7 surprising facts about the Beatles’ last ever performance
At midday on January 30, 1969, two and a half years after their last live show, the Beatles began performing, unannounced, on the rooftop of their record label’s headquarters. During the 42-minute concert, the band debuted songs from what would be their final ever album, Let It Be. Here are seven things you might not have known about this iconic moment in music history.
1. It was planned – Despite being unannounced, the performance was indeed planned. In fact, it was originally staged for a two-night TV special organised by Paul McCartney to commemorate the release of Let It Be. Potential locations included a Roman amphitheatre, a desert and a cruise ship, before John Lennon suggested they opt for something more convenient.
2. It was directed by Orson Welles’ secret son – Michael Lindsay-Hogg, the filmmaker responsible for a number of the Beatles’ music videos, was chosen to direct the project. It’s believed that Lindsay-Hogg could in fact be the secret biological son of cinema extraordinaire Orson Welles.
3. They were joined by a non-Beatle – The only non-member to perform on the rooftop with the Beatles was Billy Preston, an American keyboardist whom George Harrison roped in to help the band stay focused and improve “the vibe”.
4. George’s songs didn’t get a look in – Unsure if he would remain in the band after Let It Be and having walked out of the studio twice during recording, Harrison-penned songs (including an early version of “My Sweet Lord”) were skipped in favour of Lennon-McCartney compositions.
5. Not everyone was thrilled with the free show – They may have been the biggest band in the world, but not everyone enjoyed the concert. “You call that a public performance? I can’t see them,” one onlooker complained. “This kind of music is alright in its place, but I think it’s a bit of an imposition to disrupt the business in this area,” said another.
6. The police literally pulled the plug – Police officers were called to the building after noise complaints from nearby office workers. One of them shouted “You have to stop!” but they simply went on playing – that is, until one officer finally pulled a cord from the setup and cut the show short.
7. Pantyhose saved the day – On that cold, blustery winter’s day, the studio’s microphones had to be wrapped in pantyhose to minimise the noise of the wind. In fact, the weather was so cold, windy, and “not ideal to making rock and roll” that Lennon and Ringo Starr were forced to borrow their wives’ coats.
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