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lunchtime on a bitterly cold January day in 1969, the strains of guitar chords
could be heard in the streets surrounding London’s Savile Row. Crowds gathered
– At ground level and above. People climbed onto roofs and postboxes, skipped
lunch to gather and listen: For the first time in more than two years, The Beatles were playing live.
Ringing from the rooftops, disturbing the well-to-do ears of the tailors below, they upset the establishment and bewildered the police. It was filmed by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who hoped the footage would act as the finale to a celebratory TV special. When it finally surfaced, it was in the bleak, tumultuous documentary Let It Be. And The Beatles would never play live again.
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 police. 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. The Beatles on the Roof makes essential reading for anyone interested in the band’s reinventions and relationships, revealing why the rooftop concert happened at all, why it happened the way that it did, and why it would never happen again.