The band, with keyboardist Billy Preston, surprised a central London district with an impromptu concert from the roof of the headquarters corporation Apple Corps at 3 Savile Row.
On January 30th, 1969 — the band climbed five stories to the top of their Apple Corps headquarters and played their last concert together. The album and film were ultimately released in May 1970 as Let It Be, their swan song. Here are 15 little-known facts about the Beatles’ final bow on the world stage.
Click Play first (is an automatic start) and then the square arrows to enlarge – film is powered by Videa BEATLES -1969- Let it be (35mm 16:9 stereo)
Although the concert was unannounced, the Beatles had planned on performing live during their Get Back sessions earlier in January. 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. 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'”.
Billy Preston recalls that it was John Lennon who had the idea to stage the concert on the roof of Appleheadquarters. Lindsay-Hogg says it was his idea. Others attribute it to Ringo Starr. The concept sounds inspired, but in retrospect it speaks less to creativity and more to laziness.
A few minutes before the concert was due to start, the band huddled in a small vestibule at the top of the stairs. They had cold feet. “George didn’t want to do it, and Ringo started saying he didn’t really see the point,” says Lindsay-Hogg. “Then John said, ‘Oh, fuck it — let’s do it.’”
The audio was recorded onto two eight-track recorders in the basement of Apple by engineer Alan Parsons,andfilm director Michael Lindsay-Hogg 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 stories 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 Service grew concerned about noise and traffic issues. Apple employees initially refused to let police inside, ultimately reconsidering 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 John Lennon saying, “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we’ve passed the audition”.