50 years ago today (Wednesday Jan 30), The Beatles performed for the final time in public. They were in the midst of recording an album that was to be called Get Back with a film crew making a documentary of it. Instead of staging a proper concert for the film, the band and guest keyboardist Billy Preston set up on the roof of the Apple Corps building at 3 Savile Row in London on January 30th.
Despite the windy cold, a lunchtime crowd gathered on the street below for the performance, which ended after three-quarters of an hour when police, having received complaints about noise and traffic, arrived and shut them down.
Flashing his trademark wit, John Lennon remarked, “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we’ve passed the audition.”
The set list:
“Get Back” (twice)
“Don’t Let Me Down”
“I’ve Got a Feeling”
“One After 909”
“Dig a Pony”
“I’ve Got a Feeling” (again)
“Don’t Let Me Down” (again)
“Get Back” (again)
Here is Paul McCartney:
“Looking for an end to the film, really. It was one of those… ‘Where are we going to finish this then? There’s not going to be a big concert.’ ‘Cause by then, it was really looking like, ‘Well, you know, can we do this? Finish this in two weeks’ time? So then it was suggested that we go up on the roof and do a concert there. Then we could all go home.”
Here is Paul and Ringo:
Paul: “It started to filter up from our roadie, Mal [Evans], and some creep in trying to keep out the cameras. ‘Police are complaining, you’ve got to stop.’ I said, ‘We’re not stopping . Keeping going.’ He said the police had come up to him, ‘Police are going to arrest you!’ Good end to the film. Let them do it. Great. And we thought, ‘That’s an end. Beatles busted on rooftop gig.”
Ringo: “And I wanted the cops to drag me off: ‘Get off those drums!’ We were being filmed and it would have been really great. But they didn’t, of course. They just came bumbling in. ‘You’ve got to turn that sound down’ [chuckle].”
Billy Preston played keyboards during the rooftop concert.
“It was amazing how they had that — it was almost like it was planned, you know. ‘Cause the cop came about after we had finished all the songs. I think it kind of came about because they were trying to figure out where to do a concert and they couldn’t find a place that would be big enough and so, John said, ‘Well let’s just go up on the roof and play for everybody. Great idea, it was cold, of course, but it was fun.”
Ken Mansfield, the head of Apple’s U.S. operations, was on the roof during that memorable concert
“When they started playing their actual little set, something happened. We looked at each other and it’s not like we went, ‘Wow. this is the last time The Beatles are going to play together,’ or ‘They’re going to be breaking up soon,’ or… You’re totally aware of all the stuff that was going down with Apple and between the guys. Just a mess around there. But the minute they really started playing that day, you could see them forget everything. It’s almost like they looked at each other and realized who they were and what they’d been to each other and all they’d been through. You could tell, for those moments, they were The Beatles again.”