Behind-the-Scenes Facts & Footage: The Beatles’ Epic Rooftop Concert

by Peter Wendel
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TheBeatlesRooftopConcertMainThe Beatles’ rooftop concert was the last time the legendary band ever performed together – the final glimpse at the Fab Four for an adoring worldwide fan base. Of course, a film crew captured the gig on January 30, 1969, from the roof of the five-story Apple Corps headquarters in London. The album and film were released as Let It Be (May 1970) – The Beatles’ final masterpiece.

Jordan Runtagh of Rolling Stone offers little-known, behind-the-scenes tidbits about the “Beatles’ final bow on the world stage.” Here are a few of Runtagh’s “15 Things You Didn’t Know” about the iconic band’s rooftop gig (see link to full article below):

The concert was originally going to take place in an ancient amphitheater. Or on a cruise ship. Or in the desert. According to Runtagh:

The Sahara desert was floated as a potential location, as were the Giza pyramids, and even the QE2 ocean liner. A 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheater in Tunisia was seriously considered, and location scouts were sent to investigate.

Lennon and Starr wore their ladies’ coats. According to Runtagh:

To ward off the winter chill, Lennon borrowed Yoko Ono’s fur coat (as he did on occasion). Ringo Starr also donned his wife Maureen’s red raincoat.

John Lennon needed cue cards to remember his own lyrics. According to Runtagh:

John Lennon always had a problem with lyrics. …Wanting to get things reasonably correct for the film, the Beatles asked Apple office assistant Kevin Harrington to kneel just out of camera view and hold up a lyric sheet for “Dig a Pony.” Lennon still managed a memorable flub during “Don’t Let Me Down,” singing something like, “And only reese we got the blootchy-koo.”

The microphones were wrapped in women’s pantyhose. According to Runtagh:

The cold gusts also proved to be a problem for the delicate studio microphones recording the drums and guitar amplifiers. In need of a quick shield to minimize wind noise, tape engineer (and future Pink Floyd cohort) Alan Parsons was dispatched that morning to buy women’s pantyhose.

George Harrison’s guitar was the first of its kind. According to Runtagh:

The Telecaster that Harrison played throughout the rooftop concert was custom made for him by master builders Roger Rossmeisl and Philip Kubicki as a gift from Fender. The company was launching a new line of all-rosewood guitars, and presenting the prototype to a Beatle was good publicity.

Check out the full Rolling Stone article and additional footage here.

Peter Wendel is a journalist and PR consultant. He's attended hundreds of concerts and festivals, including the Peach, Mountain Jam, the All Good and Lockn'. He's ridden legendary Grateful Dead runs from Ventura County Fairgrounds to Irvine Meadows (CA) from the Nassau Coliseum (NY) to the Boston Garden (MA). Peter is a former U.S. Marine who – after running into trouble with every last one of his commanding officers – received an honorable discharge and a direct order never to return. Born in California and raised in New Jersey, Peter lived in Boston and Joshua Tree (CA) before settling in the nation's capital. Find him on tour at PWendel@SongMango.com.

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