McCartney and Wings were invited to perform at a benefit concert hosted by Lennon, but Paul ultimately declined.
John Lennon held a benefit concert for a school in New York
In August 1972, Lennon had the idea to hold a benefit concert for the students at Willowbrook School, an institution for students with mental disabilities, in New York City. Lennon performed two concerts at Madison Square Garden on August 30, 1972, the last full-scale performance delivered by Lennon in public before his death in 1980.
The event was organized by Lennon, Yoko Ono, and television host Geraldo Rivera. The concert included performances from Lennon and the Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory band, along with Roberta Flack, Sha Na Na, and Stevie Wonder. The concerts were successful, raising over $1.5 million for Willowbrook. Audio recordings of the concert can be heard on the 1986 album Live in New York City.
Paul McCartney was invited to play at John Lennon’s benefit concert but declined
In The McCartney Legacy Vol. 1: 1969-73, authors Allan Kozinn and Adrian Sinclair explored the early days of Paul McCartney’s solo career following the end of The Beatles. Kozinn discussed with Goldmine magazine several new details about McCartney’s career that many may not have known about.
One event he shared was John Lennon’s benefit concert and how Paul McCartney and Wings had been invited to play. What ultimately prevented McCartney from going was the looming figure of Allen Klein. Klein was The Beatles’ manager at the time of their dissolution. While he represented John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney didn’t want to work with Klein and would openly share his grievances with him.
“Paul probably toyed with the idea [of accepting]. But the fact that Allen Klein was still John’s manager, and would have taken credit for a Lennon and McCartney reunion, whatever form it took, was enough to make the idea as a non-starter,” Kozinn shared. “But to the extent he considered, the plan would most likely have been to fly Wings over to play a set, sharing the bill with John, Yoko, and Elephant’s Memory. Wings had, after all, just completed its summer 1972 European tour, and was in excellent shape.”
McCartney also declined to play at George Harrison’s concert for Bangladesh
In 1971, Harrison organized the Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden to raise money for the homeless Bengali refugees of the Bangladesh Liberation War. To raise as much money as possible, Harrison wanted to get his former bandmates to return, despite the lingering tensions between them.
In Here Comes The Sun: The Spiritual And Musical Journey Of George Harrison, author Joshua M. Greene explained why Paul McCartney declined Harrison’s invitation. According to Greene, Paul and George couldn’t come to an agreement over legal disputes the two had against one another following the dissolution of The Beatles.
“George invited Paul to play,” Greene wrote. “Paul said he would agree if George and the others dropped a countersuit they had brought against him for wanting to dissolve the Beatles. George could not agree to having one issue affect the other, and Paul declined to perform.”