Surprisingly Unknown Facts About The Beatles’ Last Performance
Everything, no matter how great, eventually comes to an end. And the Beatles, one of the greatest bands of all time, are no exception…
On a chilly January afternoon in 1969, the band set up their equipment atop the Apple Records Studio building and unleashed their final performance as the Beatles to the city below. However, not everything was as it seemed, as the band members were plagued with a slew of drama and other issues in the run-up to this final performance.
Preparing For A Return To The Limelight
A complete setlist had not been publicly played by the Beatles in nearly three years at this point. Their previous tour was in the United States in 1966, and they hadn’t performed a full concert since. On stage, the band’s enthusiasm looked to be draining swiftly, allegedly held together only by Paul McCartney, who was quick to criticize his bandmates’ lack of energy.
McCartney wanted to reintroduce the band in a spectacular way, so he attempted to put on a big event at a London venue named “The Roundhouse.” Unfortunately, as the rest of the band grew tired of McCartney determining their course of direction, these attempts fell on deaf ears, and the show was never booked.
Last Gig, Last Minute
To add to the already tense atmosphere of this final show, it was organized in just a day. While the rooftop gig was not planned, the final performance was. McCartney had originally planned a TV special performance to promote the recently released “Let It Be.”
McCartney was looking for lavish venues to perform this concert in a hurry. His prospects included appearing on a cruise ship, in a desert, or even in a famous Roman amphitheater. These attempts, however, were fruitless as the rest of the band pushed for a more convenient and simpler venue to play.
The individual directly responsible for the rooftop decision is unclear. A modest, makeshift riser/stage was created from wooden planks and became the final platform on which all of the Beatles would perform together.
Eric Clapton Almost Replaced Harrison
George Harrison was growing impatient with McCartney’s aggressive leadership over the band. The rest of the band felt the same way, as they thought their democracy was slipping away, stating that McCartney was attempting to exert too much authority over them.
Harrison left the band after learning that their “comeback” gig at the Roundhouse had fallen through. Aside from conflicts with McCartney, another factor was a violent argument with Lennon that almost turned physical.
Harrison then exited the studio with his guitar packed. This is when Lennon started toying with the idea of bringing in his close friend, Eric Clapton, as a replacement. However, before signing any deals with Clapton, Harrison and the rest of the band were able to put aside their differences and reunite. Harrison’s condition, however, is that they leave the Twickenham studio and look for another.
Harrison’s Songs Were Purposely Left Out Of The Final Performance
Leaving the studio after a violent disagreement with Lennon was not Harrison’s first sign of dissatisfaction with the Beatles. During the initial studio session for “Let It Be,” he walked out another time in frustration.
The rest of the band was concerned about his volatile nature, and made contingencies just in case he decided to leave again. As a result, Harrison’s songs were left out of the rooftop concert. One of the songs he wanted to play was an early version of “My Sweet Lord,” which went on to become one of his most successful solo hits.
The truth is that no one knew how long Harrison would be around after “Let It Be” (which was newly released). They didn’t want his new songs to be included in the set if he wasn’t going to “be a Beatle” after the show.
The Police Shut Them Down
Even while this experience was iconic and historically significant, not everyone appreciated it…
For starters, the audience below had difficulty hearing the music due to poor acoustics. For too many locals, the noise was simply a nuisance. Many people thought this was “rude” to the local community. People began yelling and complaining until the police arrived.
Attempts to ask/tell the band to cease playing were disregarded, and they continued to play until the police turned off the power to their equipment. They physically “unplugged” their show.
It’s unfortunate that the greatest band in the world had their farewell show shut down by the cops, but that appears to be a very “rock n roll” final performance.