It was 43 years ago today (May 19th, 1979) that a select group of party-goers witnessed the closest thing to a live Beatles reunion when Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr reunited to jam at Eric Clapton‘s wedding reception at his English estate. The impromptu performance marked the first time the three former-Beatles had played in public together since the group’s final performance on the Apple Rooftop on January 30th, 1969.
Clapton had married Harrison’s ex-wife Pattie Boyd, and set up an outdoor stage for a mammoth jam session which featured the three ex-Beatles, a reformed Cream, the Rolling Stones‘ Mick Jagger and Bill Wyman, Elton John, David Bowie, and many more. John Lennon was living in the U.S. at the time and was not present.
Although the three former “Fabs” also took part in a makeshift sing-a-long jam at Starr’s wedding in 1981, the Clapton wedding reception marks the only time that the former Beatles made music onstage in a somewhat professional manner. Among the many songs reported to have been performed that day were the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Get Back.”
Although no photos of the three ex-Beatles on stage have surfaced — Ringo Starr’s son — Who drummer Zak Starkey — blew more than a few minds when he recently posted on his Instagram page a shot of him at 14 onstage playing a Telecaster, Traffic drummer Jim Capaldi, and McCartney playing a flipped over righty Fender precision bass.
Wings co-founder Denny Laine also participated at the jam session at Clapton’s wedding reception and says that it didn’t feel as historic an event as it has been made out to be: “I never think like that, ‘Hey, I’m jamming with (laughs) some of the Beatles.’ I never think like that. Y’know, these were all people I knew. Like Eric, I’d known when he was in the Yardbirds.”
Both Clapton and Boyd published their memoirs in 2008 and spoke about their decade long marriage. Boyd says that upon looking at her relationship with Clapton decades after their split, she ultimately regrets leaving Harrison for him: “I don’t want to totally blame Eric, but I think his behavior was wrong — was morally wrong to entice me to leave George, because I was married to George and I really shouldn’t have done that. But also, I was wrong as well to allow myself to be flattered (by Eric) to that extent. So, y’know we both were wrong morally on that moral issue.”
Eric Clapton and Pattie Boyd divorced in 1988. She stayed in close contact with Harrison until his death in 2001 — but has no ongoing relationship with Clapton.