Jan 29, 2009

40th Anniversary of the Beatles Rooftop Performance

In January of 1969 the Beatles began work on their Get Back project. The idea was to film the recording of the new album and have it climax with a live performance. It would mark the 1st time the band played live since August 1966. As the filming for the movie goes on it becomes apparent things are not good amongst the band. The tension is very visible. Yoko Ono's presence, Johns lack of interest in the band, Paul trying to dominate the band, George wanting his opinions to be heard and Ringo just seems bored, (especially because at the time he was filming the movie "Magic Christian" with Peter Sellers). The topic of the live event (mostly Paul's idea) is another issue no one agrees on. For some reason Yoko puts her input in when she shouldn't even be seen let alone heard. Royal Albert Hall is mentioned, A Roman Amphitheater, a cruise ship out in the ocean, Paul preferred a small club like the early days. George & Ringo don't seem to want to play live at all.

As time winds down it seems nothing will get settled, so they choose to do a lunch time concert (like their Cavern days in Liverpool) on January 30th. They will perform atop the Apple building, located on Saville Row in London's swanky business district. They will have a special guest, their old friend Billy Preston will play keyboards. Not only for his musicianship, but the boys all seem to play nice together in Preston's presence. A makeshift stage, their equipment and movie cameras were set up on the cold overcast London day of January 30th 1969. The Beatles performed live in front of their wives, close friends, Apple staff members & passers by on the street in what would be their last live
performance.

John is wearing a heavy brown fur wrap coat which belonged to Yoko. Ringo was so cold he borrows his wife Maureen's bright red mac. Paul is wearing just a black suit jacket, & George dons some funky bright green slacks & a black heavy coat.

As all things surrounding the Beatles are studied & always interesting, but the most important thing is always the music. The 42 minute Roof top concert is no exception & does not disappoint.

Beatles Apple Rooftop Set list: January 30th 1969
GET BACK: The Beatles warm up with 2 rehearsals of Get Back. John & George seem to be a bit sloppy on guitars as Paul belts out a strong vocal He is just totally ecstatic to be playing live again. The two versions were mixed into one & used for the album & movie.

DON'T LET ME DOWN: Great harmonies from John & Paul, together in perfect sync. A classic Lennon moment is during the second verse when he forgets the lyrics. He mutters some classic John gibberish and the two look at each other & pick it right back up again. This version appears in the movie.

I'VE GOT A FEELING: The best version ever done of this song after numerous rehearsals. John's melodic "everybody had a good year" is done in perfect contrast to Paul's great screaming powerful vocal. Ringo's drumming right on & Georges makes the song with his distorted guitar parts. This version appears on the album & the movie.

ONE AFTER 909: Considered by many to be the best song of the rooftop sessions. George leads with some great guitar riffs as Preston follows flowing along on the keys timed with Ringo's catchy beat. John & Paul do perfect vocals and seem to be having a ball, like the old days. This version appears on the album & movie.

DIG A PONY: As George counts in, Ringo shouts "Hold it" as he blows his nose & lights up a cigarette. John sings a great vocal reading the words off a clipboard that a red headed tech is holding up. At the end of the song, John says "thank you brothers".., and he mentions his fingers are getting to cold to play the chords. This version appears on the album & movie.

Another version of I'VE GOT A FEELING & DON'T LET ME DOWN are done but not performed as well as the firsts.

GET BACK: The band quickly bursts into the final song Get Back. Ringo & Paul play on as John & Georges amp goes out. George turns it up as the Police arrive on the roof with Roadie Mal Evans, requesting the band stops playing. There were complaints in the quiet business district about loud noise coming from the roof. Paul improvises the lyrics singing " You've been playing on the roofs again, you know your mama doesn't like that, she's gonna have you arrested."

The band finishes the song & the set, as the film crew captures the Police trying to break up the party from their arrival downstairs at the building to the trek up to the rooftop. The film captures the excitement of the people on the streets looking up amazed that the Beatles are playing on the roof. Traffic is stopped as crowds gather. Imagine the shock to all the young Secretaries seeing the Beatles playing in mid afternoon. Others gaze from their roof tops or office windows, and then there's every ones favorite old gentleman smoking a pipe who climbs a ladder on one roof to get a better look.
As they walk off,Maureen Starr- Ringo's wife gives the big Hooray and claps loudly. Paul acknowledges her by saying "Thanks Mo". John improvises in classic Lennon "I'd like to thank you on behalf of the group & ourselves & I hope we passed the audition" as the Beatles sign off.

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