Nobody knew it at the time, but The Beatles‘ iconic rooftop concert on January 30th, 1969 was to be their last. The funny thing is that it very nearly didn’t happen at all. For a long time, the Beatles members couldn’t agree on a suitable venue to film their promotional television concert for their Get Back sessions. Thankfully, they came to a last-minute compromise.
As Ringo Starr later recalled: “There was a plan to play live somewhere. We were wondering where we could go – ‘Oh, the Palladium or the Sahara.’ But we would have had to take all the stuff, so we decided, ‘Let’s get up on the roof.'” The resulting performance would go down in history and one of the most legendary gigs of all time.
While it’s easy to find footage filmed at roof-level, it’s nearly impossible to find anything that gives you an impression of what it must have been like to be there, to be one of those people who just happened to be passing by Apple Corps on January 30th, 1969. Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that this audio footage, taken from one of the cameras located by the entrance to Apple Corps, does exactly that.
The concert was recorded using ten cameras in total. Five were placed on the Apple rooftop, one was positioned on the roof of a building across the street, and three more were placed at street level outside the building in order to capture the public’s reaction, with an additional camera hidden in the lobby of number three Savile Row.
This audio capture makes it clear just how exciting The Beatles’ surprise rooftop appearance must have been. You can hear one news reporter attempting to find somebody, anybody, who might be able to tell them what the hell is going on, because clearly nobody has the foggiest idea. “Is that The Beatles up there or somebody else?” one passerby ponders, before cackling: “well it doesn’t sound like ’em.”
It’s also clear just how keen the police was to disperse the crowd swirling around the base of Apple and shut down the concert. “We set up a camera in the Apple reception area behind a window so nobody could see it, and we filmed people coming in,” George Harrison remembered. “The police and everybody came in saying, ‘You can’t do that! You’ve got to stop.’” Thankfully, The Beatles managed to run through a 40-minute set before the police shut things down. You can check out the street-level audio capture below.