Friday, January 30, 2009

Up On the Roof....

London, 3 Savile Row, January 30, 1969. Two and a half years (which, in pop music years, is about ninety-seven) after their last live performance on August 29, 1966, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, The Beatles (plus one) set up equipment on the rooftop of their London head quarters and played live for what would turn out to be the very last time.

The initial idea - of the concert and of the album and of the film - was right there in the working title, "Get Back." The growing sense of separation of John, Paul and George into individual solo artists -- well illustrated by the White Album; 2 LPs that often seems like a collection of solo tracks -- and the disintegration of the very idea of the Fab Four had given McCartney the idea that the band needed to move away from the complex studio effects and heavily arranged music that had become their specialty and "get back" to basics. Unadorned, straight forward, basic rock & roll.

The album was to be called Get Back, the cover photo had been taken and had the four Beatles on the same EMI stairwell they'd posed on in 1963 for their debut LP. This idea had three parts: the album, an accompanying "making of" film, and a live performance. Various ideas had been floated for the live show, a small club gig, an invited audience on an ocean liner, etc.

The reality however was inescapable. The four musicians had grown up and grown apart. Remember that, as the band slowly fell apart leading up to rooms full of nothing but lawyers, not one of the Beatles -- not John, Paul, George or Ringo -- had yet turned thirty. Eventually the theme of "Get Back" was replaced by the more dour-sounding "Let It Be." The film that was eventually issued was structured around this central theme of break down and dissolution, which is a shame because the boys clearly could still play.

The rooftop concert demonstrates that, at the bitter end, there is no denying that these musicians were still capable of pure unadulterated magic. Below is the final performance in three video segments. Enjoy.

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