On 30 January, 1969, The Beatles took to the roof of their Mayfair
headquarters and created one of the most iconic moments in music history. The rooftop concert was The Beatles’ first public performance in over two years. They played new songs, proved they hadn’t split up, upset the establishment and bewildered the police.
The event seemed utterly spontaneous but had been a year in the planning, with technicians and roadies slaving to make it happen. It was filmed by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who hoped to use the footage as the finale in a celebratory TV special; it would finally surface in the bleak documentary Let It Be.
Tony Barrell examines the concert within the context of its time. He speaks to those who were there: the fans, film-makers, roadies, Apple Corps staff and policemen. He explores the politics of 1968, when peace gave way to protest, and how music promotion began to collide with cinéma vérité and reality TV. He looks at The Beatles’ reinventions and relationships, revealing both why the rooftop concert happened at all, and why it happened the way that it did.