The end of The Beatles on auction

You might recall the scene in the George Harrison documentary “George Harrison Living In The Material World” where Paul McCartney and George Harrison are seen in the Plaza Hotel in New York City on December 19, 1974, signing the document that signifies the dissolution of the group. If not, here it is, thanks to George having his then current Dark Horse tour documented by 16mm cameras.

Ringo signed the papers before they left England, and John Lennon was supposed to come over and sign along with Paul and George. Still living with May Pang, John sent a message, saying the stars weren’t right that day. His real reason was that he had to sort out the taxes situation first. So George and Paul may have been angry, but they fulfilled their part and signed the papers. Ten days later, while in Florida with May and Julian at a Disney resort, John finally added his signature to the papers, and thus the Beatles ended.

Well guess what? You can now buy these papers, fully signed. Estimated price: $300,000 – $500,000. Here’s the description:

LOT #1:
APPLE CORPS Limited Dissolution of Contract Signed by All Four Beatles “The Beatles Break-Up Contract” (REAL)


APPLE CORPS Limited Dissolution of Contract Signed by All Four Beatles “The Beatles Break-Up Contract”

Typed document signed by “Paul McCartney” and “R. Starkey”, twice signed by “George Harrison” and “John Lennon”; Apple Corps Limited, dated 29 December 1974, 2 page

Dimensions: 13 x 8 inches (33.02 x 20.32 cm)

For all intents and purposes, The Beatles had ceased to exist as a cohesive creative entity in 1969 when John informed his band mates “I want a divorce”, but it only became public in 1970 with Paul’s announcement that he was leaving the band. The breakup was fueled by grief over the death of longtime manager Brian Epstein and escalating tension with respect to collaboration and songwriting: John was growing increasingly experimental in his tastes, Paul was still fully committed to pop music, and George found that there wasn’t space for his newfound commitment to songwriting.

In initiating the formal dissolution of The Beatles, the band was opening itself up to enormous tax liability, and it would ultimately take years to untangle their business interests, and agree upon the terms governing the dissolution of their partnership. By 1974, after years of litigation, the band had reached an accord, and the documents were supposed to be signed on 19 December at a meeting at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan (where The Beatles had stayed during their first trip to the United States). McCartney and Harrison were there in person, while Starr, having already signed the document, was on the telephone. Although Lennon lived a short distance from the Plaza, he left his former bandmates waiting, purportedly giving the excuse: “the stars aren’t right” (in reality his absence was due to lingering concerns over taxation). Ten days later, the stars aligned in Disney World of all places.

On 29 December, a lawyer met a vacationing John with the amended contract in Florida. The moment was captured by John’s partner May Pang, who remarked that Lennon “looked wistfully out the window” before signing underneath his band mates’ signatures. Of this potentially divisive moment, Pang further noted: “The friendship was still there. They were brothers. There was no animosity. And even though they all felt they had to break up to get to the next level of their musical careers, John had started this band that changed the world … So, when he sat down to sign, he knew that this was it. His was the last signature. As he had started the group, he was the one to end it.”

Offered here the document that formally broke up the band forever. This document releases each Beatles member from their obligation to record as the group known as “The Beatles”, thus giving each Beatles member their independence from each other to pursue their own projects solely and as individuals. This document was referenced in an earlier document sold by Sotheby’s: , whereas Clause 3 Paragraph 3 states, “We hereby confirm our agreement that the Settlement Agreement has therefore in accordance with Clause 5 (paragraph 5) become unconditional in all respects”. This document is that document, with Clause 5 highlighted as the last aspect of the agreement, which states, “This letter is conditional upon the said Agreement becoming unconditional and the DISSOLUTION OF THE PARTNERSHIP in accordance with the terms of the said agreement”

Authentication: Roger Epperson (REAL) Letter of Authenticity and a Gotta Have Rock and Roll Certificate of Authenticity.

However, in the photo May Pang took of John signing the contract, it looks like he had a different copy. He is writing his name in the line after Paul and George, whereas in the document now for sale, his signature is between his mates. Also, Paul McCartney’s signature is repeated after the initial signatures, as a director of Apple. In the document now for sale, John and George had signed for Apple.

John adds his signature. Photo: © May Pang

The auction ends June 30. Another fascinating lot in this auction is a signed set list on a large promo card, from 1963.

Front of the card

Promo card – back

John and George have signed the front side of the card, whereas Paul and Ringo have added their signatures to the back, after the set list, and John has added a second autograph on top of the set list.
Presumably from the spring of 1963 (April – May is suggested), the set list has the following songs:

  1. Hippy Hippy Shake (Chan Romero)
  2. I’m Talking About You (Chuck Berry)
  3. Do You Want To Know A Secret (McCartney-Lennon)
  4. A Taste of Honey (Scott – Marlow)
  5. Boys (request, probably means that it should be introduced as a request by one of them) )Dixon – Farrell)
  6. Thank You Girl (McCartney-Lennon)
  7. Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby (Carl Perkins, but actually Rex Griffin)
  8. From Me To You (McCartney-Lennon)
  9. Keep Your Hands Off My Baby (Goffin – King)
  10. Anna (Go to him) (Arthur Alexander)
  11. Long Tall Sally (Penniman – Blackwell – Johnson)

The Beatles are playing both sides of the “From Me To You” single, but none of the songs of their two earlier singles. Still, there are four songs from the “Please Please Me” album, all cover versions except for George’s “Do You Want To Know A Secret”, joining the other two McCartney-Lennon compositions on the set list.

It’s just eleven songs, so it’s not a full scale Beatles concert, like the one at Stowe School on 4 April. So this leads us to believe other acts are also playing at this concert. It could be the eight-hour “Rhythm And Blues Marathon” (Vol. 2) at the Cavern Club in Liverpool on Good Friday, 12 April 1963, where eight other bands also participated. That could also explain the request for “Boys” by fans who knew the band.

11 Responses


    Estimate : 30,000 – 50,000 USD, not 300-500.

  2. Tim Wilson says:

    So many interesting Beatles items get auctioned. I wonder about this variance mentioned in the article in the signature page from what was signed/photographed from years ago by John. I can’t assume this item isn’t real, but once I heard Ringo say at least half or more of the Beatles memorabilia items for sale out there are fake.

    • Paul D says:

      I’m guessing there were originally as many copies of this document as there were signatories, ie four copies. Whether any of the other three copies still exist is anybody’s guess. But why would one copy be set out differently to another? Even if all four were individually hand-typed you would expect them to be set out exactly the same wouldn’t you?

      If I was wealthy enough to be bidding for this item I’d need a few questions answering first.

      I’m not surprised at what Ringo said. “Buyer beware” as they say. As time goes by and these items pass through more and more hands it only gets harder to verify that what you have is the real deal.

  3. Shad Radna says:

    We see George signing multiple documents, so who knows? And we see him signing them at the same time that Paul is signing them in the same room. So assuming they both had to sign all the same sheets of paper, each sheet would necessarily have to go to one of them first. So Paul may have been asked to sign as the representative of Apple on some documents, while George was asked to on others. The sequence of the four signatures in the document for sale was pre-determined by the required name being printed underneath each space (in alphabetical surname sequence). The document we see John signing didn’t have those, and Paul evidently signed it first, which may be why he was also asked to sign for Apple.

  4. James Peet says:

    Even if this document was the genuine article, and I was in the fortunate position to be able to afford it, I wouldn’t want to own something that meant the (legally) ending of the Beatles. I’d sooner have a signed album cover, or something else. I can understand how much it meant for George to get this thing done and dusted, his glee is there for all to see and hear. I wonder if he and Paul actually said anything to each other at this signing. Paul looks sad and subdued. That’s how I feel, too.

  5. Paul D says:

    Totally agree with you, James. I would much rather own a Beatles-related item which had a more positive vibe about it!

  6. Win Corr says:

    Looks like one if the multitudes of documents that must have been signed.

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