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'How could you own a song?'

            Paul McCartney does not own 'Yesterday'. Every time the song is performed (on record, on the radio or elsewhere), Paul is entitled to part of the songwriters' royalty which he shares with Yoko Ono as the executor of the Estate of John Lennon. But Paul does not control either the publishing of the song, or the destiny of this, his most successful work, in commercial decisions about its use. Along with 262 other songs written by the Beatles, most of them by Lennon and McCartney, 'Yesterday' is owned by Michael Jackson. (For the full list, see Appendix A).
            The journey of 'Yesterday' out of the possession of the composer is a thirty-year odyssey which mystifies and angers students of the Beatles and followers of Paul's life and work. It is riddled with a complex web of deals and opportunities lost and won, of bruised relationships and allegations of betrayal and dishonour. While 'Yesterday' is a jewel in the crown, hundreds of other Beatles songs which he alone created are outside McCartney's control too.
            Paul is saddened and frustrated that his songs are controlled by an artist whom he once considered a friend and with whom he sang on hit records. Yet for ten years, any attempt by Paul to seriously discuss a sale back to him of the works he calls 'my babies' does not even get to first base. 'Yesterday' and the vast body of Beatles songs remain firmly in the hands of Michael Jackson. And Paul says Michael will not discuss the matter with him.
            Indeed, when Paul wanted to sing 'Yesterday' in his self-made film Give My Regards to Broad Street in 1984, he had to ask permission from the administrator of the song on behalf of Michael Jackson. Paul was originally asked to pay a nominal fee of £1 for the privilege of singing 'Yesterday'. 'And you have got to believe that was . . . hard! McCartney said. Later it emerged that the fee for synchronization rights was waived.
            Music publishing and song copyrights are not subjects that reach the public regularly, but what they represent - actual ownership of songs - is an immensely important aspect of the music industry. Major artists, including Elton John and Gilbert O'Sullivan, have fought famous courtroom battles over their valuable compositions, with huge sums of money being cited as their value. The mighty catalogue created by Lennon and McCartney has been a financial football for more than a quarter of a century. And it still causes Paul McCartney problems.

            The Beatles' entry into the world of music publishing took place when they were aglow with the modest success of their first single, 'Love Me Do', in November 1962, and preparing to unleash 'Please Please Me', the record that would propel them to the top. "We knew nothing about songs being owned,'' Paul reflects of the period when he was twenty and John Lennon twenty-two. 'How could you own a song? It didn't seem to exist! It was [he snaps fingers] something in the air.'
            Brian Epstein, their manager, was not much wiser in 1962. Though he ran a very successful record department in his father's Liverpool store, he was fairly naive about the machinery of the music industry; what he knew about music, aside from a fondness for Sibelius, was restricted to sales patterns of such pop records as those by the Shadows and Anthony Newley. The actual business of the pop world was a foreign territory to the Beatles manager. He was never motivated by money, nor did he like the jungle of deal-making, for himself or the Beatles, either before or during their success. He felt passionately that their abilities, rather than tough dealing, would be their path to fame. Their fortune, he believed, would take care of itself.
            Epstein did, however, fully grasp the importance of promotion for records. And he maintained correctly that a role of the music publisher was to promote aggressively fresh songs, on radio, on television, and by getting as many 'cover' versions as possible, to maximize income for the writers.
            After first seeing the Beatles at Liverpool's Cavern Club on 9 November 1961, Epstein had signed them to his management two months later. For several months, he was mocked and rejected by at least five record companies before finally finding his refuge and the Beatles' future with George Martin at EMI Records.
            Epstein found Martin via a music publisher named Sid Coleman, who ran the music publishing company Ardmore & Beechwood from offices above the HMV record store in Oxford Street, London. During his quest for a record deal for the Beatles, Epstein had gone to the record store to have some acetate discs cut as demonstration samples. When he casually mentioned to Coleman that he had been rebuffed by several companies, Coleman phoned George Martin, who warmed to the Beatles and to Epstein. Together, they were to help chart the evolution and revolution of popular music.
            Ardmore & Beechwood was an American subsidiary of Capitol Records, which in turn was a subsidiary of EMI Records. Typically, Epstein showed his gratitude to Sid Coleman for steering him to George Martin by telling him that his company could be the publisher of the Beatles' first two songs, 'Love Me Do' and 'PS I Love You'. But Epstein was disappointed with the lack of energy, as he perceived it, of Ardmore & Beechwood in promoting the Beatles' vital debut. He had vowed to everyone who would listen that the group would be 'bigger than Elvis Presley'. Inauspiciously, that first single had reached only seventeen in the British chart and Epstein felt personally humbled.
            Such was the speed of the Beatles' work with George Martin that within two months they had their second self-written single ready, 'Please Please Me' and 'Ask Me Why'. Martin recalls Epstein's confidence in the record: 'He told me he was definitely not going to give the next two songs for publishing to EMI or Ardmore and Beechwood.' A habitual canvasser of opinions, Epstein asked Martin for some views on where to go. Epstein said he was considering giving the Beatles' song publishing rights to Hill & Range, Elvis Presley's publishers, who had a London office.
            Martin reacted to Epstein's instinct with this advice: 'The fact that they're successful as Elvis Presley's publisher is a counter to what you should do. I think you should get somebody who's not successful, who needs to be, who would work that much harder. My second thought is that it would be much better to go to an English publisher than to an American one, because you'll get much more response here.'
            Epstein replied: 'Well, I don't know anybody in the publishing world. There are a lot of sharks there. Who would you recommend?' By then there was a strong bond between Epstein and Martin, who had recently signed the Beatles to a long-term recording contract. 'There are sharks there,' Martin agreed, 'but there are also some good people. I've got some very good friends I would trust with my life.'
            He then named three possibilities to Epstein, as he remembers: 'Alan Holmes, an excellent man who used to run Robbins Music, very genuine, a good song man and a nice person. David Platz, whom I trusted very well. Third one was Dick James, whom I trusted extremely. And I said: "Of the three, the thing that Dick has going for him that the other two don't, is that he and his company is completely English. The others are subsidiaries of American publishers. And Dick James is very hungry. He'll bust his arse for you if you give him these songs.'"
            Epstein said he would arrange to meet all three men. Martin then phoned James to explain why an unknown man from Liverpool named Brian Epstein would be calling him to arrange an appointment. In those years, when show business was dominated by Tin Pan Alley, a phone call from Liverpool would be unexpected and might be rebuffed.
            Explaining to James that Epstein was dissatisfied with Ardmore & Beechwood, George Martin was asked an astute question by Dick James. 'What does he think they didn't do for him?'
            'He doesn't feel they got the Beatles any promotion,' Martin replied. 'He's looking for a publisher who can guarantee to get them on television.' Epstein, as a record retailer, knew the impact that a television appearance for the Beatles' second single would have upon the record trade. It would almost guarantee a hit.
            That mention of a TV spot was one of the most important sentences ever uttered to Dick James.

            Steeped in music, Dick James was a fine 'song man' and a shrewd judge of hits. He had been a professional singer since the age of eighteen, with a strong reputation as a smooth-voiced baritone in the prestigious British dance-bands of Henry Hall, Geraldo and Cyril Stapleton before going solo. In 1948 he had become the first British male singer to arrive in the US best-selling charts, reaching nineteen in Billboard's Hot Hundred with a ballad called 'You Can't Be True'.
            Switching record labels from Decca to Parlophone in 1952, Dick met his new recording manager, the twenty-six-year-old George Martin, whose roster of artists were the balladeers of the day, singers Eve Boswell, Edna Savage and Edmund Hockridge, plus Dixieland jazz band Joe Daniels and his Hot Shots. Within a year, Martin had produced James's second big hit, his voice resounding around British homes on the radio with a powerful ballad, 'I Will Never Change'. It became his theme song.
            In January 1956, James scored a colossal hit. Again produced by George Martin, James sang a song from a TV series, the novelty 'Robin Hood', which sold 500,000 copies, reaching fourteen in the charts, where it stayed for a total of eight weeks. The song's chorus, which James sang informally to his visitors in something of a self-parody of his singing style was:

            Feared by the bad
            Loved by the good
            Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood!

            An avuncular and well-liked figure in British show business, Dick James coupled traditional musicality with an astute financial grasp; yet he reflected that he had been exploited in his work as a performer. The deal under which he recorded for EMI would make business heads reel in later years. He received a derisory 2'/2 per cent of the retail price of all records sold.
            With excellent ears for a hit song, James favoured the kind of music on which Paul McCartney had been weaned by his father, Jim: the warm, romantic ballads of Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Tony Martin and Bing Crosby. On the birth of his son Stephen, James decided to stop touring and enter the music industry. He was quite a catch for the Sidney Bron music publishing organization, because through his vocal career he had a vast list of friends and contacts in the industry, particularly at the BBC, the best outlet for 'plugging' songs.
            After establishing many hits for the Bron office, James decided to launch his own publishing company. It was now 1961. With a £5,000 loan from his accountant, Charles Silver, he set up an office for Dick James Music at 132 Charing Cross Road, on the corner of Denmark Street. However, James had a tough first year as a solo publisher, despite his tenacity and solid knowledge of the music industry. The hit songs were not coming. He was worried. But his friendship with George Martin was about to reap unbelievably rich dividends for him.
            James's fifteen-year-old son Stephen watched the pop scene carefully. When his father went home one night and mentioned that George Martin had signed a new group called the Beatles, the boy's ears pricked up. 'There's a chance we might be able to have them for future publishing,' Dick added.
            They're great,' Stephen remarked. He had heard their small hit 'Love Me Do'. 'Very new, very different,' he added, to his somewhat surprised dad.

            On the night of 26 November 1962, the Beatles had recorded 'Please Please Me' and 'Ask Me Why'. Next day, Brian Epstein awoke in his room at the Green Park Hotel, London, with the acetate of that single in his briefcase. He had scheduled meetings with publishers at 10am and 11am.
            A fastidious and punctual man, Epstein was irritated when, arriving on time for his 10am appointment, he was kept waiting because the publisher had not yet arrived in his office. By 10.15, he angrily told a secretary that if the executive could not keep to time, he could not do business with him. That said, he stomped out.
            Arriving at Dick James's office twenty minutes early for his appointment, he assured James's secretary, Lee Harris, that he was happy to wait. But when she alerted James that the man from Liverpool had arrived, the jovial James bounced out of his office immediately and ushered him in, calling for coffee. 'Let's start the meeting now,' he said.
            On two such contrasting treatments of the immensely proud Brian Epstein was a multi-million fortune won and lost.
            'Have you heard of the Beatles?' Epstein began to Dick James.
            Would you like to hear the new record?'
            Taking the shellac recording of 'Please Please Me' from his briefcase, Epstein put the 45rpm acetate on the gramophone beside James's desk. When the high energy of 'Please Please Me' stopped, James recalled later, he 'hit the ceiling', saying: 'I guarantee that will go to number one.'
            How could that be achieved? Epstein asked, adding that if he could do it, James could be the Beatles' publisher. James then instantly called upon his influential 'contacts' to again impress Epstein, this time with a classic piece of salesmanship. With Epstein listening, he animatedly telephoned an old friend, Philip Jones, who had produced James as a singer when, seven years earlier, James had hosted a weekly series for the commercial station Radio Luxembourg. The two men had remained friends, meeting for lunch with their wives and following each other's fortunes with interest. Now Philip Jones was the producer of a highly influential pop TV series, the Saturday night networked Thank Tour Lucky Stars, launch pad for so many national hit singles.
            'Philip, have you heard of a group called the Beatles?' James asked.
            'Yes,' Jones said. 'They had a small hit with their first single.'
            'Well, their next one is a smash. I've just heard it. I want you to book them for Thank Tour Lucky Stars' James continued.
            Even to a friend, Jones said, he could not do that without hearing the record.
            'OK, I'll put it on. Wait a minute,' James said. From the gramophone beside his desk, he played it down the telephone.
            Agreeing that the performance sounded dynamic and original, Jones booked the Beatles for their first national TV appearance, on 19 January 1963, eight days after the single was due for release.
            A glowing Epstein duly gave Dick James Music the publishing rights to 'Please Please Me' and 'Ask Me Why'. At forty-one, the experienced James was precisely what Epstein needed: a tenacious foothold in the music publishing world.
            'Please Please Me' rocketed to number one and the team stayed together. James proved an energetic publisher who got on well with the Beatles. Although he was not of their generation, they recognized his professionalism and he really knew the ropes of the industry. They recorded their debut album on 11 February 1963, and their third single, 'From Me to You' backed by 'Thank You Girl', on 5 March, and all of these Lennon—McCartney copyrights were assigned to Dick James Music, too.
            Among Paul's memories from that period is a meeting arranged by Brian Epstein in Liverpool one morning. 'I think it was before we were going off to Manchester for TV or radio, when we were starting to get out of Liverpool. Brian said: "We'd better get the song publishing sorted out." We said: "Oh yes, great." We thought we were going to be the next Rodgers and Hammer-stein; Lennon and McCartney! We were all excited about the idea and we didn't really know anything about it. We could understand owning a physical object, a house, a guitar, a car, which were our three ambitions at the time. But songs? We couldn't see how you could get hold of it to own it.' He describes himself and John as 'beautifully naive'.
            Remembering the early morning Liverpool meeting in a 'very dark ground floor mews flat, with no lights on', Paul recollects the lawyer present as 'presumably our representative. You have to be represented if you are going to sign for all your life like that. And Brian would have known that. We wouldn't. We learned that twenty years later, probably; I'm just beginning to learn that now, running a business of my own. I start to see what you can do and what you can't do. But of course, then we had no idea. We literally were children, in age and in mind. So we just had to trust to our great businessman. And it turned out anyway that Brian, lovely man though he was, wasn't the greatest of all businessmen. He didn't understand things quite as well as his father, for instance. Harry, I think, had a better understanding.
            'So we went in there [to this mews flat] and Brian said: "We'll have to sign something to do with the songs, to make that all official." So we said: "Fine, where do we sign? You mean we're going to get published? Oh lovely, great." I'm sure neither of us ever talked about it again, really. It was just something that was done.
            'My recollection is that I don't think the lawyer said: "Now, you understand, I am representing you; you must read it through for weeks and understand it all; know just what you are doing here." We actually thought he was Brian's lawyer. In retrospect I figure he must have been ours. But things were such that we wouldn't have thought we deserved our own lawyer. I don't think it was clearly explained to us.
            'And that was the contract I am still under. That little murky signing in the dark mews in Liverpool is it. So it went on from there and that was the Northern Songs thing. We just didn't understand it. We didn't know what was going on at all. So we just enjoyed writing the stuff and playing it and we just hoped someone was looking after our own interests.'

            As the success of the Beatles continued, Dick James had an idea without precedent in the world of music publishing. It was clear, he said to Brian Epstein, that McCartney and Lennon were very special young writers with a brilliant future. He wanted to encourage them. Rather than implement the traditional publisher-writer relationship of a percentage royalty which he would take from them in a long-term arrangement, he suggested they form a separate company which would give John and Paul better rewards, more incentive. Paul McCartney contests this statement by Dick James that he mooted the company; Paul maintains that he and John Lennon thought they were getting their own company and that what they got was neither their own company nor one weighted in their favour.
            Whatever the vision behind the launch, the reality was that a company owned 50 per cent by John and Paul and Brian Epstein, and 50 per cent by Dick James, was established. The first pact between the parties was dated 11 February 1963 and the company, Northern Songs, was registered on 22 February 1963. All their existing copyrights would be vested in the company, all future compositions would be published by Northern, and all recently published material, namely the Lennon-McCartney tracks on their debut album Please Please Me plus 'From Me to You' and 'Thank You Girl', was transferred from Dick James Music to Northern, too.* Dick James Music Ltd was appointed manager of Northern Songs Ltd for a ten-year period, expiring on 10 February 1973, at a remuneration of 10 per cent of the gross receipts of the company.
            By an agreement dated 14 August 1963, Lennon and McCartney agreed to assign to Northern Songs the full copyright in all

* - Epstein suggested to James that, as a memento of their first success together, 'Please Please Me' and 'Ask Me Why' should remain assigned to Dick James Music, where they remain to this day. However, Dick James Music was bought in 1986 by PolyGram Music, so this latter company now controls rights to those two songs.

            their compositions published during the three-year period commencing 28 February 1963. A total of fifty-six copyrights were duly published under this first agreement, John and Paul's share of the resulting royalties being paid into a private limited company they formed in May 1964. This was called Lenmac Enterprises, owned 40 per cent each by Paul and John and 20 per cent by Brian Epstein according to documents lodged on the official file at the Board of Trade in London. From 27 April, 1964, NEMS Enterprises was owned 50 per cent by Epstein, 40 per cent by his brother Clive and 2.5 per cent by Paul, John, George and Ringo.
            Although that first agreement was not due to expire until 28 February 1966, a second agreement in February 1965 varied the original terms. Under this new agreement, Northern Songs was assigned full copyright to all compositions written by Lennon and McCartney (whether together or as individuals) for eight years from 11 February 1965 to 10 February 1973, the two composers guaranteeing Northern Songs a minimum of six new compositions per calendar year. Also under this new agreement John and Paul nominated a new company, Maclen Music (40 per cent owned by John, 40 per cent by Paul, 20 per cent by NEMS) to represent their works and receive their due royalties, which were 50 per cent in 1965, increasing to 55 per cent only for songs written after 1969.
            Although the Beatles were later to consider the rates unfair, James had been charting new territory in publisher-songwriter relationships with the establishment of a co-owned entity like Northern. In the years before the Beatles altered the entire fabric of popular music by writing the vast majority of their performed material, songwriters generally assigned their compositions to a publisher for a return of 50 per cent. Pre-Beatles, the songwriters' attitude was entirely different; they were grateful to see their songs being exploited. Paul and John changed fundamentally the status of the songwriter from 1963. They were so busy being Beatles that they did not fully grasp that reality until much later. Had they done so, valuable songs of the status of 'Yesterday' might still be in the possession of Paul McCartney and the estate of John Lennon.

            In a startling move for a company whose assets were pop songwriters, Northern Songs 'went public' on 18 February 1965. The issue of 5 million new shares was listed on the London Stock Exchange from July of that year, making part-ownership and dividends from Beatles compositions available to the public. This revolutionary notation bewildered City businessmen, who were unaccustomed to assets like songs, which they perceived as trivial, becoming fiscal objects. But subscription at the initial price of 7s 9d (39 pence in decimal currency) was high and the share price climbed steadily, especially since the Beatles were still producing a run of hits.
            Dick James was appointed managing director of the publicly quoted company, his long-time partner and accountant Emanuel (Charles) Silver, aged fifty-one, was its chairman, and together they held 1,875,000 (37.5 per cent) of the shares. Lennon and McCartney each retained 750,000 shares (15 per cent each), and George Harrison and Ringo Starr 40,000 (0.8 per cent) each.
            During this period a financial decision was made which became ultimately perhaps the most disastrous in Paul and John's business set-up. In a move which can now be seen as fatally flawed, Len-mac Enterprises was sold to Northern Songs on 4 April 1966 for £365,000. At that time, Lenmac had tangible assets of some £262,000.
            Then, as now, it seemed a weird move. What it did was 'free up' a nice cash lump sum for Paul and John. But the two most celebrated songwriters in the world were in effect disposing of their rights to the royalties due from their first fifty-six songs published by Northern. They were, of course, selling these rights to Northern, in which they owned a substantial chunk, but they were relinquishing the interest in them by their own company, which functioned solely for them. They could not have predicted the storms that lay ahead - for when, in 1969, Northern Songs was sold, Lenmac Enterprises went with it. So from that controversial day, the sale of Northern in 1969, until this time of writing in 1995, neither Paul McCartney nor John Lennon and his estate has derived any music publishing income from those first fifty-six songs. They include 'She Loves You', 'I Want to Hold Your Hand', 'All My Loving', 'Can't Buy Me Love', 'A Hard Day's Night' and all the other songs associated with the peak Beatlemania years of 1963 and 1964. (See Appendix A, page 164, for a list of the 263 copyrights in Northern Songs which are now under the control of Michael Jackson.)
            In 1965, Dick James, in his active role as managing director, astutely increased the assets of Northern by acquiring the catalogue of Lawrence Wright, one of the most cherished song collections in popular music. With hundreds of golden standards, including Hoagy Carmichael's 'Stardust' and such evergreens as 'Among My Souvenirs' and 'Happy Days Are Here Again', it would yield rich dividends eternally. Paying £812,500, James beat off offers from several other companies to bring Wright into Northern. Rival bids included one from Associated Television, a communications, entertainment and music publishing empire whose chairman, coincidentally, had been Dick James's former agent when he was a singer. His name was Lew Grade (now Lord Grade).
            It seems ironic that the convoluted route taken by the Beatles' precious songs should have involved men who, with the experience of having been performing artists, understood the emotions of show business as well as the finances. Dick James, a former singer and prolific songwriter, was now romanced by his old friend Lew Grade, who was keen to build his song catalogue. They would meet for lunch regularly. James resisted Grade's overtures, saying that Northern was performing too well on the Stock Exchange for them to consider selling it. But if he and Charles Silver ever changed their mind, James said, Grade's ATV would get first option.

            Paul and John's smouldering discontent with the royalties they earned from their music reached a peak in the summer of 1968. Brian Epstein had died a year earlier, and they wanted to explore their own business or, in Paul's words now, 'grapple with the Apple', the company they had launched as an umbrella for their work, creative and financial, and altruistically encourage other artists. In a promotional exercise, to make a film to launch the company, Paul remembers inviting Dick James to Apple's first offices in Wigmore Street, London, in June.
            'It was in those days when we taped and filmed everything and we thought: that might be the thing to do, let's get Dick to come round. And we happened to have a film crew there; we thought We might just force him into doing something. On camera, he can't really say no.'
            Paul recalls their approach to Dick James and the slightly reluctant response.
            'Hey, Dick, I hope you don't mind this being filmed. . .' Paul said.
            'Well, all right then,' Dick replied.
            Paul: 'Look, we'd really like to ask for a little bit more [percentage royalty from their songs' income]. We've been more successful now than any songwriters have been for any publisher. And we're on a not awfully good deal, as you and we know. It's not bad . . . but couldn't you see your way to giving us a raise? That's really all we're doing, asking for a raise.'
            Paul says now: 'We have been asking for a raise ever since to whoever has been in charge [of Northern Songs]. And now, of course, I am a long-serving, thirty-year employee, when even the lowliest of people get raises. But Dick said: "No, I can't alter it. I'm in this with Charles Silver. It would be absolutely impossible for me to change the terms of the contract."
            'We said: "Why?"
            'I now know, running a business, you can change it at a stroke of a pen. You can say: I hereby revoke that contract. I'd like to give these wonderful people a bit more. They should have 5 per cent more each. It wouldn't have been difficult; Dick took on a lot of stress which he possibly didn't need. You can only have so many meals a day.'
            'That was what we were trying to say: "Look, you've done great. From being the guy who sang "Robin Hood" to becoming the publisher of the Beatles.' Paul and John pointed out that Dick had accrued a great reputation and consequently plenty of extra business because he had the prestige that came from being the Beatles' music publisher.
            'John started to use an analog}' of an acorn and an oak tree, and it was very good, a smart thing. He almost got Dick over a barrel on this one. He said: "Look, Dick, it was an acorn and it's grown into an oak tree and it's even taken over the whole bloody garden now.'" Dick responded to the effect that he owned the original acorn and he now owned the oak tree and there was 'nothing to be done', Paul recollects.
            Seen now, the filmed encounter demonstrates two generations on a collision course: successful artists hardly camouflaging their views that they were being exploited unreasonably, and a veteran show-businessman appealing for reason. 'Tell me your problem,' James begins. 'Dick,' Paul responds vexatiously, 'we now think it is time we sort it [the royalties paid to Lennon-McCartney) out a bit more fairly.'
            After they had made their points, Dick James implied that he could not see why Paul and John had wanted to raise the temperature in this way. 'You have got respect for each other's ability and integrity ... I can't think of any other requirement that business associates need ... I promise you I will try to sort it out [the request of Paul and John for a better royalty scale] as quickly as possible. I will come back and sit down with you and put it on the line.'
            He added that if his professional adviser told him he was unable to do anything to meet the requests of Paul and John, 'I will still come back and honestly tell you so ... that's the most pessimistic view I can take'.
            John cut in, tetchily: 'We get advice, too, and it's up to us whether we accept it or not.'
            Paul wound up the uneasy meeting: 'So, Dick, that's it. You go away and come back with something that you know won't start this argument again.'
            For Dick James, who prized his integrity and fairness, such a combat was bruising. Since the death of Brian Epstein, with whom he had forged the Northern deal, James and others who had business with the Beatles considered them to be suddenly headstrong, arrogant, and, in a favourite James description, 'in-grates'. Paul says James never did return to them after that meeting with an offer.
            Their head-on involvement with their own affairs was to plunge them inexorably into their personal Armageddon. 'And of course, we weren't expert in business even by then, even by the beginning . Apple,' Paul says. 'That's why Apple went wrong, because we didn't have the business sense. My basic housekeeping knowledge and my Dad's advice would always say to me: "Don't spend more than you're taking in." So I felt like I was the only one at Apple that was trying to do that.' He remembers one day trying to fire one of publicist Derek Taylor's several secretaries in the interests of economy. 'I said: "Come on, I'm trying to do a cut-back here." Everyone disagreed with me violently. George [Harrison] sort of said: "If you sack her, I'll reinstate her."
            'So, I said: Whoops! And I had to back off that one. I said: "I'm only trying to save us some money." But it was taken on a more spiritual level: if you fired someone, you are not doing cutbacks, you're being a devil. Which obviously made it difficult to make any sense of it all. So we didn't know anything about business then. If you look at it that way, Dick only had to say to us: "Sorry lads, I can't adjust the contract. . ." Now I know that to take a pen out and make an amendment to the contract is ever so possible.
            'He might have just had a sticky moment with Charles Silver, who he would have had to square; and they'd have to have had a meeting and if Charles wouldn't do it with his half, then Dick possibly could have been eminently generous and said: "Well, I'll do a bit from my half. But it's only half as much as I would have wanted to do." Some movement would have been great.'
            Dick James, aggrieved by what he considered brutal treatment, loathed being pilloried and likened the session to a public trial for which he had not been given notice. The Beatles' methods of trying to sting him into action rebounded on them. In what would be an irreversible decision by Dick James, ultimately lethal to Paul and John, he decided to sell his share in their songs.

            By 1969, the foundations of the Beatles had been shaken and stirred. After Epstein's death in 1967 John had stepped out with Yoko Ono and embarked on a series of public events which were ridiculed - planting acorns for peace in a cathedral precinct and posing nude on the cover of their album Two Virgins. Paul had met his future wife, Linda Eastman, and the Beatles were hardly united as they launched their own company. When I interviewed John in January 1969, he told me that Apple was 'losing £50,000 every week and if it carries on like this we'll be broke in six months'. My report of that went round the world's media and caught the eye of Allen Klein, a New York terrier in pop management who was then encouraged into Apple by Lennon, Harrison and Starr with a brief to sharpen its activities. Paul resisted this, and rebuked me for reporting John's loose-tongued admission of Apple's problems.
            At that time, Paul was having his own difficulties with the other three Beatles. Linda's father, Lee Eastman, was a respected New York figure, a vastly experienced music industry lawyer whom Paul thought could be brought in to mastermind the Beatles' affairs. The other three said no, appointing Klein while Paul unilaterally appointed Lee Eastman his personal manager.
            A saga of epic magnitude had begun. Dick James told me he felt very uneasy about the warring Beatles. Worried that the brilliant songwriting axis of McCartney and Lennon had been torn asunder by bitterness being played out in the press, he now reacted very differently to yet another wooing from Lew Grade, who was still keen to buy Northern Songs.

            On 12 March 1969, Paul and Linda were married at Marylebone Register Office. This was followed by a blessing ceremony at St John's Wood parish church. That night Paul, ever the workaholic, went to work. As he had done on the eve of his wedding, he was in the recording studio producing a record by singer Jackie Lomax who was signed to the Apple label. Paul played drums on the record, an old Coasters track called 'Thumbin' A Ride'.
            From mid-March until the first week in April, Paul and Linda went on honeymoon in America. On 20 March John and Yoko married in Gibraltar, and from 25 to 31 March the Lennons were in Amsterdam staging their first big 'event', their 'Bed-in' to campaign for world peace, lying in bed with the world's media present in room 902 of the Amsterdam Hilton. During their absence, on 28 March 1969, Dick James decided to accept Lew Grade's offer and sell his shares. With the predators in the City talking openly of the Beatles' apparent disharmony, James said he believed Northern Songs risked being ripped apart, with random selling of shares and eventual ownership possibly falling into the hands of industrialists who might not have any affinity with the entertainment world. Better, he told me, to keep the valuable work of the Beatles in the hands of a major British company like Lew Grade's. (This plausible explanation would later be ridiculed and attacked by the Beatles and others. Understandably, the Beatles merely wanted to know why James had not told them of his intentions.)* So James sold his own shares, and Charles Silver's, totalling 1,604,750, to ATV for shares and cash worth around £3 million. With its 137,000 shareholding already established from public purchase years earlier, ATV now owned 35 per cent of Northern Songs and announced its intention to bid for the remainder, or, at least, for another 15.1 per cent which would give it control of the company.
            If Paul and John had not by then corrected their innocent youthful view that songs could not be 'owned', and felt they had vindicated their theory of a basically unfair deal, they were about to learn a harsh truth. 'Yesterday' was now beginning its journey out of McCartney's hands. Alongside many other Beatles songs which musicians and listeners the world over considered sacred, elevating pop music to an art form, Paul's historic invention was no longer a Wimpole Street dream, nor a car journey in Portugal. It was part of a collection whose future would be decreed by others.

            Paul and John found out that James and Silver had sold their shares when they were informed by journalists seeking their reaction. At first Paul could not be reached, but John was confident he was speaking for them both when in Amsterdam he told the London Financial Times: 'I'll be sticking to my shares and I could make a pretty good guess that Paul won't sell, either.' Finally reached by the London Daily Express, Paul added: 'You can safely assume that my shares are not for sale to ATV.'
            Asked why he had not consulted the songwriters before deciding, James declared: 'To telephone John and Paul would have been difficult. The call would have gone through a number of people and there was a need to keep it confidential.' An ebullient Lew Grade enthused: 'Northern has first-class management plus

* - Lord Grade, born in Russia on 25 December 1906, is part of the greatest dynasty in the management of show business in Britain. Like his brother Bernard (later Lord) Delfont, Lew Grade began his life in entertainment as a tap dancer and later a professional ballroom dancer. He became, with his brother Leslie, a hugely successful agent to the stars. In 1962 he became managing director of ATV, succeeding the noted impresario Val Parnell, and within two years, when Lew's company took over the vast Stoll-Moss theatre group, he became chairman of that, too. A renowned and respected entrepreneur and deal-maker, he joked famously of his own astuteness: 'The trouble with this business is that the stars keep 90 per cent of my earnings.'

            the talent of two brilliant musicians in Lennon and McCartney. They are brilliant, have no doubts, no matter what they may do with their private lives.' (This sentence reflected the public's new, somewhat cynical attitude towards the Beatles, and towards John particularly). When news of ATV's move hit the market place, Northern's price soared to 39s 3d.

            'Betrayal!' The bitter feelings by Paul and John towards Dick James ran deeply in the immediate aftermath of the sale. And Paul continues to be livid to this day at the fact that neither he nor John, who provided Northern with its assets, was ever consulted before their songs began their long trail out of his control. Paul feels that the Beatles were 'not particularly well advised at that time'.
            When I mentioned to Dick James the anger felt by the Beatles and their friends at his sale, he replied coolly that the decision to go with ATV was taken by Northern's board. 'The board of Northern, Clive Epstein in place of Brian, Geoffrey Ellis who had worked at Brian's company NEMS [as executive director] and their accountant Jim Isherwood at the time, backed me up in considering that that was what should be done.'
            And was it a vote? I asked. 'Oh Lord, yes, it was a vote and it was a unanimous vote,' James answered. 'If there had been a vote against it, then people would have rethought it. But it was totally unanimous. Not unimportant, too, was that there were over 3,000 outside shareholders. We, the directors of a public company, had taken an oath. On becoming the director of a public company you actually do take the Bible and take the oath to act with integrity and look after the interests of the shareholders.
            'Now, that wasn't only me, it wasn't only Paul, it wasn't only NEMS. It was over 3,000 independent shareholders and I don't think it would have been right or proper that they should have been dragged into a kind of potential victimization of the wrangles that would have ensued [within the Beatles] . . . well, had already started.'
            And it wasn't, James continued, as if he had suddenly stood up and decided to sell to Grade. 'Lew had in fact been romancing me for months and months, since shortly after Brian Epstein died.' This was not known by the Beatles who, Paul says now, 'might have asked what was going on' had they been alerted.
            News of the change of hands of the golden Beatles songs reverberated around the world. George Martin was among Dick's fiercest critics. For fifteen years his friend and producer, and the man responsible for sending Brian Epstein to his office to enable James to make his fortune, Martin fumed on the phone to James: 'This can't be true!'
            'Yes, it is,' Dick replied, adding: 'I have sold. I'm tired of being threatened by the Beatles, and being got at. So I decided to sell it.'
            Martin: 'Why didn't you ask the Beatles first?'
            James: 'If I'd done that it would have been all over the place and then I could never have done the deal with Lew Grade.'
            'I told him he was a rat,' Martin remembers. 'I felt he'd betrayed everything we'd done together and I felt I was in a position where I could say that.'
            'He was wrong not to consult his artists. They wrote the stuff!' insists music industry veteran Roger Greenaway, a prominent figure in the world of music publishing who was also signed as a songwriter to Dick James Music. He describes James's argument that Northern might have been eaten up on the Stock Exchange, had he not made a move, as 'rubbish. Dick ran the company. They had a piece of it but he had the major portion of it. Dick was making out a case to show that he was not the guy he was. He was trying to make the buck for himself. He may have believed, that he was acting in their interests but that couldn't have possibly have been the case. If he was acting in their interests he would have waited until they had a chance to decide for themselves. After all, he was the one who fell into it. George Martin took the Beatles to Dick. He did not find the Beatles and make them.' This criticism comes from a warm admirer of Dick James. Adds Greenaway: 'This did not change my view of Dick James. I accepted him warts and all. He was very good to me. I still miss him. And he was very good for the Beatles in that no one would have worked harder than him for them in getting their songs covered.'

            James told me at that time that he went to face Paul and John at the McCartney home in St John's Wood. 'Linda had made tea. Everything was very civilized. I explained why I had done what I had done, supported by the board. Paul sort of shrugged it off. John, who always placed great emphasis on respect and integrity for each other, was very cynical.'
            James continued: 'I said: "Your financial gain will at least give you, regardless of what your earnings are from records, a substantial income." Although they were established at that time as certain great catalogue sellers, no one could really visualize how they would continue to sell in ten, twelve, fifteen years' time. I tried to point out to John that his capital gain, which wasn't like earnings from records on which tax was astronomical because his royalties were subject to ordinary tax . . . the reward he would get from his shares was in fact a capital gain and that was at the lowest rate of tax you pay anywhere in the world. I endeavoured to give John that point of view and I said: "At least that means you can put some money by for your children." To which he retorted quite cynically: "I have no desire to create another fucking aristocracy." That'll be the only four-letter word that you'll get from me, but that is verbatim what he said.'

            With the die cast by the purchase of such a hefty part of their work, could the Beatles prevent ATV from wresting total control? With lawyers and accountants, they did some analysis to see if they could mount resistance, even at this late hour.
            The Beatles themselves controlled 29.7 per cent of Northern Songs, and could find another 0.6 per cent among their nest of companies. Paul had 751,000 (worth around £1.4m), John had 644,000 (£1.25m) plus another 50,000 as a trustee. Ringo Starr owned 40,000. George Harrison had sold his 40,000 shares when his songwriting contract expired in March 1968, but Pattie, his wife, owned 1,000.* Subafilms, a company owned by Apple Corps, had 30,000 shares. One surprise owner of a block of 237,000 Northern Songs shares (equivalent to 4.7 per cent of the company) was Triumph Investment Trust, which had acquired NEMS Enterprises from Clive and his mother, Queenie Epstein,

* - These figures, revealed when ATV made its bid to take over Northern, gave Lennon his first knowledge that McCartney owned 107,000 more shares in the company than he did. This caused conflict between them. John suggested that he and Paul had made a verbal pact to keep their ownership of the company on an equal footing. Paul later explained that he was investing in both himself and John and that, in his memory, he had told John about it and they had often agreed that investing in their own work was a good principle.

            only two months earlier, in February, in a battle which the Beatles' Apple Corps had also lost.
            Although, financially, the Beatles were not (yet) in a position to put in a cash counter-bid, a bitter power struggle ensued, quickly joined by a third force: a consortium of brokers and investment fund managers which, together, owned the key 14 per cent of Northern shares. The battle was played out between Grade, Allen Klein and others on the financial pages of the newspapers for several weeks. The Beatles finally succeeded in putting together a counter bid but, although it was in excess of ATV's, there was a fear over the possibility that Allen Klein would be installed as manager of Northern should the Beatles' bid win. Klein sought to defuse this argument by hosting a press conference at Apple on 28 April in which he announced that the experienced music publisher David Platz would be appointed manager should the Beatles win the battle. John Lennon enlivened the conference by making an appearance and describing the ongoing battle as "Like Monopoly, man.'
            And so it went on, and on, and on, until an announcement was made the evening of 19 May 1969: ATV had acquired an option to purchase the share block belonging to the consortium should it ever sell; this would give ATV 51 per cent of Northern Songs and thereby control of the company. On 19 September 1969, the consortium fell apart - and ATV bought up enough shares to prove to the Beatles that the battle was over.
            Further action ensued when Maclen Music filed a writ against ATV claiming extra royalties from past public performances of their songs. (This dragged on for years, being settled in two parts, in February 1983 and October 1984. Some additional backdated royalties were indeed won, but other elements of the lawsuit were lost.) And, interestingly, ATV incurred the wrath of the City Takeover Panel by attempting to keep Lennon and McCartney locked into ATV as minority shareholders. ATV was forced to buy John and Paul's shares at the same price it had paid to other former shareholders, the company giving the two Beatles £3.5m in ATV loan stock. By January 1970 ATV controlled more than 99 per cent of the company. (Amusingly, ATV had considerable trouble locating the holders of the remaining 0.7 per cent of shares in order to buy them out, because they remained in the hands of around 500 Beatles fans worldwide who, in the preceding five years, had been keen to buy a few shares in the group's publishing company. Although they held only 0.7 per cent, these 500 or so fans represented over 25 per cent of the shareholders, and the Companies Act insisted that ATV obtain the approval of 75 per cent of the shareholders before it could enforce compulsory purchase of the outstanding shares.)
            Considering all that had happened, it is not entirely clear why Paul and John both individually renewed their songwriting agreements with ATV when the eight-year contract engineered in February 1965 expired. The deals were probably struck in order to maintain good relations with ATV in case it ever decided to dispose of Northern. Paul was the first to do so, signing a new seven-year agreement on 1 June 1972 (effective from 10 February 1973), ATV commenting that Paul and Lew Grade 'have amicably settled all differences between them. They look forward to a successful new association.' (This was a co-publishing deal between ATV and McCartney Music, the terms of which were such that, upon conclusion of a fixed term, full copyright would be transferred to McCartney Music, later MPL Communications.) John Lennon signed his new deal with ATV in July 1974, backdated to 10 February 1973. Demonstrating that they had no ill will towards Grade, John and Paul both went out of their way to please the legendary British showman. In 1973 Paul made a television special {James Paul McCartney) for the TV side of ATV, on which he sang 'Yesterday' exquisitely and poignantly. Paul also agreed to Grade's 1974 request to compose the theme tune for a new ATV adventure series called The Zoo Gang. And in 1975 John performed live on stage (it turned out to be his last ever stage appearance) at a New York benefit dinner thrown in Grade's honour.
            Even by the early 1970s, 'Yesterday' occupied a unique position inside the song empire controlled by Lord Grade. An estimated 1,000-plus cover versions had been made by 1973.
            In those early 1970s, Paul McCartney had many other things to concern him beyond the possible eventual retrieval, with John Lennon, of their song copyrights. Alone among the ex-Beatles upon the dissolution of the group in 1970, Paul hankered for intensive activity, a fruitful solo career and the strengthening of his happy family unit. And a new decade had arrived, with rock succeeding pop as the language of modern music, albums becoming more significant than singles. The Beatles were not exactly consigned to history but nor were they lauded as they are in the 1990s. Before 1976, when nostalgia for the Beatles returned as people realized what had been lost, many thought of them as merely a fine 1960s pop group. They had been succeeded in the affections of a new generation by fresh groundbreakers such as Led Zeppelin.
            It would be at least ten years, with the perspective of history, before the full significance of the Beatles, and McCartney and Lennon's work, was recognized seriously. By then, Lennon would be dead, the songs would be merely 'products' to owners who viewed them dispassionately . . . and the public would never be able to comprehend how Paul McCartney could not be the owner of the treasure chest he built.

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