Sunday Images/ Gentlemen of the World, Unite! -
4 years ago
On 30 January 1969, the Beatles enacted the final public performance of their career with an unannounced concert held from the rooftop of their Apple Corps headquarters at 3 Savile Row, within central London's office and fashion district. Joined by keyboardist Billy Preston, the band played a 42-minute set before the Metropolitan Police asked them to reduce the volume.
Although the concert was conceived just days before, the Beatles were planning a return to live performances throughout the early sessions for their album Let It Be (1970). They performed nine takes of five songs as crowds of onlookers, many of whom were on their lunch break, congregated in the streets and on the roofs of local buildings. The concert ended with the conclusion of "Get Back", with John Lennon joking, "I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we've passed the audition."
Footage from the performance was used in the 1970 documentary film Let It Be. The first performance of "I've Got a Feeling" and single takes of "One After 909" and "Dig a Pony" were also featured on the accompanying album.
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 going to 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."