Tonight I am taking my kids to see Paul McCartney at the United Center in Chicago. Though I acquired (and came to know intimately every beat, note, and syllable of) the Beatles discography in high school, I have never seen him in concert before. I am almost certain to be teenage-girl-in-1964-level emotional by the end of it. So what better time for a Beatles-themed TMFW.
After the Beatles broke up in 1970 (an event that merits its own Wikipedia entry), there was almost instantaneous fan interest in a reunion. In 1974, entertainment promoter (and, more importantly, pay-per-view television pioneer) Bill Sargent offered the group $10 million to reunite for one show. They did not bite, and so in January 1976 he offered $30 million. A month later, he offered $50 million dollars. Adjusted for inflation, that's over $200 million. For one show. Again, the Beatles did not bite.
In the meantime, Saturday Night Live premiered in 1975. It was a big hit from its inception, and in the first several seasons, the "Not Ready for Prime Time Players" were appointment television. Against the backdrop of the February 1976 offer of $50 million, SNL decided to have some fun with the big-money Beatles reunion talk. On April 24, 1976, Lorne Michaels appeared on the show and made a monetary offer for the Beatles to come on the show to perform. He made a show of holding up a check, and announcing that NBC was prepared to pay the sum of three thousand dollars for the event. (Note: because whoever is in charge of SNL rights is a complete buffoon, good video of this famous moment is not available anywhere, except perhaps a set of VHS tapes that were released in 1997 or some obscure Latvian site that will cause your computer to blow up. It's maddening.)
Unbeknownst to Lorne Michaels, John Lennon - who at the time was living at The Dakota in New York City - sometimes watched SNL. And as fate would have it, on that very day**, Paul and Linda McCartney were visiting John and Yoko in New York City and they watched the show together. As John recalled in a September 1980 Playboy interview: "Paul and I were together watching that show. He was visiting us at our place in the Dakota. We were watching it and almost went down to the studio, just as a gag. We nearly got into a cab, but we were actually too tired." Paul recalled it similarly: "[John] said, 'We should go down there. We should go down now and just do it." Allegedly, Lennon recognized that the reunion would be only half of the Beatles, and suggested that they would demand only $1500 for the appearance. Of course, the two did not reunite on that night, and with John's death only a few years later they never got the chance to again. According to the interview linked above, it was the last time John saw Paul.
It's fun to imagine what that night in 1976 would have looked (and sounded) like.
** In more recent recollections, Paul has suggested that the discussion and almost-reunion took place one week after the initial offer, but that's much less fun. So let's choose to believe the more contemporaneous story.
BONUS FACT: A fictionalized version of the real-life visit between Paul and John in April, 1976 was made into a movie for VH1 in 2000 called "Two of Us." The film borrows from the Playboy interview and features the SNL offer as a plot point.
BONUS FACT 2: For the first season and a half of SNL, the show was called NBC's Saturday Night, as ABC had a show on Saturdays called Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. By all accounts, the show was a complete dud, and it was cancelled after 18 episodes. (I did not know this bonus fact until I started this week's TMFW.)
BONUS FACT 3: The aforementioned Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell featured Bill Murray, his brother Brian Doyle-Murray, and Christopher Guest as regular performers. They were referred to by the show as the "Prime Time Players." That's where SNL got its gently-mocking "Not Ready for Prime Time Players." (I also did not know that.) Once Cosell's show was cancelled, Bill Murray joined SNL. So he has the distinction of being both a "Prime Time Player" and a "Not Ready for Prime Time Player."
BONUS FACT 4: Speaking of Howard Cosell and the Beatles, many people got the news that John Lennon had been killed from Cosell himself. The evening of Lennon's murder - December 8, 1980 - was a Monday night, and Cosell was broadcasting a Monday Night Football game between the Patriots and the Dolphins. ABC News had early information of Lennon's condition due to the fluke coincidence that a local news producer was at the ER at Roosevelt Hospital waiting to be treated when Lennon was brought in. He called in the information and it made its way up through the ABC News organization and into the broadcast booth in Miami. As the game wound down late in the fourth quarter of a tie game, with the Patriots marching in field goal territory and stopping the clock for a field goal attempt that would put the game away, Cosell broke the shocking news to the audience.
BONUS FACT 4.5: The Dolphins blocked the field goal attempt and went on to win in overtime, 16-13.