"Wouldn’t it be funny if we went down?": the night The Beatles almost reunited on Saturday Night Live

Paul McCartney and John Lennon
(Image credit: Cummings Archives/Redferns)

Back in 1976, the world was still hurting from The Beatles’ break-up and during the first ever season of the now-iconic US show Saturday Night Live, the producer took it upon himself to do something about it. Lorne Michaels delivered a speech about the Fab Four directly to camera, saying, “I’m inviting you to come on our show” and imploring Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr to put their differences behind them and reunite. Adding a little extra incentive, Michaels then whipped out a cheque for $3000 – not an amount to be sniffed at back then – and said it would be theirs if they came back together on SNL.

It was, like most of SNL’s output, a gag intended to entertain and stir things up, but what Michaels didn't know was that two of the band were watching and actually considered it. As recounted in Man On The Run, Tom Doyle’s excellent book about McCartney in the 70s, Lennon and McCartney were actually watching the show together that night in Lennon’s Dakota building apartment, just 22 blocks north of where it was being filmed. They were, writes Doyle, “laughing their asses off and, just for a minute, actually considering his offer. ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we went down?’ said John. ‘We should go down now and just do it.’”

This momentous cameo never happened, though, the pair deciding they were too tired to get in a cab and head down, with Paul and wife Linda heading home soon afterwards. It would be one of the last occasions McCartney and Lennon ever hung out, with their relationship turning frosty once again for the rest of the decade. What could have been if they hadn’t have talked themselves out of an idea to turn up and collect SNL’s cheque.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.