the rooftop concert

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On this day in music history: January 30, 1969 - The Beatles perform live for the last time on the roof of the Apple building at 3 Savile Row in London. Filmed as the climax of the documentary film “Let It Be”, the band perform a forty-two minute long impromptu set (only half appears in the finished film) consisting of the songs “Get Back” (performed twice), “Don’t Let Me Down”, “Dig A Pony”, “One After 909” and “I’ve Got A Feeling”. The performance quickly attracts attention from the street below, drawing a huge crowd, stopping traffic in central London, and leading the police to bring the concert to a halt. The roof top concert captures a rare glimpse of The Beatles during their last days as a functioning unit, and becomes an iconic moment in their history.

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“I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, ’The Beatles did.’" 

- Kurt Vonnegut 

“There was an inexplicable presence when all four were together in a room. Their music was bigger than they were.”

- George Martin

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“We went on the roof in order to resolve the live concert idea, because it was much simpler than going anywhere else; also nobody had ever done that, so it would be interesting to see what happened when we started playing up there. It was a nice little social study.
We set up a camera in the Apple reception area, behind a window so nobody could see it, and we filmed people coming in. The police and everybody came in saying, ‘You can’t do that! You’ve got to stop.‘”

-George Harrison.

The West End Central Police Station is located at 27 Savile Row — mere feet from Apple headquarters. The authorities obviously must have heard the loud rock music wafting down the street. Windows rattled, floors shook, and horns blared from the resulting traffic jams. If they wanted to, the police could have walked over and shut things down before the first song was over. Instead, they let the concert continue for 42 minutes. It was only when the noise complaints began to flood in from stuffy local businesses that they felt compelled to act.

Even then, they gave the Beatles and Co. ample warning to get rid of certain illicit substances that might have been on the scene. “Before the raid, someone called from the Savile Row police station saying, ‘You’ve got 10 minutes.’” recalled one Apple employee. “So we knew they were coming and everyone was ready for it. … When the police raided the building, there was a whole chorus of toilets being flushed.” Crisis averted.

—  “Beatles’ Famous Rooftop Concert: 15 Things You Didn’t Know” in Rolling Stone Magazine (Jordan Runtagh, January 29th, 2016)