John and Paul Almost Go on ‘SNL’

Picture's 1976 and you’re watching the fledgling Saturday Night Live. All of a sudden there’s a commotion, some gasps and screams. Is this really happening? John Lennon and Paul McCartney have just walked onto the set. It never did, but it could have, and nearly did. 

The two had been estranged since the end of the Beatles. Their feud had been public and nasty with Lennon writing a song, asking his former songwriting partner, “How Do You Sleep?”

Paul and his wife Linda happened to be visiting John and Yoko Ono’s apartment at the Dakota—just over a mile away from NBC Studios—and the TV was on.

At first, John wasn’t so pleased that the couple had showed up unannounced at his home. He told Playboy magazine in 1980, “That was a period when Paul just kept turning up at our door with a guitar. I would let him in, but finally I said to him, ‘Please call before you come over. It’s not 1956 and turning up at the door isn’t the same anymore. You know, just give me a ring.’ He was upset by that, but I didn’t mean it badly. I just meant that I was taking care of a baby all day and some guy turns up at the door.”

After the awkward greeting, they watched the 18th episode of Saturday Night Live. Then they would have seen the show’s creator and producer, Lorne Michaels. He had no idea that the two ex-Beatles just happened to be together, right in Manhattan, when he said this:

“Now, we’ve heard and read a lot about personality and legal conflicts that might prevent you guys from reuniting. That’s something which is none of my business. That’s a personal problem. You guys will have to handle that. But it’s also been said that no one has yet to come up with enough money to satisfy you. Well, if it’s money you want, there’s no problem here. The National Broadcasting Company has authorized me to offer you this check to be on our show. A certified check for $3,000.”

It was a joke, of course. The Beatles had been offered many millions of dollars to reunite, and had turned down all offers.

Michaels took out a piece of paper and continued: "All you have to do is sing three Beatles songs. ‘She Loves You,’ yeah, yeah, yeah—that’s $1,000 right there. You know the words. It’ll be easy. Like I said, this is made out to ‘The Beatles.’ You divide it any way you want. If you want to give Ringo less, that’s up to you. I’d rather not get involved.”

Watch Lorne Michaels make his generous offer to the Beatles:

Both Lennon and McCartney later confirmed that they actually considered it. All they would need to do is hop into a cab and in 15 minutes they would have been inside. But, Paul later explained, “It would have been work, and we were having a night off, so we elected not to go. It was a nice idea. We nearly did it.”

A month later, Michaels tried the bit again, upping his offer to $3,200. Instead, April 24, 1976, became the last time that John Lennon and Paul McCartney would be in each other’s company.

But wait… there’s more! Six months later, on Nov. 20, George Harrison was SNL‘s musical guest. This time, the “Quiet Beatle” asked Michaels to cough up the dough.