Nobody wanted The Beatles to end. Whether it was through the bickering and awkwardness that constituted the recording of Let It Be or the various solo projects embarked on by the members during their time outside the group, it was pretty clear that most of the band were willing to forge ahead through the difficulties, even as the 1960s were coming to a close.
The major breaking point was bad business. The band’s corporation, Apple, was hemorrhaging money by 1969 and it became apparent that a proper manager was needed to come in and organise the band’s sorry finances. Paul McCartney wanted his father and brother in law, American lawyers Lee and John Eastman, to represent the band, but the other members were weary of the pair’s potential favouritism towards McCartney. The others wanted Allen Klein, a ferocious businessman who already had a reputation through his handling of The Rolling Stones’ business affairs.
McCartney was outvoted and Klein was installed as the band’s manager. Unfortunately, the woes did not end once he stepped in, and the band continued to wrangle over money in endless business meetings. The meetings themselves proved to be fruitful in that they frustrated the band members so much that great songs (George Harrison’s ‘Here Comes the Sun’, Paul McCartney’s ‘Band on the Run’) were born out of them.
Another great Abbey Road cut directly inspired by the fussing over finances was ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’. As McCartney explains in The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, “The Beatles stuff all got too heavy, and ‘heavy’ at that time has a very particular meaning for me. It meant more than oppressive. It meant having to go into meetings and sit in the boardroom with all the other Beatles and with the accountants and with this guy Allen Klein.”
McCartney, describing Klein as a “New York spiv”, explained: “I smelled a rat but the other chaps didn’t, so we had a fight over it and I got voted down. I was trying to be Mr. Rational and Mr. Sensible, and it all went haywire.” It was at one of these meetings that Lennon informed the band that he wanted a “divorce”, and Klein advised them to keep the news quiet.
Out of the mess came ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’, material born out of an unsavoury period. “Allen Klein and Dick James, who sold our publishing in Northern Songs without giving us a chance to buy the company, were both hanging around in the background of this song,” McCartney said. “All the people who had screwed us or were still trying to screw us. It’s fascinating how directly we acknowledged this in the song. We’d cottoned on to them, and they must have cottoned on to the fact that we’d cottoned on. We couldn’t have been more direct about it.”
According to McCartney, “funny papers” refers to the contracts that were connected to risky investments. McCartney liked the idea of negations breaking down because it could represent business, relationships, and mental strain all at the same time. “The problem was that, by this stage, everything was up for negotiation, and miscommunication was the order of the day,” he said.
More than any other song, ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ was emblematic to McCartney that the band were on the cusp of breaking up. “We all knew that phase of our lives, of being The Beatles, was coming to an end,” McCartney continued. “We were working towards an album, knowing it was probably going to be our final fling. Though Let It Be was released later, Abbey Road was indeed the last album we recorded in the studio.”
Ultimately, McCartney claims that there was something positive to come out of all the wrangling, and that bit appears in the song as well. “I’d got married to Linda, and our relationship offered some respite from the dreary infighting and the financial stuff. The lines ‘One sweet dream / Pack up the bags, get in the limousine’ were a reference to how Linda and I were still able to disappear for a weekend in the country. That saved me.”