The Beatles began with a rehearsal of Get Back while the film cameras were being set up. At the end it was applauded by the spectators on the roof. In response, Paul McCartney mumbled something about cricketer Ted Dexter, and John Lennon announced: “We’ve had a request from Martin Luther.”
Another version of Get Back followed. An edit of these two versions was included in the Let It Be film. Afterwards Lennon said: “We’ve had a request for Daisy, Morris and Tommy.”
The third song was Don’t Let Me Down, as featured in the Let It Be film. Afterwards The Beatles went straight into I’ve Got A Feeling, which was used in both the film and the album. At the end of the song Lennon can be heard saying: “Oh my soul, so hard.”
One After 909 was also used in the Let It Be film and album. At the end of it Lennon broke out into a brief impromptu rendition of Conway Twitty’s 1959 hit Danny Boy.
The sixth song The Beatles played was Dig A Pony. A short rehearsal was played first, with Lennon asking for the lyrics. They then performed the song properly, with a production runner on the film, Kevin Harrington, kneeling in front of Lennon holding a clipboard bearing the lyrics. George Harrison, too, briefly knelt next to Harrington.
Dig A Pony began with a false start. In the film, Ringo Starr can be seen putting his cigarette down and crying out ‘Hold it!’ This, and the full version that followed, were both included in the album and film, although on the LP the ‘All I want is…” refrain which opened and closed the song were later cut by Phil Spector.
George Harrison joined Lennon and McCartney on vocals for the excised lines from Dig A Pony. He also contributed minor backing vocals to Don’t Let Me Down and I’ve Got A Feeling.
As Alan Parsons changed the recording tapes in Apple’s basement studio, The Beatles and Billy Preston performed an off-the-cuff version of God Save The Queen. This was never used; nor were second versions of I’ve Got A Feeling and Don’t Let Me Down.
The final full song was Get Back, although The Beatles nearly stopped performing when the police arrived on the roof. The officers demanded that Mal Evans turn off the group’s Fender Twin amplifiers. He complied, but Harrison immediately turned his back on.
Evans realised his mistake and turned Lennon’s back on too. The amplifiers took several seconds to start again, but The Beatles managed to continue long enough to see the song through to the end.
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.
As a climax it could scarcely be bettered, with McCartney brilliantly ad-libbing, “You’ve been playing on the roofs again, and that’s no good, and you know your Mummy doesn’t like that… she gets angry… she’s gonna have you arrested! Get back!”
The police presence ensured that The Beatles would play no more on the roof. The concert over, McCartney thanked Starr’s wife Maureen for her enthusiastic cheering with a simple “Thanks Mo”.
I always feel let down about the police. Someone in the neighbourhood called the police, and when they came up I was playing away and I thought, ‘Oh great! I hope they drag me off.’ I wanted the cops to drag me off – ‘Get off those drums!’ – because we were being filmed and it would have looked really great, kicking the cymbals and everything. Well, they didn’t, of course; they just came bumbling in: ‘You’ve got to turn that sound down.’ It could have been fabulous.
Then, of course, there was John Lennon’s immortal closing quote: “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we’ve passed the audition.” Both these comments were used at the end of Get Back on the Let It Be album, although the version of the song was not from the rooftop performance.
The final Get Back take was included in the Let It Be film, and appeared on Anthology 3 in 1996.
An edit of the two Don’t Let Me Down takes was included on 2003’s Let It Be… Naked, due to John Lennon getting the vocals wrong at different points in both. That album also contained an edit of the rooftop performance of I’ve Got A Feeling and another version, recorded on another date.
Also on this day...
- 2019: The Beatles announce Let It Be film reissue and new collaboration with Peter Jackson
- 2009: Stella McCartney creates Beatles t-shirt for Red Nose Day 2009
- 1970: Ringo Starr meets Elvis Presley
- 1967: Mixing: A Day In The Life
- 1967: Filming: Strawberry Fields Forever
- 1964: Live: Olympia Theatre, Paris
- 1964: US single release: Please Please Me
- 1963: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (lunchtime)
- 1962: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (lunchtime)
- 1961: Live: Lathom Hall, Liverpool
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.