44 years ago today, The Beatles gave their final live performance on the rooftop of Apple Records in London. The original plan, as most Beatle fans know, was to record a live album of new songs. Old pal Billy Preston, who first met The Beatles in Hamburg in the early '60s, was in London at the time, so George Harrison pulled Billy into the sessions as a special guest, hoping his presence would help The Beatles survive the recording of what became known as the album, Let It Be
In January 1969, the mood between the four was cloudy, their friendships at a crossroads. Being Beatles wasn't so much fun anymore. In fact, it was a full-blown financial and emotional hassle. And fittingly, the live concert album was cut short by a local bank who called in a noise complaint to city police. It didn't matter though. The off-hand gig rocked and quickly became part of music history.
The Beatles left the '60s behind with a back-to-basics sound that had bite and bark, especially thanks to John's up-front-mixed Casino
. The band regrouped after the Let It Be
sessions to make one more album--Abbey Road-
-with friend and studio mentor George Martin. Later, in an infamous interview with Rolling Stone,
Lennon called Abbey Road
"something slick to preserve the myth." But that same gritty sound heard on the rooftop also made it onto Abbey Road
and can be heard on "Come Together," "I Want You" and "The End."
The rooftop concert, released finally in 1970 as part of the Let It Be
film, is a terrific snapshot of the band at nearly-full steam. It was also the last time the public would ever see the four mates together again. Any doubters as to The Beatles's on-stage chemistry will be made believers by this short, 40 minute concert. When they cared (and that was most of the time), The Beatles couldn't be beat. Every complete song performed that cold day in January eventually found release on singles and LPs.
Among the classics performed during their short set included "Get Back," "Don't Let Me Down," "One After 909," "I Dig A Pony," "I've Got A Feeling," and snippets of "I Want You," and even "God Save the Queen." All agreed that yes, they passed the audition.