It was 45 years ago today: The Beatles’ iconic rooftop gig

It is 45 years to the day that The Beatles performed their very last concert together on the rooftop of the Apple headquarters, bringing London to a standstill with their unannounced, hastily organised gig.

The iconic concert came as a culmination to their documentary movie Let It Be, a film that followed the band as they rehearsed and recorded songs for their next album. While the cameras did capture hours and hours of music, it also captured the darker side of the band: the bitter squabbles and arguments that eventually led to the bands breakup.

There was originally talk of performing on an ocean liner, an old flour mill or a Roman amphitheater in North Africa, however due to the band wanting to put minimal effort in it was decided on the spur of the moment that they would play an unannounced concert on the rooftop of the Apple headquarters.

The roadies quickly and assembled the bands gear on the roof of the building, the cameras were hastily set up, and around lunchtime on the 30th January 1969 The Beatles (joined by keyboardist Billy Preston) stepped out onto the freezing rooftop and began performing.

The results brought London to a standstill, and fans, commuters, and general passers-by clogged the streets around the building. Office workers threw open their windows to enjoy the music, with some even venturing up onto their own roofs to sit on the chimney stacks and enjoy the 42-minute performance.

However police were soon to move in, futilely trying to break up the crowds before marching into the Apple building and forcing their way onto the rooftop as the Beatles defiantly continued to play. The band jumped into a final slapdash rendition of Get Back as the police were held back by roadies and Apple employees, with Paul changing several lyrics, ad-libbing: “You’ve been out too long Loretta! You’ve been playing on the roofs again, and that’s no good! Cos you know your mummy doesn’t like that and she’s gonna have you arrested!”

And as the last chord rang out that was the last time The Beatles performed together as a band, with John making one last playful quip to the crowd: “Thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we’ve passed the audition!”

The full setlist of the rooftop gig was:

Get Back
Get Back
I Want You (She’s So Heavy) (Jam)
Get Back
Don’t Let Me Down
I’ve Got a Feeling
One After 909 (Jam)
One After 909
Dig a Pony (Jam)
Dig a Pony
God Save the Queen (Jam)
I’ve Got a Feeling
Get Back
Don’t Let Me Down
Get Back

Several songs were omitted from the rooftop concert presented on the Let It Be movie which you can see below.

This year also marks The Beatles 50th anniversary of their arrival in America, with McCartney and Starr having teamed up to make a rare performances together at The GRAMMY’s and a special tribute concert the following night.

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