Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Today in Beatles history: "I hope we passed the audition"

It's among the most iconic moments in Beatles history: the rooftop concert. Around noon on January 30, 1969, The Beatles made their way - without advance public notice or police permission - to the top of the Apple building at 3 Savile Row and staged their final live performance. Bundled up due to the cold, blustery conditions, the band, along with keyboardist Billy Preston, debuted songs from the "Get Back"/"Let It Be" sessions, including "Get Back," "Don't Let Me Down" and "I've Got a Feeling." With a film crew on hand, the performance was to serve as the climax of the Let It Be documentary, which - when completed - showed The Beatles in disarray and hurtling toward a nasty divorce. So part of what makes the rooftop concert such a pleasure is that, if only briefly, the band swapped bitterness for fun - boyish, mischievous fun rooted in the thrill of live rock 'n' roll performance. They ad-libbed during songs, they cracked jokes between songs and they practically begged the police, who eventually shut down the gig because of crowds that had gathered, to arrest them. (What a finale that would have been.) Even better, they visibly enjoyed each other's company. I'm thinking of a moment during "Don't Let Me Down." Midway through the song, after John blanks on a line and really hams it up, he looks to Paul for guidance. Facing one another, the two deliver the next line accurately and then exchange smiles that seem to reflect the many years of shared history between them. Even near the end, even amidst severe infighting, the Fabs could still bring out the best in each other. And I would add that, after the joyless process of recording Let It Be, they owed themselves the rooftop concert. A bright spot in stormy times.
Part 1:
Part 2

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