Talk about signing off in style. It’s been 50 years since the Beatles’ played their last gig. And that’s a long time. But I think every fan should know a bunch of facts about this much talked about “concert.”
The Beatles’ rooftop concert marked the end of an era for many fans. The group did record one more album, Abbey Road, but by September 1969 the Beatles had unofficially disbanded.“Paul McCartney: ‘I Want to Live in Peace'”. Life Magazine. 7 November 1969. Source: Wikipedia
Here’s some more interesting commentary I first heard on James Altucher’s podcast with Steve Cohen and then on his site:
A) They hated each other. At this point the Beatles were basically over. The album was originally called “Get Back” after one of the songs in it. But they couldn’t “get back” together and ultimately it was called “Let It Be”. It was their last released album. You can blame it on anything: Yoko, Linda, creative conflicts, Phil Spector, Brian Epstein’s death, and on and on. But they hated each other despite the mega-success they created together.
B) You can see on their faces as they get to the roof: They were never going to perform again. Ringo looks sad. George Harrison looks particularly upset. In fact, a few weeks earlier he and John Lennon had gotten into a fist fight and Harrison had run out and said he was “quitting”. “See you in the clubs,” he said as he left. The band debated replacing him with Eric Clapton but Harrison came back. The Beatles wouldn’t be the Beatles without the four of them, McCartney had the wherewithal to say.
C) Harrison hated the fact that Lennon was getting more and more detached from the band and doing his own thing. Lennon hated Harrison’s and McCartney’s music writing. (Lennon, after the album came out, said of “The Long and Winding Road” and producer Phil Spector’s treatment of it: “He was given the shittiest load of badly-recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever, and he made something of it.”) In other words, they hated each other. And they didn’t hold back. They just simply did not want to work with each other anymore despite the years of creative and financial success. George Harrison joined The Beatles when he was 14 years old. They all had grown up together.
D) The second song they sing in the video is poignant, “Don’t Let Me Down”. It was originally written by John Lennon for Yoko. Despite his success he was terrified of being let down by Yoko. Despite our attempts to climb away from the worst fears of our childhood, success only magnifies those fears. We’re like birds trying to climb a tree to reach the sky. Only when we learn how to fly can we truly be free. Being let down as a kid, or young adult, explodes into a plea to not only one woman but to millions of eventual listeners.
It feels like he’s not just singing it to her. He’s singing it to the Beatles, who he felt let down by. He’s singing it out there to the air, to the blocks of people staring out their windows at him. He’s singing to London. He’s pleading to his future where he would be creatively on his own – “Don’t Let Me Down”. And, prophetically, the world let him down in the worst way on December 8, 1980. The song never made it to the final released album. I like the original shot in the video, of Lennon and McCartney singing it together, with Ringo in the middle in the background. The three barely spoke to each other at that point. They had all let each other down. And yet that wouldn’t prevent them from creating beautiful music.James Altucher — Competence and Beatles’ Last Song
A few other facts you should know about the magical concert include:
The concert was originally going to take place in an ancient amphitheater. Or on a cruise ship. Or in the desert.
Jefferson Airplane performed on a New York City rooftop several weeks earlier.
Lennon and Starr wore their ladies’ coats.
The microphones were wrapped in women’s pantyhose.
George Harrison’s guitar (The telecaster) was the first of its kind.
The site of the rooftop concert is now a children’s Abercrombie & Fitch.RollingStone.com — Beatles’ Famous Rooftop Concert: 15 Things You Didn’t Know
While one can interpret a lot about the Beatles and this “concert,” I’m amazed by the sheer enthusiasm people are still searching for this online. Heck, they even remember it! Sure, we’re talking about the best band in the whole wide world! But that was 50 years ago.
Perhaps, it sheds some light on the importance of leaving a legacy. You will be dead far longer than you’ve been alive after all. Might as well leave a mark before it’s time for you to go.