It might be the coolest moment in rock. Imagine taking a lunch break on a blustery winter day in London and hearing Get Back from above. You look-up. Yep, that’s the Beatles alright. On the roof with Billy Preston. The Beatles hadn’t performed live for 2.5 years and, although this gave fans hope for more, it was their grand finale.
The Rooftop Concert is so famous that when entering the word ‘rooftop’ online, the first two suggestions from Google are ‘concert’ and ‘setlist.’ Not helpful if seeking shingles repair.
It happened around noon, January 30th, 1969, at the Apple building at 3 Savile Row and lasted 42 minutes. Half of it became the climax of the film, Let It Be, and was shot with that in mind. In fact, these indelible images of Beatles on the roof could have instead been on a ship, desert or in front of pyramids. All of which were explored. Did they just get lazy, and decide to go upstairs?
Film director Lindsay Michael Hogg captured the concert from several angles while Beatles producer George Martin, engineer Glyn Johns and tape operator Alan Parsons were recording in the Apple basement onto two eight-track machines.
The Metropolitan Police asked them to lower the volume. That must have been a hard thing to do. “Hey Beatles, could you keep it down?”
The setlist was as follows –several of these played off-the-cuff, between takes:
Get Back (5 versions)
I Want You / She’s So Heavy
Don’t Let Me Down (2 versions)
I’ve Got a Feeling
One After 909
Dig A Pony (2 versions)
God Save the Queen
A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody
John’s distinctive fur coat was a last minute borrow from Yoko, as was Ringo’s red raincoat from wife Maureen, due to the bitter wind.
The Beatles ended the show how they started, with another version of ‘Get Back,’ and John’s final line: “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we’ve passed the audition.”
The ‘Rooftop’ lives on in countless re-creations…