I think we know about a million times more about what was going on inside the Beatles now than we did then. Rock music was still outside the pale. Rolling Stone existed and I got my first subscription around 1970 but virtually nothing real about rock groups was ever in the mainstream news.
Biographies have since revealed the depth of John’s heroin addiction, something that was completely suppressed in the 60s. We’ve learned about the group dynamics and how each of them had quit the group at some point. Kids and teenagers don’t really understand viscerally what that means. We knew that they stopped touring in 1966 because they couldn’t hear themselves play but we didn’t understand what they meant since all the other groups were out there still touring. The Beatles had pressures on them that nobody at the time could imagine, even though we’ve seen lots of examples since. Sure we knew some of this sort of vaguely, but the Beatles were first on the curve.
Their not touring didn’t bother me. The breakup was a big deal, though. The breakup came after Abbey Road and while everybody “knew” it was the last album they’d done it was also obvious they still had something to say. And 1970 was sheer confusion. Both Ringo’s and Paul’s first solo albums appeared before the official release of Let It Be so they were together and not together. The only thing obvious was that Yoko was to blame.
Simon and Garfunkel broke up around the same time. Top 40 radio died in 1970, too, and nobody today can imagine how wonderful and important top 40 was in the 60s. Kent State happened two weeks before Let It Be. Lots of important things seemed to be dying, which is why in retrospect I think that the concept of revolution seemed real. Better to create our own new future than the one being imposed on us.
Yeah, I’m rambling, because that whole era seems so big and meaningful and totally lost that it’s hard to put the details together, especially since we keep talking about it with more detail today than we knew then. The Beatles breaking up? That was big. But so was everything else on a daily basis.