The Beatles' rooftop concert

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The Beatles' rooftop concert
The Beatles rooftop concert.jpg
Aerial view
Date30 January 1969
VenueApple Corps
3 Savile Row, London, UK
Coordinates51°30′37.48″N 0°8′23.13″W / 51.5104111°N 0.1397583°W / 51.5104111; -0.1397583
ParticipantsJohn Lennon
Paul McCartney
George Harrison
Ringo Starr
Billy Preston
Length42 minutes[1]
ProducerGeorge Martin
EngineersGlyn Johns
Alan Parsons

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.


Although the concert was unannounced, the Beatles had planned on performing live during their Get Back sessions earlier in January.[2] 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.[3] 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.[3] In Preston's recollection, the idea to perform on the Apple rooftop was John Lennon's.[4] 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."[5]

In his autobiography Sound Man, recording engineer Glyn Johns claims the idea for the concert was his.[6]

The audio was recorded onto two eight-track recorders in the basement studio at Apple[7] by engineer Alan Parsons.[8] Film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg[9] brought in a camera crew to capture several angles of the performance, including reactions from people on the street.[8]

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.[10] Apple employees initially refused to let police inside, but reconsidered when threatened with arrest.[10]

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.[11] 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!"[12] 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."[13]

Set list[edit]

The rooftop concert consisted of nine takes of five Beatles songs:

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.[14] In 1996, a "rooftop" version of "Get Back", which was the last song of the Beatles' final live performance, was included in Anthology 3.[15] An edit of the two takes of "Don't Let Me Down" was included on Let It Be... Naked.[16][better source needed] There was also a brief jam of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" while the cameramen changed film.


3 Savile Row, London, the location of the concert

The Beatles' rooftop concert marked the end of an era for many fans. The group did record one more album, Abbey Road, but by September 1969 the Beatles had unofficially disbanded.[17] Several of the rooftop performances, particularly that of "Dig a Pony", showed the Beatles once again in top form, if only temporarily.[18] Fans believed the rooftop concert might have been a try-out for a return to live performances and touring.[19]

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.[20] 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.[21]

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."[22]

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.[23]

U2 also referenced the concert in their video for "Where the Streets Have No Name", which featured a similar rooftop concert in Los Angeles.

McCartney played a surprise mini-concert in midtown Manhattan on 15 July 2009 from the top of the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater, 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, which duplicated the original Beatles gig.



  1. ^ "20 Things You Need To Know About The Beatles' Rooftop Concert". 30 January 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  2. ^ Lewisohn 1992, pp. 306–307.
  3. ^ a b Lewisohn 1992, p. 307.
  4. ^ Babiuk 2002, p. 240.
  5. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 321.
  6. ^ Johns, Glyn (2015). Sound Man. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-14-751657-2.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ a b Perone 2005, p. 5.
  9. ^ Everett 1999, p. 216.
  10. ^ a b "Beatles rooftop birthday:It's 40 years since the fab four's last ever concert". BBC. 30 January 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  11. ^ Perone 2005, pp. 5–6.
  12. ^ Lifton, Dave. "44 YEARS AGO: THE BEATLES PERFORM LIVE FOR THE LAST TIME, ON A LONDON ROOFTOP". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  13. ^ Everett 1999, p. 222.
  14. ^ Everett 1999, p. 219.
  15. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 334.
  16. ^ Beatles Bible
  17. ^ "Paul McCartney: 'I Want to Live in Peace'". Life Magazine. 7 November 1969.
  18. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 331.
  19. ^ Perone 2005, p. 6.
  20. ^ "Ladies and Gentlemen : The Rutles!". CD Review. 12 (1–9): 80.
  21. ^ Banerjee, Subhajit (30 January 2009). "The Beatles rooftop concert: It was 40 years ago today". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  22. ^ Suebsaeng, Asawin (30 January 2012). "8 Videos to Commemorate the Beatles' Final Concert, 43 Years Later". Mother Jones. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  23. ^ Ebert, Roger (2009). Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2010. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-7407-9218-2.


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