The Day Beatles John and Paul Almost Reunited On Saturday Night Live

04/24/2012
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(Gibson) On this day in 1976, Paul and Linda McCartney spent the evening with John Lennon at his New York Dakota apartment and watched Saturday Night Live on TV. Producer of the show, Lorne Michaels, made an offer on air asking The Beatles to turn up and play three songs live. Lennon and McCartney thought about taking a cab to the studio, but decided they were too tired. Gibson looks back:

From the time The Beatles broke up in 1970, promoters from all corners tried to entice them into reuniting. The most famous of these was New York impresario Sid Bernstein, who tried to convince the former Fab Four to reunite for one benefit concert to end world hunger. Ironically, for all the legitimate promoters (admittedly, an oxymoron), the man who came the closest to reuniting The Beatles—or at least, John and Paul—wasn't a concert promoter at all, but instead the producer of a late-night, counter-culture phenomenon.

The Canadian-born Lorne Michaels broke into TV as a comedy writer for Laugh-In and The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show in the late '60s. In 1975, Michaels developed a sketch show to run on NBC-TV in the barren television wasteland of late Saturday night. Michaels' Saturday Night Live was a surprise hit when it aired in October of that year (originally titled, NBC's Saturday Night). The show's early cast, featuring Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd and Gilda Radner, among others, were counter-culture heroes, thumbing their noses at authority and good taste. Within months, they were the coolest thing on TV.

On April 24, 1976, Michaels appeared on the program with an offer that drew plenty of laughs in the Rockefeller Center studio audience: "The National Broadcasting Company has authorized me to offer [The Beatles] this check to be on our show: a certified check for $3,000. Here it is, right here. A check made out to you, The Beatles, for $3,000. All you have to do is sing three Beatles songs. "She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah." That's $1,000 right there. You know the words—it'll be easy. Like I said, this is made out to The Beatles— you divide it up any way you want. If you want to give less to Ringo, that's up to you. I'd rather not get involved. I'm sincere about this. If this helps you to reach a decision to reunite, it's well worth the investment. You have agents—you know where I can be reached. Just think about it, okay? Thank you."

Fans laughed at the camera zooms on the $3000 check and the Ringo barb, but on the far side of Central Park, two very famous men took notice. By 1976, John Lennon and Paul McCartney weren't the hostile antagonists the public generally believed. Years had passed since the "How Do You Sleep?" days. In the meantime, the two had hung out, particularly while Lennon was on his "Lost Weekend" in Los Angeles. By this time, John was back in New York, living with Yoko in The Dakota on Manhattan's Upper West Side. On the night of April 24, Paul McCartney had popped in to hang out with his old friend—and they decided to kick back and watch a certain Saturday night comedy show.
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