Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two surviving members of The Beatles, reunited on stage Monday at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The show was part of a four-hour concert, with a lengthy roster of guest performers to go along with the Beatles reunion, that will air on CBS February 9, 50 years to the day since The Beatles first played The Ed Sullivan Show and took America by storm.
But Monday’s show was far from the first Beatles reunion. Sadly, all four Beatles never performed on the same stage or recorded in the same studio together again after the iconic, groundbreaking group broke up in 1970. And all hope of a full Beatles reunion ended on December 9, 1980, when John Lennon was gunned down by a mentally disturbed stalker. Another Beatle, George Harrison, passed away from cancer on November 29, 2001.
But the band’s individual members collaborated with each other in various combinations dozens of times, including Monday’s Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr reunion on stage with TV cameras rolling.
Here are six of the most remarkable, though partial, Beatles reunions.
6. Eric Clapton’s Wedding To Pattie Boyd
No cameras filmed it, no microphones recorded it. But May 19, 1979, saw the closest thing to a full, live Beatles performance in 10 years. Eric Clapton, a legendary guitarist in his own right whose playing can actually be heard on a Beatles record — “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on The Beatles’ White Album — was marrying former model Pattie Boyd who also happened to be the ex-wife of his close friend George Harrison.
But there were no hard feelings as Harrison, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney took to a stage set up under a tent, the first time the three performed live together since The Beatles’ last performance on the roof of the Apple Records building in London, January 30, 1969. John Lennon did not attend the wedding, for reasons unknown, preventing what would have been the only full Beatles reunion.
5. A Toot And A Snore In ’74
In May of 1974 when John Lennon was separated from Yoko Ono and living in Los Angeles, Paul McCartney stopped by his home studio. Along with several other musicians, the two great songwriters who had not seen each other in three years simply started jamming. Tape rolled and was later issued as an unauthorized Beatles bootleg record under the title A Toot And A Snore In ’74. There’s not much to the performance musically, but this jam session was the only time John Lennon and Paul McCartney played music together after The Beatles broke up.
4. “I’m The Greatest”
A song written by John Lennon and recorded by Ringo Starr on his 1973 album Ringo, the “I’m The Greatest” recording included Starr singing and playing drums, Lennon on piano and backup vocals and George Harrison on guitar. Paul McCartney was absent, again causing the session to fall short of a full Beatles reunion.
3. Plastic Ono Band Live at Lyceum Ballroom
On December 15, 1969 The Beatles were publicly still an active group, but behind the scenes they were irreparably split. John Lennon’s loosely organized new outfit, The Plastic Ono Band, played a benefit concert for UNICEF in London, the only European show Plastic Ono Band ever played. George Harrison showed up with the group Delaney and Bonnie. He had been playing guitar on their tour. Harrison took the stage with Lennon for two lengthy songs, “Cold Turkey” and the 40-minute Yoko Ono composition, “Don’t Worry Kyoko.” The show was the first time two Beatles played together on a public stage since August 29, 1966 when The Beatles played their final concert, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Recordings of the Plastic Ono Band concert appear on the 1972 John Lennon/Yoko Ono album, Sometime in New York City.
2. “All Those Years Ago”
After he heard that John Lennon had been murdered, a badly shaken George Harrison took a song he had intended to give to Ringo and rewrote the lyrics to be a tribute to his fallen bandmate and friend. When Harrison recorded the song for his 1981 album Somewhere In England, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr also played on the record. George Martin who produced all of The Beatles albums (except Let It Be) produced this song as well.
1. The Beatles Anthology
In 1995, Paul McCartney, George Harrison an Ringo Starr reunited for a multimedia retrospective of The Beatles’ career. In addition to a documentary film and three compilations of unreleased Beatles outtakes and live recordings, the three remaining Beatles were given access to demo tapes made by John Lennon of two original songs. They used Lennon’s vocal, recorded more than 15 years earlier, adding their own new instrumentation and backing vocals.
The two singles they produced, “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love,” may not have quite been up to The Beatles’ previous standard, but nonetheless, they remain indispensable to Beatles fans as the only tracks to include Ringo Starr, George Harrison and Paul McCartney on the same recording with John Lennon since the Abbey Road album in 1969.