It was 49 years ago today (January 30th, 1969) that the Beatles performed for the last time in public, on the roof of their Apple headquarters building in London. For the better part of that January, the group had been filming their rehearsals for a planned comeback concert, before band politics forced them to abort the plan and concentrate on recording a new album, tentatively titled Get Back.
The film crew continued filming the recording sessions for what eventually became the Let It Be album and movie, and on January 30th, the Beatles finally gave in to director Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s request for a live concert finale for the film. Rather than the various exotic locations that had been tossed around for the group’s first public appearance in nearly two-and-a-half years, such as a cruise ship, a mental asylum, or a Roman amphitheater, the group had their equipment set up on top of their business offices at 3 Saville Row for a brief lunchtime set — similar to the ones they used to do years earlier in Liverpool’s Cavern Club.
The Beatles and keyboardist Billy Preston, who were decked out in winter coats, played for about 42 minutes for a handful of fans, their wives, office workers and their personal staff. They performed a total of nine full songs: three versions of “Get Back,” two versions of “Don’t Let Me Down,” two versions of “I’ve Got A Feeling,” and one each of “Dig A Pony,” and “One After 909” — which was one of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s earliest compositions, dating back to the 1950’s.
Ken Mansfield, the former U.S. manager of Apple Records was among the handful of insiders present at the rooftop concert that day. He recalled prior to the lunchtime gig walking in on the four Beatles who were using one of the Apple offices as a makeshift dressing room: “It was like walking in on a band, a nervous bunch of guys getting ready to do an audition. I don’t know if it’s because they hadn’t played together, or whether they were trying to put the set together, but it was one of those kind of tense things where they were nervous. When we locked the doors upstairs, and the minute they started playing — and y’know all the. . . everything that was going down, all the stuff. It’s like it all went away and I really believe in my mind that they forgot everything and they were what they were. They were the Beatles.”
Photo Courtesy of Apple Corps.