The rooftop concert • Thursday, January 30, 1969

ConcertBy The Beatles

About

On this day, The Beatles, with Billy Preston, performed their final live performance on the top of the Apple headquarters, at 3 Savile Row, London. It was lunchtime and the performance lasted 42 minutes.

A couple of days later we were all having lunch on the third floor. Ringo and I were in conversation about the building and its attributes and he asked me if I had ever been up on the roof, saying it had a wonderful view of the West End of London. So he took me and Michael Lindsay-Hogg up there, showing us a large area of flat roof with wonderful views of the city stretching away to the southwest. I suggested that if they wanted to play to a large crowd, why not play on the roof to the whole of the West End. We went back downstairs and put it to the others, and after some discussion, it was agreed. As the Savile Row police station was only a couple of hundred yards away we knew the concert would probably not last long, but the police stopping it would all be part of the fun.

Glyn Johns – From “Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles , Eric Clapton, the Faces…”, 2014

It was good fun, actually. We had to set the mikes up and get a show together. I remember seeing Vicki Wickham of Ready, Steady, Go! (there’s a name to conjure with) on the opposite roof, for some reason, with the street between us. She and a couple of friends sat there, and then the secretaries from the lawyers’ offices next door came out on their roof.We decided to go through all the stuff we’d been rehearsing and record it. If we got a good take on it then that would be the recording; if not, we’d use one of the earlier takes that we’d done downstairs in the basement. It was really good fun because it was outdoors, which was unusual for us. We hadn’t played outdoors for a long time.It was a very strange location because there was no audience except for Vicki Wickham and a few others. So we were playing virtually to nothing – to the sky, which was quite nice. They filmed downstairs in the street – and there were a lot of city gents looking up: ‘What’s that noise?’

Paul McCartney

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.”

Ringo Starr – Quoted in Classic Rock, May 2020

In your recollection, playing on the roof was your idea, right?

I figured it was my job to say we need a place we’re going to, we need a place to end, we need a conclusion. And that’s when I said, “Why don’t we do it on the roof?” Because I thought that was part of my job, to offer them choices. Because it wasn’t that they lacked ideas or imagination. God, no. But you had to help focus them because they had a million other things to do, including making an album.

Michael Lindsay-Hogg – From Rolling Stone, November 2, 2021

We went on the roof in order to resolve the live concert idea, because it was much simpler than going anywhere else; also nobody had ever done that, so it would be interesting to see what happened when we started playing up there. It was a nice little social study. We set up a camera in the Apple reception area, behind a window so nobody could see it, and we filmed people coming in. The police and everybody came in saying, ‘You can’t do that! You’ve got to stop.’

George Harrison – Anthology

That was one of the greatest and most exciting days of my life. To see The Beatles playing together and getting an instant feedback from the people around them, five cameras on the roof, cameras across the road, in the road, it was just unbelievable.

Alan Parsons – The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

In the end it started to filter up from Mal that the police were complaining. We said, ‘We’re not stopping.’ He said, The police are going to arrest you.’ ‘Good end to the film. Let them do it. Great! That’s an end: “Beatles Busted on Rooftop Gig”.’

We kept going to the bitter end and, as I say, it was quite enjoyable. I had my little Hofner bass – very light, very enjoyable to play. In the end the policeman, Number 503 of the Greater Westminster Council, made his way round the back: ‘You have to stop!’ We said, ‘Make him pull us off. This is a demo, man!’

I think they pulled the plug, and that was the end of the film.

Paul McCartney – Anthology

I’m four to six feet away from the band, so I’m virtually looking in their faces. When they started playing, at some point – and this is something I’ll never forget – there was this moment where Paul looked over at John or John looked at Paul and there was this look of recognition. It’s like they were saying: “You know what? No matter what’s going down, this is us. This is who we are. This is what we’ve always been. Stuff’s going down right now, but we are what we are, and that’s a good rock’n’roll band.”

Ken Mansfield – Quoted in Classic Rock, May 2020

We set up a camera in the Apple reception area, behind a window so nobody could see it, and we filmed people coming in. The police and everybody came in saying: “You can’t do that! You’ve got to stop.”

George Harrison – Quoted in Classic Rock, May 2020

I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we’ve passed the audition.

John Lennon

Alistair Taylor “They had this great idea of filming them actually playing live on the flat roof at Savile Row, which is all very well, but it stopped the traffic, and it sent the police hurling round. I’m not sure if it was a defied gesture to say, ‘Goodbye, public,’ or whether it was an act to really upset the residents of Savile Row. We thought it was a great idea and they decided to do it at lunchtime. Plans were being laid and Big Mal Evans was humping all this gear up onto the roof. All the amps, drums and all the speakers, all had to go up there. We all knew that it was going to stop the traffic. We knew that the police would be there, saying, ‘You can’t do this! This isn’t on,’ because the Savile Row police station is only about three-hundred yards away down at the bottom of Savile Row and we were virtually at the top end. The main thing that amused me was that they were doing this in the middle of the highly respected tailoring industry and we knew that the other residents would complain. The Beatles said to me, ‘What we’ll do is set up a camera in the reception, in a secret booth, matching in with all the paint work and everything. A hidden camera, and we’ll film the police coming in.’ But, I wasn’t happy about this, because, over the years, the police had been very co-operative with the boys, assisting them in and out of hotels and airports. So, I said, ‘This is not fair, filming them in a secret booth. If you want to film them, film them without a hidden camera. So, if you want to do this, I don’t want to know about it.’ But, in fact, they went ahead and set up this booth, painted it out to match the surroundings and it didn’t look like a booth in the corner. I said, ‘Right, I’m going. I’m not going to be in the building when this happens.’”

Badman, Keith. The Beatles: Off the Record . Music Sales. Kindle Edition.

Badman, Keith. The Beatles: Off the Record . Music Sales. Kindle Edition.

We were used to odd events, and so the sight of John, Paul, George and Ringo plus the TV people climbing onto the roof didn’t faze me. But, when they started playing right above me, and my office ceiling began to vibrate, I thought it was time to move. I rushed out of the front door into the street to find the other office girls hanging out of windows screaming and hundreds of passers-by gazing up to the roof.

Jean Nisbet, Apple employee – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman

I ended up watching the concert, standing amongst the crowd on the corner of Savile Row, just like one of the gang. You could hear the show for miles. The volume of The Beatles’ performance on the roof was quite incredible!

Alistair Taylor – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman

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From Facebook – 30 January 1969 Photo by Ethan A. Russell © Apple Corps Ltd. (https://www.thebeatles.com/)
From Facebook – 30 January 1969 Photo by Ethan A. Russell © Apple Corps Ltd. (https://www.thebeatles.com/)

I had to climb up a wall and almost fell to my death. I like that picture as there was nobody bigger in the world, yet they really were quite small in the context of the city of London. The photo shows they were mere mortals after all.

Photographer Ethan Russell – From The Guardian, February 10, 2019
From Facebook – 30 January 1969 Photo by Ethan A. Russell © Apple Corps Ltd. (https://www.thebeatles.com/)
From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°69, April 1969

Last updated on December 20, 2021

The rooftop of the Apple building, 3 Savile Row

This was the 1st and only concert played at The rooftop of the Apple building, 3 Savile Row.

Setlist for the concert










9.

Danny Boy




12.

God Save The Queen



14.

A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody




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