The Beatles' rooftop concert
The Beatles' rooftop concert was the final public performance of the English rock band the Beatles. On 30 January 1969, the band, with keyboardist Billy Preston, surprised a central London office and fashion district with an impromptu concert from the roof of the headquarters of the band's multimedia corporation Apple Corps at 3 Savile Row. In a 42-minute set, the Beatles played nine takes of five songs before the Metropolitan Police asked them to reduce the volume. Footage from the performance was used in the 1970 documentary film Let It Be.
|Date||30 January 1969|
3 Savile Row, London, UK
Although the concert was unannounced, the Beatles had planned on performing live during their Get Back sessions earlier in January. According to author Mark Lewisohn, it is uncertain who had the idea for a rooftop concert, but the suggestion was conceived just days before the actual event. George Harrison brought in keyboardist Billy Preston as an additional musician, in the hope that a talented outside observer would encourage the band to be tight and focused. In Preston's recollection, the idea to perform on the Apple Corps rooftop was John Lennon's. Ringo Starr remembered:
There was a plan to play live somewhere. We were wondering where we could go – "Oh, the Palladium or the Sahara". But we would have had to take all the stuff, so we decided, "Let's get up on the roof."
In his autobiography Sound Man, recording engineer Glyn Johns claims the idea for the concert was his. Former Apple Records Ken Mansfield believed it most likely that the idea came from director Michael Lindsay-Hogg.
The audio was recorded onto two eight-track recorders in the basement studio at Apple by engineer Alan Parsons. Film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, working on what would become Let It Be, brought in a camera crew to capture several angles of the performance, including reactions from people on the street.
When the Beatles first started playing, there was some confusion from spectators watching five storeys below, many of whom were on their lunch break. As the news of the event spread, crowds of onlookers began to congregate in the streets and on the roofs of local buildings. While most responded positively to the concert, the Metropolitan Police grew concerned about noise and traffic issues. Apple employees initially refused to let police inside, but reconsidered when threatened with arrest.
As police ascended to the roof, the Beatles realised that the concert would eventually be shut down, but continued to play for several more minutes. Paul McCartney improvised the lyrics of his song "Get Back" to reflect the situation: "You've been playing on the roofs again, and you know your Momma doesn't like it, she's gonna have you arrested!" The concert came to an end with the conclusion of "Get Back", with Lennon saying, "I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we've passed the audition."
The rooftop concert consisted of nine takes of five Beatles songs: three takes of "Get Back"; two takes each of "Don't Let Me Down" and "I've Got a Feeling"; and one take each of "One After 909" and "Dig a Pony". The set was performed in the following order:
- "Get Back" (take one)
- "Get Back" (take two)
- "Don't Let Me Down" (take one)
- "I've Got a Feeling" (take one)
- "One After 909"
- "Dig a Pony"
- "I've Got a Feeling" (take two)
- "Don't Let Me Down" (take two)
- "Get Back" (take three)
The first performance of "I've Got a Feeling" and the recordings of "One After 909" and "Dig a Pony" were later used for the album Let It Be. In 1996, a "rooftop" version of "Get Back", which was the last song of the Beatles' final live performance, was included in Anthology 3. An edit of the two takes of "Don't Let Me Down" was included on Let It Be... Naked. There was also a brief jam of "God Save the Queen" while sound engineer Parsons changed tapes.
The Beatles' rooftop concert marked the end of an era for many fans. The group did record one more album, Abbey Road — work on which started the following month — but by September 1969 the Beatles had unofficially disbanded. Several of the rooftop performances, particularly that of "Dig a Pony", were regarded as showing the Beatles once again in top form. Fans believed the rooftop concert might have been a try-out for a return to live performances and touring.
The Rutles' "Get Up and Go" sequence in the film All You Need Is Cash mimics the footage of the rooftop concert, and uses similar camera angles. In January 2009, tribute band the Bootleg Beatles attempted to stage a 40th anniversary concert in the same location, but were refused permission by Westminster City Council due to licensing problems.
In The Simpsons fifth season episode "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", the Be Sharps (Homer, Apu, Barney and Principal Skinner) perform a rendition of one of their previous hits on a rooftop. George Harrison, who guest-starred in the episode, is shown saying dismissively, "It's been done!" As the song ends and the credits begin, Homer repeats John Lennon's phrase about passing the audition and everyone laughs, including Barney until he says, "I don't get it."
In the 2007 film Across The Universe, a musical made up entirely of Beatles' music, Sadie's band performs a rooftop concert in New York City which mimics the original. It is interrupted and closed down by the New York Police Department.
McCartney played a surprise mini-concert in midtown Manhattan from the top of the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater on 15 July 2009, where he was recording a performance for Late Show with David Letterman. News of the event spread via Twitter and word of mouth, and nearby street corners were closed off to accommodate fans for the set.
- "20 Things You Need To Know About The Beatles' Rooftop Concert". mojo4music.com. 30 January 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- Lewisohn 1992, pp. 306–307.
- Lewisohn 1992, p. 307.
- Babiuk 2002, p. 240.
- The Beatles 2000, p. 321.
- Johns, Glyn (2015). Sound Man. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-14-751657-2.
- Boilen, Bob (30 January 2019). "Remembering The Beatles' Rooftop Gig, 50 Years Later, With Someone Who Was There". All Songs Considered. National Public Radio. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
- Ryan, Kevin; Kehew, Brian (2006). Recording the Beatles: The studio equipment and techniques used to create their classic albums. Curvebender. p. 518. ISBN 978-0-9785200-0-7.
- Perone 2005, p. 5.
- Everett 1999, p. 216.
- "Beatles rooftop birthday: It's 40 years since the fab four's last ever concert". BBC. 30 January 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
- Perone 2005, pp. 5–6.
- Lifton, Dave (30 January 2016). "50 Years Ago: Beatles Perform Live for Last Time on Rooftop". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
- Everett 1999, p. 222.
- Lewisohn, Mark. The Complete Beatles Chronicle. London: Hamlyn Books, 2000, paperback edition pp. 312–3. ISBN 0 600 60033 5.
- Everett 1999, p. 219.
- MacDonald 2005, p. 334.
- "Don't Let Me Down". The Beatles Bible. 14 March 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
- Womack, Kenneth (2014). The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four [2 volumes]: Everything Fab Four. ABC-CLIO. p. 235. ISBN 978-0-313-39172-9. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
- Lewisohn 2000, op cit., p. 312.
- "Paul McCartney: 'I Want to Live in Peace'". Life Magazine. 7 November 1969.
- MacDonald 2005, p. 331.
- Perone 2005, p. 6.
- "Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rutles!". CD Review. 12 (1–9): 80.
- Banerjee, Subhajit (30 January 2009). "The Beatles rooftop concert: It was 40 years ago today". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
- Suebsaeng, Asawin (30 January 2012). "8 Videos to Commemorate the Beatles' Final Concert, 43 Years Later". Mother Jones. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
- Ebert, Roger (2009). Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2010. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-7407-9218-2.
- Parra, Pimm Jal de la (2003). U2 Live: A Concert Documentary. Omnibus Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-7119-9198-9.
- "Paul McCartney Stuns Manhattan With Set on Letterman's Marquee". Rolling Stone. 16 July 2009. Archived from the original on 1 January 2019.
- Babiuk, Andy (2002). Beatles Gear: All the Fab Four's Instruments, from Stage to Studio. San Francisco, CA: Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0-87930-731-8.
- The Beatles (2000). The Beatles Anthology. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0-8118-3636-4.
- Everett, Walter (1999). The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-512941-0.
- MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (3rd (2007) ed.). Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-1-55652-733-3.
- Lewisohn, Mark (1992). The Complete Beatles Chronicle:The Definitive Day-By-Day Guide To the Beatles' Entire Career (2010 ed.). Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-1-56976-534-0.
- Perone, James E (2005). Woodstock: An Encyclopedia of the Music and Art Fair – American history through music. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-33057-5.