An Exercise in Alternate History: What If the Beatles Hadn’t Broken Up in 1970?

I’m a fan of alternate histories. What if Hitler had won WW II? Where would we be if the South had prevailed in the US Civil War? If JFK hadn’t been assassinated, how would have world events unfolded? We could go on and on (and people do).

One of the more popular pop culture alt-histories is “What if the Beatles hadn’t broken up in 1970?” PopDose takes a look at the albums that might have been.

We all have a Beatles phase.  Can that really be said about any other band?  I don’t think so, which is one of the many reasons why they are still the greatest rock band in history, and probably always will be.  With the exception of a few psychedelic noodlings here and there, their records still sound fresh and contemporary.  Heck, even stodgy university music libraries who don’t normally consider anything written after 1875 to be good enough for their stacks usually have a few Beatles records.  In an amazingly short span of time — six years, to be exact — the Beatles turned a music form from a passing fad into an art, and covered more ground than most artists do in a lifetime.

We’re not here to talk about that.  We’re here to attempt to answer the age-old question of what the Beatles’ music would’ve sounded like had they not broken up in 1970.  And all we’re armed with is approximately 60 albums and 40 years worth of recordings by John, Paul, George and Ringo which have been subject to occasional praise but mostly disappointment and flat-out confusion.  I’ll freely admit that this exercise started as a way for me to save space on my iPod and be able to, for example, retain “Let ‘em In” and “She’s My Baby” without having the rest of Wings at the Speed of Sound take up 50 additional unnecessary megs.  But I also think much of that criticism is unfair, and no one could really have expected any one of the Fab Four to produce anything remotely resembling a Beatles record without the other Fab Three along for the ride.  If there exists an alternate universe where the Beatles did not break up in 1970, the songs they wrote and recorded after that are probably different, more innovative, and better than anything they did as solo artists in our universe.  But we have to work with what we’re given, so that’s what “Fixing a Hole” is about.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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