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The John Lennon track that broke up The Beatles

When The Beatles finally parted ways in 1970, the media began sensationalising the apparent tension between the four members. While there may have been slight fabrication in the reports, when the band hit the studio to piece together the final two albums, Abbey Road and Let It Be, significant power struggles carved the writing on the wall.

As seen in Peter Jackson’s extraordinary fly-on-the-wall documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, the most obvious tension arose between George Harrison and Paul McCartney as the former battled to get his compositions on the new record. Meanwhile, John Lennon became increasingly withdrawn as he fell into a romantic orbit with Yoko Ono.

Following the untimely death of The Beatles’ beloved manager, Brian Epstein, in 1967, McCartney became the band’s de-facto leader on sufferance. His confident and professional demeanour made for a natural and tacit assumption of the title, and although McCartney’s bandmates understood this, the role would later become one of the final nails in the Beatles’ coffin.

Alongside Harrison’s itch to break out on a solo career and McCartney’s increasingly suffocating grip on the band’s direction was Lennon and Ono’s spiralling addiction to heroin, which began to take a toll during the Get Back sessions.

“The two of them were on heroin,” McCartney reflected many years later, “And this was a fairly big shocker for us because we all thought we were far-out boys, but we kind of understood that we’d never get quite that far out.”

Lennon’s personal battles with fame, global conflict and childhood trauma were compounded greatly by his heroin addiction, leading his enthusiasm for The Beatles to wither under the light. He had previously referenced the potent opioid in the 1968 track ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ but took a less oblique stance on the topic a year later when he brought ‘Cold Turkey’ to his bandmates.

Following damning appraisal from his fellow Beatles, Lennon decided to record ‘Cold Turkey’ as one of his early solo releases following ‘Give Piece a Chance’. The song features Eric Clapton on guitar and hears the Beatle anguish over his addiction struggle: “Temperature’s rising/ Fever is high/Can’t see no future/Can’t see no sky/ My feet are so heavy/ So is my head/ I wish I was a baby/ I wish I was dead”.

If his bandmates’ rejection was a stick, the single’s chart success, despite a ban from many radio stations, was a carrot, tempting Lennon towards freedom in a solo career. Six months after ‘Cold Turkey’ arrived on record store shelves, The Beatles officially announced their disbandment.

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