When Paul McCartney came to John Lennon’s stomping ground of New York in 1976, it had the potential to be the most perfect reunion but, alas, it wasn’t to be when they decided against performing together on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
In the iconic first series of ‘Saturday Night Live’—America’s home of alternative weekend hilarity—the show’s legendary producer, Lorne Michaels, set himself a fairly big challenge: to reunite The Beatles. He started as any SNL act would, with an unflinching piece direct to camera.
Whether Michaels was performing with the real intent of reuniting the most enigmatic songwriting partnership to have ever existed in Lennon and McCartney, or he was just doing a sketch, Michaels shared the sentiment of a nation. Perhaps even the globe. At this time, The Beatles were still fresh in the memory and despite having seen all four members of the group fond solo success, the desire to see the Fab Four together at once was still too much to avoid.
After contemplating the offer, all the legal difficulties and hassle that would have come with arranging the reunion — they decided to politely decline Lorne’s invitation. Rather than being on stage when the first episode aired, instead, Paul and John were watching it together at Lennon’s home which was only around from the studio where it was being broadcast from.
As Lennon said in 1980: “Paul 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. He and I were just sitting there watching the show, and we went, ‘Ha ha, wouldn’t it be funny if we went down? But we didn’t.”
Paul McCartney would confirm the story saying, “John said, ‘We should go down, just you and me. There’s only two of us so we’ll take half the money.’ And for a second… But It would have been work, and we were having a night off, so we elected not to go. It was a nice idea – we nearly did it.”
The following day after this near-missed reunion that would have undoubtedly been one of the most iconic moments in either man’s career — they spent the day together for one last time. The pair were on good terms at the time but the random visits from McCartney were starting to irritate Lennon who had a baby to look after and could no longer put his life on hold at the drop of a hat whenever Macca came to town.
“That was a period when Paul just kept turning up at our door with a guitar. I would let him in, but finally, I said to him, ‘Please call before you come over. It’s not 1956, and turning up at the door isn’t the same anymore. You know, just give me a ring.’ He was upset by that, but I didn’t mean it badly. I just meant that I was taking care of a baby all day, and some guy turns up at the door,” Lennon said in 1980.
The two would remain on good terms but McCartney never did stop by again when he was in town which will be something that he regrets but he remembers their last chat with eternal fondness. “The last phone conversation I ever had with him was really great, and we didn’t have any kind of blowup. It could have easily been one of the other phone calls when we blew up at each other and slammed the phone down,” McCartney said in 1984.
Although, it’s disappointing that we never go to see them share the stage for one more time, it’s a consolidating fact that the two remained on top terms right until the other end with John’s blunt words evidently not upsetting Paul for very long at all.