First mentions in the press of the “Get Back / Let It Be” sessions

January - February 1969


The story about a Beatles’ live TV show project had been developing since September 1968. On January 2, 1969, The Beatles entered Twickenham Film Studios to rehearse new songs in anticipation of a live recording planned on January 18 (in a yet-to-be-defined location).

January 18 was missed, but on January 30, 1969, The Beatles with Billy Preston performed their final live performance on the top of the Apple headquarters, at 3 Savile Row, London.

Throughout January and early February 1969, the musical press mentioned the “Get Back” sessions, the upcoming live performance and an associated TV documentary. But at the end of January, it became clear that the plans for a live performance in front of an audience were called off.

Updates on the TV documentary and the “Get Back” LP would surface again in April 1969.

AS exclusively forecast in the NME two weeks ago, the Beatles are to record their first live album — consisting of 12 or 14 original new songs by Lennon-McCartney and George Harrison — at their London concert on January 18. The show will not now be open to the public, but will last at least 90 minutes and will be taped in colour for screening on British and American TV. An Apple album is likely to be released in March or April. No new venue for the performance has yet been decided, although it is definite that no other artists will appear with the Beatles. Discussions have also taken place with a view to the group appearing with Donovan on a future edition of Andy Williams’ U.S. TV series.

The live concert will be taped for the group’s own Apple Films, and will be produced by Dennis O’Dell and directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, former director or “Ready Steady Go.”

Andy Williams is taping an hour-long special for U.S. screening on March 19 and, according to the singer’s manager Alan Bernard, the Beatles and Donovan will guest. An Apple spokesman agreed that discussions took place during Williams’ pre-Christmas visit to London, but added that no definite decision had yet been reached.

From New Musical Express, January 4, 1969
From New Musical Express, January 4, 1969

The Beatles are to record their first-ever “live” album. Just a few weeks after the release of their phenomenally successful double LP “The Beatles,” Apple Records announce that the next Beatles LP will be recorded in front of an audience.

The album will be taped at the special live TV show, before an invited audience, which has been planned for some time.

Apple press officer Derek Taylor told MM at presstime: “The group start writing and rehearsing a number of songs this weekend. There is no shortage of material — Paul has eight or nine songs finished, John has a few and George also has some material. They are writing all the time. It’s a question of selecting the right material for the show.”

The Beatles’ first live appearance for over two years was scheduled to take place on January 18. The plan was to have a run-through, a rehearsal and then a complete show — each with a different audience so as many people as possible could see the group in action again.

But, said Taylor, this date was now doubtful. And the venue has still to be fixed. Places mentioned have included the Roundhouse In London and Liverpool’s Cavern, but Derek Taylor stressed this week that the venue still had not been selected.

“The date that we originally stated for the spectacular, which was to be recorded for television, was our own date,” said Taylor. “Because of that, we are not fixed by it. If we can’t do it then, it doesn’t matter. The best thing I can say at this moment, is that we hope the shows will happen before the end of the winter.”

The Beatles will do at least 12 songs for the album, and it will probably be 14.

It will be the first live album to be released, although one of their concerts in America — at the Hollywood Bowl – was recorded but never released. The only other live recordings they have made were with singer Tony Sheridan in their early days in Hamburg.

From Melody Marker, January 4, 1969
From Melody Marker, January 4, 1969

The Beatles were this week writing new songs and rehearsing in London for their long-awaited first public appearance together since 1966 – and, as reported in last week’s NME, the January 18 concert will be recorded for an Apple album for release in the spring. The performance will be staged at Twickenham Studios.

From New Musical Express – January 11, 1969
From New Musical Express – January 11, 1969

A ONE-HOUR documentary film of the Beatles in the recording studios is currently being shot at London’s Twickenham Studios, where the Beatles are rehearsing the songs for their projected live concerts.

Dennis O’Dell, former head of Apple Films, is producing the film for Apple. He is shooting film of the Beatles writing songs, rehearsing them, and recording them, as well as casual dialogue and action in the studios.

It’s never been done before,” said press officer Derek Taylor. “There’s never been a film of the Beatles actually at work. It’ll all be there — the work, the breaks, everything. When the shooting is finished and the thing’s been edited it will be offered for sale to world TV companies.

The Beatles have completed work on eight new songs for their “TV concert,” said Taylor.

He also said that the concerts would definitely not take place on Saturday (18) as originally planned. “The only I can say now is that it will take place, perhaps abroad.

A recent rumour was that the concerts would take place at a Roman amphitheatre in North Africa. This was denied at the time, but this week Taylor said: “There may now be some truth in this. It’s an idea around at the moment, to do the shows abroad and take the fans along. It would certainly be expensive, but an idea is to rum some form of competition and take the winners.

He said thet Apple’s idea was to create an album, and a documentary film out of the live appearances.

He also said that they had shelved plans to release an EP of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine music.

From Melody Maker, January 18, 1969
From Melody Maker, January 18, 1969

As the NME closed for Press this week an Apple spokesman said there was now “no date and no place” fixed for the Beatles’ TV concert, which had been expected to take place tomorrow (Saturday).

The proposed event was first announced last autumn, and was originally to have been staged on December 16 at London’s Roundhouse. There were to have been three shows.

Then it was decided to produce a TV special on January 18 and the Beatles spent a week rehearsing new songs at a Twickenham Studio.

It is now thought that they believe themselves not ready to do the show – which was to also have been recorded as The Beatles’ first live album – and will make new plans at a later date.

From New Musical Express, January 18, 1969
From New Musical Express, January 18, 1969

The Beatles are still rehearsing new songs for their next album, but plans for a public or TV concert seem to be growing dimmer. More definite is a full-length TV documentary, which has been produced by Dennis O’Dell during the group’s rehearsals. There is sufficient material for the film to last one hour and, when completed, it will be offered to the major companies for consideration.

From New Musical Express, January 25, 1969
From New Musical Express, January 25, 1969

Rehearsals for the group’s previously-planned concert have now definitely become the basis of a TV documentary; some of the specially-written songs were heard by startled passers-by in London’s Savile Row last Thursday, when the Beatles gave a spontaneous performance on the roof of Apple and were filmed for the programme.

It is understood that almost all 12 tracks of the new album, centred around the documentary, are now complete. Final recording will take place within the next fortnight, with a view to the LP being released in April or May.

From New Musical Express – February 8, 1969

After a magical mystery tour of on-and-off press stories, January 18 was finally cancelled as the latest
and most frequently quoted date for the making of The Beatles’ much-delayed TV show.

The Beatles spent more than a fortnight from January 2 in Twickenham Film Studios preparing for the
colour videotaping of what promised to be a 90-minute TV spectacular in the form of a “live” performance
given to an invited audience. Within the first 12 days at Twickenham the group had written and rehearsed
eight new songs for the show.

Although an earlier plan to have a full-scale audience of up to 1,500 people present during the making of
the programme was scrapped, special arrangements were made to provide seating for 50 pairs of Lucky Dip
contest winners (readers of The Beatles Monthly Book) plus about the same number of Fan Club Area
Secretaries and their guests.

During the first week of January Paul was talking about the possibility of making the show on location
in Africa or ‘‘somewhere just as sunny”. Indeed it was The Beatles’ strong desire to make the show out of
doors which led to the cancellation of the January 18 production date. Nowhere suitable could be found in good time. Various other possible locations abroad have been mentioned but Beatles Monthly understands that there is NO likelihood of the performance and TV show being recorded in America despite a wild spate of
rumours to that effect.

Even after the January date had been put off, The Beatles went on working at Twickenham, readying their
eight new numbers and other TV show material. This suggests that whilst everything was shelved so far as an
immediate production is concerned, the group continues to be keen on the theory of making such a show.

From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°67, February 1969

Here are the names and addresses of the fifty winners who should each have received a double ticket for the Beatles live performance in January.

However, as we have already reported on the previous page, the show has now been put off.

I am very happy to tell you that the Beatles have decided that each winner will receive a consolation gift, if no new show date is fixed.

From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°67, February 1969
From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°67, February 1969

Music magazines would give various updates on this “live TV show” project between September 1968 and early 1969. The project would morph a few times and would lead to the “Get Back / Let It Be” sessions in January 1969, the Beatles’ last live performance on the rooftop of the Apple building, and the release of the “Let It Be” film in 1970.

Timeline of events:

  • September 14, 1968 – Paul McCartney said to Melody Maker that The Beatles “will be doing a live TV show later in the year
  • September 26, 1968 – Apple booked the Royal Albert Hall for several days in December, in preparation for a possible live performance by The Beatles, alongside other Apple artists like Mary Hopkin and Jackie Lomax.
  • October 12, 1968 – New Musical Express and Melody Maker reported that the plan to use the Royal Albert Hall was no more and that London’s Chalk Farm Roundhouse was now the likely venue for a Beatles live TV special.
  • November 6, 1968 – Apple announced that the Beatles had booked the London Roundhouse to play three successive nights (a run-through, a dress rehearsal and a final show), between December 14 and 21, 1968.
  • December 1968 – The live show was postponed to January 18, 1969, with a rehearsal and a run-through possibly on January 16 and 17. The Roundhouse was not considered anymore and the venue was still undecided. More rumours came through : that the show could be held in Liverpool, that American singer Andy Williams could join.
  • January 2, 1969 – The “Get Back / Let It Be” sessions started at Twickenham Film Studios.
  • January and early February 1969 – Throughout January and early February 1969, the musical press mentioned the “Get Back” sessions, the upcoming live performance and an associated TV documentary. But at the end of January, it became clear that the plans for a live performance in front of an audience were called off.

Last updated on December 19, 2021

Going further

The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years

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We owe a lot to Barry Miles for the creation of those pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - a day to day chronology of what happened to the four Beatles during the Beatles years!

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