Every time I publish a book, I can guarantee that I'll spend the next year or two stumbling across information that would have been really useful when I was writing it. So, with that in mind . . .
Midway through You Never Give Me Your Money, I mention the familiar anecdote about the US TV series Saturday Night Live, and its semi-satirical attempt to engineer a Beatles reunion by dangling the grand sum of $3,200 in front of the group.
As many of you will know, John Lennon and Paul McCartney watched Saturday Night Live together at the Dakota in April 1976, and briefly joked about the idea of hailing a cab and heading downtown to the TV studio. But, so Lennon recalled in 1980, they decided that it was too late and they couldn't be bothered.
Comedian Chevy Chase, a Saturday Night Live regular, told a different version of the story, which I found this morning while searching for something entirely non-Beatle-related. He claimed that not only did Lennon and McCartney watch the show, but that Lennon immediately phoned George Harrison, who was elsewhere in New York with Ringo Starr - and all four men agreed to meet at the NBC TV studios.
Sadly, so Chase recalled, "John's chauffeur got lost. By the time they arrived at the studios, the others had already been waiting outside in their car for half an hour. John's chauffeur went inside, and asked where the Saturday Night Live studio was. He was told that we had gone off the air twenty minutes earlier. Paul said they felt frustrated at first, but then started laughing. John said, 'Never mind, lads, we've got another appointment tomorrow - it could be our lucky break'."
Well, that's what Chevy Chase said. All of which raises a pertinent question. Did all four Beatles really meet outside a TV studio in New York, nearly seven years after the last documented occasion when they were together in the same place? George Harrison was certainly in New York during the week when this 'reunion' was supposed to have happened. Ringo Starr? He started work on a solo album in Hollywood around that time, but it's not impossible that he could have been on the East Coast that night.
I don't believe it, however. I'm happy to imagine that Lennon and McCartney watched Saturday Night Live together; I can even believe that Lennon phoned Harrison to say, 'Are you watching this?' But the rest just doesn't ring true. Besides anything else, I can't conceive that the four Beatles could have stood together on the streets of mid-town Manhattan for even five seconds without someone seeing them. And I can't believe that all four of them would have taken a vow of silence about this so-near/so-far reconciliation, to the extent that none of them has ever mentioned the incident since then. Good story, though, and I wish I'd mentioned it in You Never Give Me Your Money, even if only to shoot it down.