Maybe not exackerly radical, but… allus good to see the blue lobsters make fools of themselves…
30th January 1969: The Beatles performed on the rooftop of the Apple offices at Savile Row, London; police turned up and try to put a stop to the gig.
The Beatles had wild discussions of how to end their film Let it Be with a climaxing live performance – everywhere from the QE2 to the Pyramids, was discussed, but in the end they decided on what became their infamous final gig – a surprise performance on the roof of the Apple Records building at Savile Row.
The Beatles played tracks including “Don’t Let Me Down”, “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “Dig A Pony” and “Get Back”. The police arrived to halt the proceedings, but the band continued to play. Despite their protest, no arrests were made, and the performance continued for 42 minutes.
Ringo said “It was a memorable day for me – we were doin’ what we did best – making music. But I am still disappointed the policemen didn’t drag me off me drums!”.
As the gig progressed, crowds gathered in the streets below and on the surrounding rooftops for what must have been one of the greatest lunch break treats of all time. But not everyone was pleased to see the biggest band in the world playing a free gig. Stanley Davis, the wool merchant next door, is supposed to have said: “I want this bloody noise stopped. It’s an absolute disgrace.” Other reactions of passers-by are captured in the Let It Be film and range from the elated (“Fantastic!” “Fabulous!”), to the buttoned-down (“This type of music has its place”) and the topical (“It’s nice to have something in this country for free at the moment”).
With traffic beginning to back up on the street below, the police at nearby West End Central Police Station (located at 27 Savile Row) were called. Mal Evans had set up a hidden camera in the reception area of the Apple building that later captured their arrival.
The third take of Get Back sees the police arrive on the roof. Lennon and Harrison’s amplifiers are switched off just before the first chorus, before kicking back in just in time for the solo. Paul’s soul preacher ad-lib arrives towards the end of the track: “You’ve been playing on the roofs again, and you know your Momma doesn’t like it, oh she gets angry, she’s gonna have you arrested!” A cheer from Ringo’s wife Maureen then prompts a deadpan “Thanks, Mo” from McCartney. These outtakes can be heard on the Anthology 3 version of Get Back.
The rooftop concert was a short and sweet reminder of The Beatles at their live best, although not everyone was happy with the end result. As Ringo recounts in The Beatles Anthology: “I always feel let down about the police. When they came up I was playing away and I thought, ‘Oh great! I hope they drag me off.’ We were being filmed and it would have looked really great, kicking the cymbals and everything. Well, they didn’t of course, they just came bumbling in: ‘You’ve got to turn that sound down.’ It could have been fabulous.”
An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online