A series of 10 one-hour documentaries on the history of the band is to be made by Apple Corps with the backing of Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Yoko Ono.
The series, to be shown on television this year, is provisionally entitled The Long and Winding Road, a description that could also be applied to the project which has been at the planning stage since the band split up in 1970.
In the aftermath, relations between the Fab Four - who became three when John Lennon was shot dead by a deranged gunman in 1980 - were rocky.
McCartney, valued at an estimated pounds 400m, emerged much richer than Harrison or Starr, who in latter years busied himself reading voice-overs for Thomas the Tank Engine children's stories.
There were also business disputes and bad feeling, with Harrison, who later joined the Travelling Wilburys, convinced that Lennon and McCartney had failed to take his talents seriously.
'The usual thing was that we'd do 14 of their tunes and then they'd condescend to listen to one of mine,' he once observed.
But times change, and the three have agreed to try recording together again for the first time for the documentary. This in turn has been interpreted by thousands of enthusiastic fans as a signal that they will re-form.
It is a notion that has always been dismissed by the musicians, despite being wooed by Bill Clinton for a White House party last year. George Harrison once explained it by saying: 'The Beatles will never reform as long as John Lennon is dead.'
Certainly, the odds against Lennon's reincarnation meant that the band, unlike other ageing pop groups, never lost its mystique.
Now the rumour that the Fab Three will get together again in a studio, if only to record incidental music to accompany the documentary or possibly nothing at all, has provoked extensive comment on whether the band is wise to re-form and whether the hypothetical prospect is even possible without Lennon.
A music industry source complained yesterday that the speculation was getting out of control. It was not unlikely, he added, that the three would get on so badly in the studio that any new recording would prove impossible.
'My understanding is that it's three musicians interested in seeing whether they can do something together again as the culmination to the video project. People have got completely the wrong end of the stick,' he said.
'No one knows how those sessions are going to work and there won't necessarily be an album, only incidental music. It's nothing to get excited about. I don't think they even know what they're going to do,' he added.Reuse content