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The Bootleg Beatles play 30th Anniversary rooftop gig

Beatles rooftop birthday

It's 40 years since the fab four's last ever concert
30 January 2008 - They were together for 10 years and hadn’t played in front of a paying audience since 1966, but on 30 January 1969, The Beatles performed an infamous, impromptu gig.

It took place on the roof of Apple HQ in London's Savile Row and turned out to be their final show before they officially split up in 1970.

The iconic Liverpool band played Get Back, Don’t Let Me Down, I’ve Got A Feeling, One After 909 and Dig A Pony.

The performance resounded over London and culminated with John Lennon telling fans: "I'd like to say, 'thank you' on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition!"

See footage of the actual gig.

‘A party atmosphere’

The Metropolitan Police were told to stop the gig.  Officer, Ken Wharfe, was on duty at the time in Piccadilly Circus when he received a call.

He recalled: “There was this crusty old Sergeant there on the phone who said; ‘Can you hear that bloody noise lad.’ And I said, ‘Yeah it sounds like The Beatles’, not knowing at that point that they were on the roof, but everybody knows that the Beatles have their studios in Savile Row.

“So, he said to me, ‘Look get your mate across the road and go and turn the noise down’.”

Wharfe went on to admit they couldn't bring themselves to get the historic band to stop playing: “We openly encouraged it to continue.

“I thought towards the end, maybe it would have been great for the film, had John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo [Starr] and George [Harrison] been nicked and frog-marched along Savile Row. In the end I remember some station Sergeant turning up and being rather firm with the guy on the door.”
"It was hilarious, I thought, 'Great, we're going to be arrested with The Beatles and we're going to be on the telly'."
EMI Sound Engineer

He reckons there would have been a riot had they tried to stop it. Continuing: “I was amazed at just how many people were just standing on roof tops away beyond Bond Street, over by the Royal Academy.

“You look at some of the old footage now and you see all these guys with hats and smoking pipes, but there was a party atmosphere.

“I think any member of the Police that had tried to stop this concert would have been launched from the roof, quite frankly.”

‘Arrested with The Beatles’

David Harries, a Sound Technician for EMI, was also present and remembered rigging up the equipment.

“So we could make as much noise as possible,” he reminisced. “ So that it might stop the traffic and stop all the people, and The Beatles could be heard down in the street, we had to get some big speakers from EMI which we took there at about four o’clock on a freezing January morning.

“We put them on the roof, connected our equipment downstairs and ran all the leads for the microphones down the staircase because the studio was actually in the basement.”

As for the police arriving, Harries said: “They [Police] knocked on the door and originally they wouldn’t let them in but they said, ‘Well if you don’t let us in we’re going to arrest everyone in the building’.

“At that point George Martin [Producer] went white as a sheet. It was very, very funny. I thought it was hilarious, I thought, ‘Great, we’re going to be arrested with The Beatles and we’re going to be on the telly’.”

Anniversary plans dashed

Today (30 January), plans for a commemorative ‘rooftop gig’ were dashed by police and council officials.

The Bootleg Beatles, who played on the same roof for the 30th Anniversary, were set to play at noon but it was axed due to safety worries, according to tabloid reports.

Andre Barrow, who plays guitarist George Harrison, told 6 Music why: “It just wasn’t cost effective. I think you had to have a new fire escape, a lifeguard and whatever else there was, it just didn’t work out.

“We did ask them for special permission but we got bogged down in bubureaucracynd red tape and we had to call off the gig, which was a real shame.”

Barrow wasn’t surprised that 40 years after their final gig, the Beatles are still so loved.

“As time’s gone on, it’s become more and more obvious what legacy they left, how brilliant they were, the hundreds of fantastic songs they wrote and recorded,” he explained. “I just don’t think we’ll ever see another group who’ll have that kind of a cultural impact, in my lifetime anyway, I can’t imagine it.”

Georgie Rogers

Have your say

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Comments so far

Wanderley Almeida, São Carlos
Oh!! God!!! It was a long time ago, but it´s look like, a few days ago. The Beatles, in the roof, is historical,gig. the Beatles are still so loved,in all over the wold, how the best band still know.

Gareth Brading, Oxford
This was a defining moment of the era. In effect, it marked the end of The Beatles, and the end of the 60s. Ridiculous that HSE stopped the 40th anniversary concert. HSE didn't stop The Beatles in 1969.

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