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On January 30, 1969, The Beatles, supported by keyboardist Billy Preston, performed an inpromptu concert from the roof of the Apple headquarters in central London. In 42 minutes, they performed nine takes of five songs before being forced to stop by Metropolitan Police Service of London.
The idea of a live performance was conceived during their Get Back sessions, but it's uncertain who specifically suggested performing on the roof and the event was put together in only a few days. Billy Preston was recruited by George Harrsion with the hopes of keeping the band tight and focused.
Engineer Alan Parsons recorded the performance on two eight-track machines and film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg captured several angels of the performance as well as reactions from the crowd down on the street. Lindsay-Hogg's footage was later used in the 1970 documentary film Let It Be.
"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
Initially there was some confusion from spectators watching five stories below, but as the news of the event spread, crowds of onlookers began to congregate in the streets and on the roofs of local buildings. While most responded positively to the concert, the Metropolitan Police Service grew concerned about noise and traffic issues. Although Apple employees initially refused to let police inside, they reconsidering when threatened with arrest.
As police ascended to the roof, the Beatles realized that the concert would eventually be shut down, but continued to play for several more minutes. Paul McCartney improvised the lyrics of his song "Get Back" to reflect the situation, "You've been playing on the roofs again, and you know your Momma doesn't like it, she's gonna have you arrested!" The concert came to an end with the conclusion of "Get Back," and John Lennon's famous statement, "I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we've passed the audition."
The Beatles' rooftop concert marked the end of an era for many fans. The group would go on to record one more album, Abbey Road, but by November 1969 the Beatles had unofficially disbanded. Several of the rooftop performances, particularly that of "Dig a Pony", showed the Beatles once again in top form, if only temporarily. Fans believed the rooftop concert might have been a try-out for a return to live performances and touring.
"I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we've passed the audition." - John Lennon
The rooftop concert consisted of nine takes of five songs, including: three takes of "Get Back", two takes each of "Don't Let Me Down" and "I've Got a Feeling", and a single take each of "One After 909" and "Dig a Pony". One of the performances of "I've Got a Feeling", and the recordings of "One After 909", and "Dig a Pony" were later used for the vinyl release of Let It Be. In 1996, a "rooftop" version of "Get Back", which was the last song of the Beatles' final live performance, was included in Anthology 3.