In an alternate universe, John lives, and the Beatles sing on

What if, in 1976 — six years after their breakup — the Beatles had actually accepted producer Lorne Michaels’ jokey invitation to get back together and perform on Saturday Night Live? Blogger MightyGodKing takes this as a starting point and imagines a mind-bending alternate timeline in which the Beatles reunite; John survives (for a good while longer); new albums are made (and sell in the millions); and Ringo is, crucially, much more than he seems (and hints at the unintended consequences of time travel). Some choice events:

December 14, 1980. Having “had a sit back” (Ringo) after [the new album] Eventually’s staggering success and taken time to concentrate on their own projects and personal lives, the Beatles make their first televised appearance as a group since the SNL reunion, appearing on The Muppet Show. (Lennon leaves New York for the first time in six months to do the gig, eventually spending the entire month of December in England.) The episode is the highest rated episode of The Muppet Show in the show’s history and the most watched television program of the entire year, beating even the news coverage of the 1980 American presidential election. The undisputed highlight of the episode is the “battle of the bands” between the Beatles and the Electric Mayhem (although Starr says his duet with Fozzie the Bear remains his personal favorite moment). Jim Henson would later say that the Beatles episode “rejuvenated” his joy in working on the show, which by that point he had begun to feel was growing stale: the show continues for another seven seasons.

January 7th, 1981. Lennon, Harrison and Starr attend the funeral of a New Yorker named Mark David Chapman, who committed suicide in mid-December and whose apartment, after the fact, was revealed to be a shrine to the Beatles. “I just felt, you know, responsible somehow, like he died because of us,” says Starr, although he refuses to articulate further on this point. Harrison agrees: “it’s amazing to think how great an impact we can have sometimes. You just want it so that you don’t have this kind of impact.” Lennon says nothing.

1983. The Beatles announce their first tour in thirteen years, but likewise announce that [Michael] Jackson will be going on tour with them as a one gigantic mega-concert event. The “Startin’ Something Again” tour plays packed stadiums and larger venues around the world for eleven months straight – the smallest concert played is 240,000 people in Rio de Janeiro, and the tour closes with a free concert in Central Park with an estimated crowd of one point three million people.

January 5th, 1984. Jackson and McCartney are filming a commercial for Pepsi when pyrotechnicians accidentally set Jackson’s hair on fire. Jackson is rushed to the hospital with severe burns, but dies of shock in the ambulance before he can be treated. The Beatles attend his funeral en masse. “He changed things,” says Lennon, “and that’s something I don’t say lightly.” Starr is especially saddened, saying “it wasn’t supposed to be like this.” Harrison says nothing. McCartney promises that Michael Jackson’s legacy “will not be forgotten” and pledges to make sure of this, although he is unspecific as to details.

2002-3. John Lennon, having never abandoned peace activism (his 1991 re-recording of “Give Peace A Chance” before the first Gulf War sparked much controversy), begins harshly criticizing the American buildup to war in Iraq, calling it a “pack of lies.” After the first round of peace protests are largely ignored by the media, Lennon goes on The Late Show With David Letterman and launches into a tirade, visibly furious that the protests were ignored. “Half a million fucking people in New York saying “we don’t want a war” and CNN doesn’t say a damn thing.” The soundbite becomes a flashpoint for debate over the war. Sean Hannity calls for Lennon’s deportation. Lennon offers to come on any show opposing his viewpoint: he receives no response.

Much more here. It’s an extremely well-imagined (and ultimately melancholy) bit of wish fulfillment, and as a Beatles fan it really makes me want to tear my hair out that I don’t live in this universe. There should have been more. There should have been so much more.

(Image from The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics. Thanks to commenter Paul W. at FlickFilosopher for the link.)

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