On January 30, 1969, The Beatles made their last public appearance. It happened on the rooftop of the famous Apple Corp building where the offices of Apple's records and film companies were located as well as the offices of The Beatles themselves.
(Photo: Ethan A. Russell)
The story of this historic show begins on January 2, 1969, when filming began for the documentary "Let It Be", which accompanied the recording of the album of the same name. The Beatles began recording the album and filming it at Twickham Studios in London, with the aim of commemorating their work on what was supposed to be an album back to the rock and roll roots.
During the recordings and filming, frictions and disagreements arose between the band members, culminating in a difficult confrontation between Paul McCartney and George Harrison who eventually ended up by Harrison leaving the band on January 10th. The band members eventually managed to convince Harrison to return and the recordings continued from January 22 in the basement of Apple building, where the band's recording studio was located.
As part of the idea of "Back to the Roots" the initial thought was to end the film and the recordings with a live performance, which would be the band's first since their performance in San Francisco on August 29, 1966, when the band stopped performing. However, the band members were unable to reach an agreement on the nature and location of the show. Paul McCartney thought of performing at a small club like The Cavern from the band's early days, John Lennon offered a performance outside the United Kingdom even the Sahara Desert was considered, Ringo Starr was due to leave immediately after filming and George Harrison generally opposed to the idea of a show.
(Photo: Ethan A. Russell)
Eventually, the band members accepted John Lennon's compromise offer to hold an informal performance on the rooftop of the Apple offices building, located on Savile Row Street near London's Piccadilly Square. Lennon got the idea on Jan. 26 when he climbed to the rooftop of the building to inhale air during the break from the recordings.
With the joint decision to hold the show on the rooftop, technician and producer Alan Parsons began working on the technical side of connecting all the instruments and amps from the rooftop to the basement of the building where the recording studio was located, to record the show.
The iconic show was held on January 30, 1969. The Fantastic Four were also joined by keyboardist Billy Preston, who was brought to the studio by Harrison during the recordings, thinking that his presence would cool the hot winds a bit.
The band managed to play 42 minutes in the bitter cold of January before the police arrived on the scene and stopped the show. The band managed to play 5 songs before the cops turned off their amps, and these are the songs: "Get Back", "Don't Let Me Down", "I've Got a Feeling", "One After 909" and "Dig a Pony". Later Lennon will tell that the band longed to be arrested by the police in front of the cameras, but as we know it ultimately did not happen.
Here are 5 more facts about the mythological performance:
1. Lennon had to use a page that included the lyrics to remember them. The photographers were asked not to catch the person holding the lyrics pages in the frame.
2. Ringo and Lennon wore their spouses' coats during the show.
3. To prevent the hearing of the wind blowing during the recording, Alan Parsons set out to purchase women's tights with which he wrapped the microphones.
4. The show is now available on streaming services as part of the celebrations of the "Get Back" series (links below). The series itself, which includes this famous show, is coming this week in D.V.D format and will be widely distributed. At the same time, the film of the show will be screened in IMAX format in cinemas around the world.
5. Anyone who watches the show will find out that John Lennon plays the solo in the song "Get Back". This is one of the few times that George Harrison plays rhythm guitar while John Lennon plays the solo. This is probably due to Harrison's departure during rehearsals. In his absence, Lennon had to step in and by the time Harrison "got back" a few days later, the song was already in its final stages.
6. Although many think it was the first ever appearance on a rooftop, "Jefferson Airplane" did it about two months earlier, on December 7, 1968, on the rooftop of a building in New York.