As the bobbies moved in to bust up the Beatles’ final public performance, Paul McCartney was suddenly inspired:
“You been playing of the roofs again/and that’s no good/’cause you know your mommy doesn’t like that/she gets angry/she’s gonna have you arrested!/get back!,” he sang to close the last of three versions of “Get Back” the band played atop its Apple headquarters on Jan. 30, 1969.
The song had nearly fallen apart when the taciturn police arrived on the scene. But the Beatles kept it together for a delightfully ramshackle display.
The 40-minute concert – remixed in stereo by Giles Martin and Sam Okell – is finally out as the digital-only Get Back – The Rooftop Performance. And though the Beatles had spent the previous few years proving themselves masters of the studio with LPs like Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Rooftop provides a glimpse of what a force they could’ve become as a live act.
It’s there in the way the band tunes before “Dig a Pony” and kicks around “God Save the Queen” as the camera are reloaded. It shines as John Lennon ad libs in the second of two versions of “I’ve Got a Feeling” – “everybody had a head dream,“ he sings. And it’s evident in the way he and George Harrison vary their guitar solos throughout the open-air gig.
McCartney is particularly thrilled to be back, laughing as he sings, tearing up his vocal cords on “Feeling” and singing in sweet harmony with Lennon on both versions of “Don’t Let Me Down.”
Ringo Starr plays drums as only he did and Billy Preston’s electric piano – dig his raucous playing on “One after 909” – make him the only fifth Beatle to have performed publicly with the Liverpudlian lads.
There are plenty of what-ifs associated with this recording. What if they’d played longer? Revisited their back catalog? Done some covers? Gone on tour?
But none of that matters now. The Rooftop Performance is finally – thankfully – available in high-quality sound for all to hear.
And it’s Fab.