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The Beatles’ “terrace concert”: last time live, George’s anger and John’s irony when he finished playing

ON January 30, 1969 The Beatles appeared on the terrace of the office building of Apple, their record label, at number 3, Savile Row, in the heart of London (Photo: Apple Records)
ON January 30, 1969 The Beatles appeared on the terrace of the office building of Apple, their record label, at number 3, Savile Row, in the heart of London (Photo: Apple Records)

They hadn’t played live in three years. The last recital of The Beatles had been on August 29, 1966 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, in the United States. Despite its immense popularity, due to organizational failures they had only sold 25 thousand tickets in a place with a capacity for 42,500 people. His most recent album was the stupendous Revolver, the gateway to psychedelia, which later became the wonderful Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. The show lasted less than 35 minutes and they played just 11 songs, but none of the album they had just recorded: they opened with Rock and roll music, they closed with Long tall Sally and they took 65% of the profits …

At that point, the decision not to do more shows was made. The Fab Four concerts had turned into a howling ball of their fans, to those who could not pierce the poor amplification equipment that existed at that time for large stadiums. They could have lip-synched that no one would have complained about.

“Don’t Let Me Down”, The Beatles

By 1969, the band’s unity was practically broken. They had decided to record an album – which would be called Get back, in principle- and a documentary that would record everything that would happen in the study that was in charge of Michael Lindsay-Hogg. The venue was totally inappropriate: Twickenham Studios, cold and lacking in acoustics. To top it all off, the need to have a documentary crew meant that instead of filming at night – as was their custom – they had to do it in the morning and afternoon.

To make matters worse, John Lennon was going through a period of drug addiction and his closeness to Yoko Ono had alienated him from his creative partner, Paul McCartney, for his part, seemed to take too much control over the decisions of the band, which produced the misgivings of the other three. But it was George Harrison who said “enough” and announced that he would leave the group. Despite revealing himself as a composer who lived up to the Lennon-McCartney duo, he felt he was looked down upon. On January 10, after an argument with Paul just days before filming began, the quietest of The Beatles exploded.

Preparations for the short recital (Photo: Apple Records)
Preparations for the short recital (Photo: Apple Records)

With a documentary in sight, it occurred to them to play live again after almost three years without doing it. To satisfy George and calm things down, they decided to go back to recording at their favorite studio, EMI, and invited a friend of his since they were playing in Hamburg, keyboardist Billy Preston, to accompany them. According to his testimony, doing it on the terrace of Apple – the record label of the geniuses of Liverpool – was John’s idea, after ruling out the hilarious chances of doing it in front of the pyramids of Egypt with an audience of Bedouins or on board the transatlantic ship Queen Elizabeth II playing for tourists.

With the general production of George Martin and the contribution of two enormous sound engineers. A young man called Alan Parsons, the same one that recorded in 1973 The Dark Side of the Moon with Pink Floyd, and Glyn Johns, which months later became involved in the production of the first Led Zeppelin album.

(Foto: Apple Records)
(Foto: Apple Records)

The chosen moment was noon on Thursday, January 30, 1969. The place: Apple’s Terrace, located at 3 Savile Row in central London. It was cold, and that made John (who was accompanied by Yoko) and George had to wear women’s coats. Ringo Starr (escorted by his then-wife Maureen) chose a red rain pilot. Paul, stoic, wore a dark suit. The image is iconic: surrounded by cables, equipment and assistants, The Beatles made their last public appearance. They did not know it, but a little over a year later, on April 10, 1970, they would announce their separation.

The documentary – which was finally called Let it be Like the album, brilliant coda to an amazing career, it has the record of this true pearl. They played five songs: Get back (of which they did three takes), Don’t let me down (they touched it twice), I’ve got a feeling (also in duplicate), One after 909 Y Dig a pony. The duration of the concert was short: only 43 minutes.

The show lasted 43 minutes (Photo: Apple Records)
The show lasted 43 minutes (Photo: Apple Records)

Documentary career reached the pinnacle: in 1971, Let it be he won the Oscar for Best Soundtrack. None of The Beatles traveled to Los Angeles to receive the statuette. Quincy Jones, the musical director of the film, did.

Instead, the concert had an abrupt end.

Incredibly, many neighbors reported them for annoying noises, others filled the street to listen to them and caused traffic chaos. The police had to act, who ordered them to stop the music. As George Harrison pointed out: “We went to the roof in order to work out the idea of ​​a live concert because it was much easier than going somewhere else. No one had, and it was interesting to see what would happen when we started playing there. We installed a camera in the Apple reception area, behind a window so that no one could see it, and we filmed the people who came. The police and everyone would come in saying, ‘You can’t do that. You have to stop. ‘

When they stopped playing, and before the equipment was unplugged, John, with the irony that always identified him, left the last phrase of The Beatles live: “I would like to thank on behalf of the group, and myself, and I wish we passed the audition. “

I kept reading:

50 years after the separation of the Beatles: the intimacy of an ending full of jealousy, fights and pettiness

The story of an extraordinary hoax: when the Beatles played Argentina

About the author

Kim Diaz

Kim recently joined the team, and she writes for the Headline column of the website. She has done major in English, and a having a diploma in Journalism.

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