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YouTube Gold: The Beatles Take To The Roof

Things were not going well but the music was still superb

The Beatles’ rooftop concert
 British rock group the Beatles performing their last live public concert on the rooftop of the Apple Organization building for director Michael Lindsey-Hogg’s film documentary, ‘Let It Be,’ on Savile Row, London, UK, 30th January 1969; drummer Ringo Starr sits behind his kit, singer-songwriters Paul McCartney and John Lennon (1940 - 1980) perform at their microphones, and guitarist George Harrison (1943 - 2001) stands behind them. Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono sits at right.
Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Director Peter Jackson, who is most famous for his work with The Lord Of The Rings movies, released a movie about the Beatles called Get Back in 2021. He was allowed to work with some forgotten footage taken while they were working on their last album, Let It Be.

The Beatles were on their last legs at that point. No longer wide-eyed young kids, they had been through the wringer in the 1960’s. Beatlemania was bound to be an exhausting experience and they had in many ways already gone their separate ways. John Lennon was well into his relationships with Yoko Ono. George Harrison was tired of feeling like the junior member of the band. Ringo Starr had gotten frustrated enough to quit temporarily at one point. Paul McCartney had grave (and as it turned out correct) misgivings about a new manager.

As Jackson’s documentary underscored, they were on the verge of splitting up but were trying to arrange one last public performance, something they hadn’t done in several years.

Ultimately, they just dragged their equipment to the roof of their studio and played there until the police forced them to stop.

What the film revealed though was that even with the band crumbling, they still took great joy in creating and when they took to the rooftop, despite their issues, they put on a tremendous performance.

This clip of the song Get Back kind of shows that. Harrison was clearly fed up, but he was still at the top of his game. Lennon is clearly having a blast. Starr and McCartney are on the top of their game.

And Billy Preston, who was sometimes called the Fifth Beatle and who, aside from his immense musical gifts helped defuse some of the conflicts, plays brilliantly.

All in all, the concert was a sweet farewell to an astonishing decade of music. None of the Beatles were older than 30 when they went their separate ways, having changed not just music but popular culture profoundly and irrevocably.