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Ahead of the Disney Plus docuseries, watch the time SNL’s creator tried to reunite the Beatles

Published Nov 20th, 2021 2:36PM EST
The Beatles
Image: Linda McCartney

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It’s gone down in Beatles lore as one of the great what-ifs of all time. After the band turned down one promoter after another offering millions of dollars, Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels came so close to finally convincing the Beatles to reunite — well, two of them anyway: John Lennon and Paul McCartney. It was thanks to a hilarious stunt that Michaels pulled on an SNL broadcast 45 years ago, in 1976. This came just a few years after the events depicted in The Beatles: Get Back, the highly anticipated three-part docuseries from director Peter Jackson that lands on Disney Plus next week.

The Disney Plus series, consisting of three two-hour episodes, will track the creation of Let It Be, generally regarded as the band’s messy, unpolished breakup album. Indeed, the group was so dissatisfied with how things ended that the musicians got together one more time afterward to record a proper farewell — the elegiac, masterful album Abbey Road. And then, that was that. The greatest band of all time exited stage left. Each member went on to solo careers and enjoyed varying degrees of success. Meanwhile, “When are The Beatles getting back together?” became an annoyingly common refrain of the 1970s. And then Michaels came up with his hilarious gag.

“A certified check, for three … thousand dollars”

Promoters had thought big sums of money would do the trick. Michaels, however, figured an appeal to the group’s sense of humor might have a better chance of succeeding. And so, on an SNL broadcast that you can watch at the bottom of this post, he made his appeal.

I’ll describe some of what transpired, just in case the video below ever gets pulled from YouTube. “Hi, I’m Lorne Michaels, producer of Saturday Night,” he says, right at the top of the segment. “Right now, we’re being seen by approximately 22 million viewers. But please allow me, if I may, to address myself to four very special people. John, Paul, George, and Ringo. The Beatles.”

Lately, Michaels continues, rumors have swirled to the effect that the band might be getting back together. He acknowledges and welcomes the news, given how special and one-of-a-kind the band was. “It’s for this reason that I’m inviting you to come on our show.” It’s also been said, he adds, “that no one’s been able to come up with enough money to satisfy you.”

And then he puts his offer on the table. “If it’s money you want, there’s no problem here. The National Broadcasting Company has authorized me to offer you a certified check for three … thousand dollars.”

What might have been

The audience explodes into laughter. Michaels presses on, maintaining his composure.

“Here it is,” he says, brandishing an actual check made out to The Beatles for, yes, $3,000. “Can we get a close-up of this, Dave?

“All you have to do is sing three Beatles tunes. She loves you — yeah, yeah, yeah? That’s $1,000, right there. You know the words, it’ll be easy.” And the members, he adds, can divide the check any way they choose. “If you want to give Ringo less? That’s up to you.”

What’s so great about this bit of SNL history is that, just a few blocks away, Lennon was actually in his New York City apartment at the time. He was watching the broadcast live. And it just so happened that McCartney was in town, decided to visit Lennon, and he was there, too, watching the show with Lennon. Reportedly, the pair thought the offer was clever enough that they thought momentarily about hopping into a taxi to head down to the show. The story goes, however, that they ultimately decided they were just too tired and, no pun intended, decided to let it be.

Peter Jackson’s Beatles docuseries

the beatles shown at rooftop concert
The Beatles’ famous rooftop concert, which will be shown in its entirety during the Disney Plus series “The Beatles: Get Back.” Image source: Apple Corps Ltd.

Be that as it may, for tens of millions of Beatles fans around the world, next week’s Disney Plus series (with the three episodes airing over three days, on November 25, 26, and 27) will indeed be a reunion, of sorts.

For most of us, the series will entail footage we’ve never seen before. Footage that’s actually been more or less collecting dust in a vault for 50 years.

The original Let it Be album was meant to be accompanied by a making-of documentary. The way that original movie was cut together, though, it ended up resembling not so much the creation of the album as the dissolution of The Beatles. Jackson, all these years later, was tasked with re-editing the movie — not to tell a different story, but a more complete one. And he included a ton of footage Beatles fans will be enjoying for the first time.

Even better: The Disney Plus special includes something else most Beatles fans have never seen. It’s the band’s infamous rooftop concert. “What emerges is an unbelievably intimate portrait of The Beatles, showing how, with their backs against the wall, they could still rely on their friendship, good humor, and creative genius,” Disney Plus press material for the docuseries reads. Also, “The docuseries features — for the first time in its entirety — The Beatles’ last live performance as a group, the unforgettable rooftop concert on London’s Savile Row, as well as other songs and classic compositions featured on the band’s final two albums.”

The time Lorne Michaels tried to reunite The Beatles

Here, meanwhile, is the clip we talked about above. SNL’s Lorne Michaels, attempting to do the impossible. So incredible to think about what might have been.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.