Beatles rooftop legacy

Jan 30, 2015 | Arts, Life, News

The Beatles’ rooftop concert, Apple building, January 30, 1969 Courtesy of

The Beatles’ rooftop concert, Apple building, January 30, 1969 (

 By Rebecca Hamill-Nobrega

The music legacy for the Beatles lives on as today marks the 46th anniversary of their final performance on a London rooftop. This English rock group was formed in Liverpool in 1960, with members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. On January 30, 1969, they performed a spontaneous concert from the roof of Apple headquarters in central London. The Beatles played nine takes of five songs in a 42-minute set before the Metropolitan Police Service made them stop.

“We went on the roof in order to resolve the live concert idea, because it was much simpler than going anywhere else; also nobody had ever done that, so it would be interesting to see what happened when we started playing up there. It was a nice little social study. We set up a camera in the Apple reception area, behind a window so nobody could see it, and we filmed people coming in. The police and everybody came in saying, ‘You can’t do that! You’ve got to stop.”-George Harrison (1969)

Footage from the performance was later used in the 1970 documentary film “Let it Be.” The Beatles ladder to fame began when they started playing in 1960 at clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg and gained popularity after their first hit “Love me do.” Releasing 12 studio albums13 EP’s and 22 singles, the group created music that spanned across many genres. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) website, they have sales of an estimated 600 million records world wide. The Beatles have sold more singles in the UK than any other act and had more number-one singles on the British charts. They also topped Time’s magazine of the “Twentieth century’s 100 most influential people.” 

Over 40 years later, The Beatles’ music legacy still lives on and continues to set the bar for the Rock era around the world

“..their legacy, the Beatles are an amazingly resilient group, in terms of that their work never seems to go out of fashion…the Beatles were not the group of my generation. They broke up before I was born. But I grew up listening to that music because it was my parents music and now I have young children and they listen to Beatles music because they have also grown up with it surrounding them”, said Andrew Scott, musician and  a Music faculty member at Humber College.

Scott said its interesting to see how cross-generational their music is and how the Beatles were able to traverse so many musical styles, aesthetics, generations and also geography. They were big successes around the world, in England and all over Europe, he said. They conquered the United States beginning in 1964 and the rest of North America. One of things that changed a great deal with the Beatles was the venue of performance, said Scott. The venue for creating their music went from being on stage to inside the studio.

People will talk about the fifth Beatle and people will often say it was Pete Best, who was the original drummer. Others will say George Martin, who was their producer, but in many ways, it was the studio that was the fifth Beatle, said Scott.

“The fifth Beatle was the studio because the Beatles were one of the first groups to exploit the burgeoning technology at that time during the mid 1960’s, and it really enabled them to do creative things that they would’ve been prevented from doing otherwise. They couldn’t have done the same sorts of things creatively if they were playing live that they were able to do in the studio,” said Scott.

The Beatles included over-dubbing, multiple guitars and choirs in their work, which at the time was “very radical and provocative studio work,” said Scott. They also incorporated backwards guitar solos, loops and other elements that were considered early sampling.

“They were really the first group to engage the studio in a very meaningful way and that legacy has certainly pervaded. Since the Beatles, there are many groups that decided to employ the technology that the studio afforded them, said Scott. The Beatles paved the way to be a studio band.”

They went down that path for a few years and near the end of their career as a group, they missed the opportunities to perform live, said Scott. It’s for that reason that they did an impromtu rooftop performance. They were trying to get back to that kind of original core of being a live group that has shaped their music career.

“This is a band that has so much appeal and I think that’s really because they’re wonderful musicians in their own right and when they came together, there was something so special that was created. Something that has almost never been duplicated…even in their post-Beatles career when they went on their own, it was never the same…,” said Scott.

The Beatles’ rooftop concert, Apple building, January 30, 1969 Photo Credit:

The Beatles’ rooftop concert, Apple building, January 30, 1969
Photo Credit:

Aki Abe, owner of Cosmo Records, a vintage vinyl record store located downtown Toronto, (their legacy lasts) because of the way they handle their business. By owning their rights and their own music, they took things to another level business-wise – that’s what gave them longevity.

“They stuck around for a long time because they cared…they took care in managing their own music. That’s really what it comes down to,” said Abe.

Cosmo records has been serving customers for 18 years and Beatles records are one of their hottest sells.

“We’re more of a jazz and soul store, but we sell rock as well…we sell a ton of Beatles records. People think its new or something…,”said Abe.

The Beatles recorded their last album “Abbey Road” in 1969 and officially broke up in 1970. Years after the breakup, they still held the 20th spot on the list of the all-time most successful “Hot 100” artists in Billboard magazine.

In November 2001, George Harrison died of lung cancer, and in December 1980 John Lennon was killed. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are still alive and receive many awards on behalf of the Beatles, including an Academy Award for Best Original Score, ten Grammy’s, and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards.

“There was a plan to play live somewhere. We were wondering where we could go—’Oh, the Palladium or the Sahara.’ But we would have had to take all the stuff, so we decided, ‘Let’s get up on the roof'”-Ringo Starr (1969)

The last of the Beatles: Rooftop Concert 1969

Rooftop Setlist

1.  Get Back

2. I Want You (She’s so Heavy)

3. Don’t Let me Down 

4. I’ve Got A Feeling

5. One After 909

6. Danny Boy

7. Dig A Pony

8. God Save The Queen

9. A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody