The last time all the members of the Beatles ever performed together happened on this day back in 1969 atop the roof of Apple Corps in London. I always considered myself a fan of the Beatles and an avid listener of their music. In fact I’ve read several books that have tried to explain their massive success and worldwide popularity. For me I believe it’s an unexplainable mix of both art and science. They were incredibly savvy with some of their strategy, but perhaps more importantly they were extremely blessed in the way of talent and timing. Making for a recipe that many in the world had never had the chance to taste. Below are just a few interesting facts surrounding the Beatles and that famous final performance.
Location: The final performance was held on the roof of Apple Corps Ltd, a multimedia corporation founded in London in January 1968 by the members of the Beatles to replace their earlier company. Its chief division is Apple Records, which was launched in the same year. Their Apple headquarters in the late 1960s was at the upper floors of 94 Baker Street. In 2010, Apple Corps ranked #2 on the Fast Company magazine’s list of the world’s most innovative companies in the music industry, thanks to the release of The Beatles: Rock Band video game and the remastering of the Beatles’ catalogue.
Poor Conditions: From what I’ve heard the band almost didn’t take the stage as it was only 45 degrees and the wind was whistling. There’s also talk there were a bit nervous as it was their first live performance in over two-years when they played to packed house at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. Lenon and Harrison were constantly complaining about their hands being too cold to play the chords. In fact those on the roof reported that Apple Corps exec Ken Mansfield held a constant stream of lit cigarettes so they could warm his fingertips. To ward off the winter chill, Lennon borrowed Yoko Ono’s fur coat, while Ringo donned his wife Maureen’s red raincoat. The cold gusts also havoc on the studio microphones. In need of a quick shield to minimize wind noise, tape engineer (and future Pink Floyd cohort) Alan Parsons was dispatched to find some women’s pantyhose to place over the mic’s.
The Actual Concert: While 21 minutes of the concert made it into the final Let It Be film, the actual performance was twice as long. During the 42-minute set, the Beatles played “One After 909,” two complete versions each of “Don’t Let Me Down,” “Dig a Pony” and “I’ve Got a Feeling,” and three versions of “Get Back” — plus various incomplete takes, including a line from the Irish folk song “Danny Boy.”
What About The Cops? The West End Central Police Station is located at 27 Savile Row — mere feet from Apple headquarters. The authorities obviously must have heard the loud rock music wafting down the street. Windows rattled, floors shook, and horns blared from the resulting traffic jams. If they wanted to, the police could have walked over and shut things down before the first song was over. Instead, they let the concert continue for 42 minutes. It was only when the noise complaints began to flood in from stuffy local businesses that they felt compelled to act. Because the concert was cut short by the police, fans have spent decades theorizing what other songs — if any — the Beatles might have performed had they continued. Some eagle-eyed rock scholars have noticed equipment in the background of the Apple roof set that went unused, including an extra keyboard, a lap-steel guitar and what appears to be an acoustic-guitar microphone positioned by McCartney. Were folky songs like “Two of Us” originally in the mix? Was McCartney going to try out some of his piano-based ballads like “Let It Be” and “The Long and Winding Road”?
Lennon Needed Cue Cards: John Lennon always had a problem with lyrics. Wanting to get things reasonably correct, McCartney and the other Beatles asked assistants to kneel just out of view of the cameras and fans and hold up a lyric sheet for Lennon, who still managed a memorable flub during “Don’t Let Me Down,” singing something like, “And only reese we got the blootchy-koo.”
A Special Guitar For Harrison: The Telecaster that Harrison played throughout the rooftop concert was custom made for him by master builders Roger Rossmeisl and Philip Kubicki as a gift from Fender. The company was launching a new line of all-rosewood guitars, and presenting the prototype to a Beatle was good publicity. After many hours of labor, the guitar was flown to England in its own seat and hand-delivered to Apple headquarters.
The Sounds You Hear Fro m The Beatles: Although Abbey Road was the final album to be recorded by the four Beatles, Let It Be was the last to be issued in May 1970, weeks after the group’s split made headlines around the world. The black-trimmed cover gave it funereal quality, and fans anxiously studied to the parting message from the foursome that defined the Sixties. As “Get Back,” the last track, draws to a close, the sound of John Lennon’s voice can be heard: “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.” It was a self-effacing remark made at the end of the rooftop show, poking fun at the many auditions the band failed over the years. It was also a humble nod to the band’s unprecedented success — and, inadvertently, the perfect Beatles epitaph.
Concert Shot By Secret Son Of Orson Welles? Having worked with the Beatles on their recent promotional videos for “Hey Jude” and “Revolution,” American filmmaker Lindsay-Hogg was the logical choice to direct their rooftop gig. He arranged an army of cameras to capture the moment from all angles, sending a crew into the street, the adjacent building, and the Apple reception area — not to mention the five cameras on the roof itself. The result is some of the most iconic concert footage in history. Film prowess may be in his blood. In his 2011 autobiography, Lindsay-Hogg revealed that he believes himself to be the only son of cinema giant Orson Welles. His mother, actress Geraldine Fitzgerald, publically denied the rampant rumors, but she allegedly acknowledged the truth to family friend Gloria Vanderbilt. When Welles’ oldest daughter supported Lindsay-Hogg’s claim, he submitted to a DNA test. The results were inconclusive.
Beatles Weren’t The First To Perform On NY Rooftop: The Beatles racked up many firsts over the course of their career, but they were not the first band to hold an unauthorized concert on a metropolitan rooftop. That distinction goes to Jefferson Airplane, who climbed to the top of midtown’s Schuyler Hotel on December 7th, 1968 and surprised the city with cries of “Hello, New York!” Lacking permits, they would only make it through one song — a blistering version of “The House at Pooneil Corners” — before the NYPD threatened arrest for noise disturbance. The band went peacefully, but their friend, actor Rip Torn, was busted for harassing an officer and taken away in a cruiser
Click HERE or screen shot to see last video of The Beatles singing “Don’t Let Me Down”