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The Beatles’ rooftop concert (Apple building)

Finale and aftermath

The Beatles went from ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ straight into ‘Get Back’, the final song. The performance nearly ended during the first verse after Evans, at the police officers’ request, turned off Harrison’s, then Lennon’s, Fender Twin guitar amplifiers. McCartney and Starr carried on performing, and a furious-looking Harrison remonstrated with Evans before turning his amp back on. Evans then turned on Lennon’s too, allowing the guitarists to continue.

Making an effort to keep the peace, I switched off the power, starting with George’s amplifier, just as they were about to break into a new number. Then George got a right cob on. I put the amp back on. They played that last number and finished.

On the way up to the roof, they arrested me, with one of the policemen putting me in his book. Paul, being the public relations man that he is, apologised to the police and got me off the hook.

The beat during the ‘Get Back’ coda was nearly lost, but The Beatles managed to see the song through to the end. As a climax to the concert and film it could scarcely be bettered, with McCartney brilliantly ad-libbing: “You’ve been out too long, Loretta. You’ve been playing on the roofs again, and that’s no good, ’cause you know your mummy doesn’t like that. Oh, she gets angry. She’s gonna have you arrested! Get back!”

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 Höfner 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.

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.
Ringo Starr

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.

McCartney was the first to leave the roof, followed by Preston, Starr, and Harrison. Lennon stayed behind briefly to talk to Yoko Ono, who had watched the entire show from the sideline.

Around half of the Apple rooftop performance was used in the Let It Be film. Furthermore, edits of ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’, ‘One After 909’ and ‘Dig A Pony’ all featured on the Let It Be album.

The final ‘Get Back’ take was included in the Let It Be film, and appeared on Anthology 3 in 1996. Almost the entire performance, intercut with the police intervention and voxpops with members of the public, was included in the 2021 documentary Get Back.

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 a version recorded on another date.

After leaving the rooftop, The Beatles assembled in the control room of the basement studio to hear the recordings. They initially wanted to record the remaining songs that afternoon, but due to delays in bringing down and setting up their equipment, the decision was made to continue recording the following day.

Last updated: 21 February 2024
Get Back/Let It Be sessions: day 20
Get Back/Let It Be sessions: day 22
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Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.

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