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The official biographer of the Beatles said yesterday the major cause of the breakup of the top quartet appeared to be John Lennon's marriage to Japanese artist Yoko Ono.

"If there was one single element in the split, I'd say it was the arrival of Yoko," said Hunter Davies, the author of The Beatles, An Official Biography.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Davies said that after Lennon and Yoko got together, "The rest of the Beatles didn't matter anymore." Lennon and Yoko were married in Gibralter in March last year.

Davies said that since the Beatles hadn't performed together in person since 1966, McCartney's statement "was pretty pointless."

McCartney himself, in an interview with Raymond Palmer in the News of the World, said : "No matter how much we split, we're still very linked. We're the only four people who've seen the whole Beatlemania bit from the inside out, so we're tied forever, whatever happens."

McCartney did not clarify in detail his reasons for breaking away from the group.

But Davies maintained that under Yoko's influence, Lennon began taking charge at Apple, the Beatles' business headquarters, and this "was a blow to Paul's pride ... Paul felt by the wayside and ... they were no longer bosom buddies ... George Harrison and Ringo Starr (the other two Beatles) are not exactly dotty over (endeared to) Yoko either."

With Yoko, Lennon had mounted campaigns for world peace, held zany art exhibitions, made radical movies, formed a wild rock and roll band and issued non-Beatle records. None of these activities included the other Beatles.

So far Lennon, Harrison and Ringo had kept silent about McCartney's breakaway. McCartney himself didn't make his reasons much clearer than his original vague announcement.

Asked by Palmer what sort of things he might try on his own, McCartney replied : "Anything and everything. There's no point in restricting yourself ...

"The only danger is that once you get into this kind of machine where you make a lot of money - where you can get a nice house, a car and stuff - the danger is in believing that is what life is all about.

Despite the breakup, another Beatles record is to be issued next month, and Davies and Apple had another 12 hours of recorded material to be released.