Technically, it is hard to pinpoint the exact moment when the Beatles ended as a group. John Lennon had officially walked out of a meeting at Apple headquarters, with the other three Beatles present, on September 20, 1969. His immortal words, just before he haughtily exited, were, "I want a divorce. Just like the one I got from Cynthia (his first wife)."
Other things were said, but suffice it to say, with these words, the die was cast. Interestingly, Ringo had already quit the band, back in August of 1968, during the recording session for The White Album. In January of 1969, during the filming of The Beatles' last movie Let It Be, George Harrison too got fed up with the quarreling and the sniping -and Yoko Ono- and he, too, made for the nearest exit. "See you around the clubs, George said as he bolted.
Both George and Ringo were eventually talked into returning, although John never did. Paul was the first to publicly announce an end to the Fab Four, on April 10, 1970, with a formal newspaper interview, declaring, in so many words, the fact that "I'm quitting the Beatles." Although the four had split up in the real world, there was still a lot of legal red tape to be cut before the "official" split could actually take place.
Finally, after four long years of court battles, lawsuits, subpoenas, public and private acrimony, and millions of dollars, the official dissolution of the Beatles was about to take place. With just a few kinks left to iron out, the dissolution meeting was set to take place at the Plaza Hotel in New York City -ironically (and sadly) the first place the Beatles stayed in America when they first arrived there in 1964.
The meeting was scheduled for December 19, 1974. Both George and Paul made special arrangements and flew in to be present for the joint signing of the required papers. Ringo was the only Beatle not present for the historic occasion. He had already signed the necessary documents back in England.
At the Plaza, George arrived with his lawyer and his business manager. Paul came accompanied by his own lawyers. And Ringo's lawyer and business manager were present on his behalf. Two teams of lawyers for Apple (one for the U.S. and one for the U.K.) gathered around a very large table to get all the signatures on the paperwork dissolving the partnership. Ringo was on the phone, to confirm that he "was alive." Paul and his wife Linda had a camera set up to document the historic occasion.
Finally, after a long wait, George said what everyone was thinking, "Where's John?"
"Good question," replied his lawyer. Incredibly, John had played hookey and ducked the meeting. To add to the growing anger of all present, John lived within walking distance (or at least a short cab ride) of the Plaza, right in New York City.
George's lawyer put in a call to John. (At the time, John was living with his secretary, a pretty girl named May Pang. He was going through a separation with his wife, Yoko Ono.) John refused to come to the phone. May took the call and told the lawyer that John had decided not to come to the meeting at the Plaza. His official reason: "The stars aren't right."
It was one thing to put up with John's fads and passions and idiosyncrasies, but to not attend this important meeting because of the misalignment of his astrological charts was pushing the envelope a bit too far.
George was already in a dour mood. He was in the middle of a tout, he was getting lousy reviews, and his voice was strained and nearly shot. First, he blamed his lawyer for John not coming. Soon, all the other lawyers erupted at George's lawyer. Then furiously, George picked up the phone. "Take off your G*****n shades and get the f*** over here!" he barked at his former bandmate. (George, although he did have a strong temper, nonetheless always idolized and worshiped John, no matter what Lennon had put him through over the years. George saying such a violent thing to John was completely out of character. It was very clear that the stress of his own unsuccessful tour, plus the weight of the moment, had overtaken the normally level-headed ex-Beatle.)
May asked innocently if George wanted to talk to John. "No! Just tell him whatever his problem is, I started this tour on my own and I'll end it on my own!" George barked and slammed the phone down.
John was listening over May's shoulder. Paul and his wife Linda came by the visit John the next day, realizing how upset John was over the agreement. Paul reassured John, "We'll work it all out."
George's rage didn't last long. A message arrived at John's home: "All is forgiven. George loves you and he wants you to come to his party tonight."
John and May did go to the party at the Hippopotamus Club, where George, John, and Paul all hugged. John and May left New York the following day to spend Christmas at West Palm Beach, Florida.
On December 29, 1974, the voluminous documents were brought down to John in Florida by one of Apple's lawyers.
"Take out your camera," John instructed May, wanting her to capture the moment for posterity. Then he called George's lawyer to go over some final points. When John hung up the phone, he looked out the window wistfully. According to May, she "could almost see him replaying the entire Beatles experience in his mind."
John finally picked up his pen and, in the unlikely backdrop of Disney World, at the Polynesian Village Hotel, officially ended the greatest rock'n'roll band in history by simply scrawling "John Lennon" at the bottom of a page.