The Beatles Rooftop Concert Was Originally Supposed to Be Somewhere Much More Extravagant

The Beatles played their last concert together in 1969 on the rooftop of Apple Corps music headquarters. They had already stopped touring in 1966 so this one last hurrah was a major event. They originally had much bigger plans for the show, but simplified it to the rooftop show according to Ringo Starr.

The Beatles rooftop concert: Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison play on top of Apple Corps
L-R: Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison | Apple Corps Ltd.

Starr was a guest on the Broken Record with Rick Rubin podcast on Sept. 21, 2021 to discuss his pandemic EP, Zoom In. The Beatles: Get Back was about to come out that December. So Starr also reflected on the rooftop concert that concludes that miniseries. 

The Beatles rooftop concert almost went up high

The Beatles rooftop concert was to perform the songs on their Let It Be album. Those were the sessions depicted in the original Let It Be documentary and the restored Get Back. Starr remembers Let It Be director Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s original grand ideas. 

“With the roof show, we had gone through that let’s do it in Alaska, let’s do it on Mt. Everest,” Starr said on Broken Record. “Michael Lindsay-Hogg was pushing for this Roman dome drone thing in somewhere, God knows where. Anyway, we said ah, I think it was Paul, ‘Let’s do it on the roof.’ Okay, we’re playing live. It all happened after the big discussion, big big big big, well, let’s just do this.”

The rooftop concert wasn’t the first time The Beatles simplified big plans 

Starr compared The Beatles rooftop concert to another monumental Beatles moment. The iconic cover of Abbey Road was also originally designed to be much bigger. There too, Paul McCartney squashed elaborate plans with something simple, and it remains iconic today.

“The joke with the Beatles was, including Abbey Road, let’s do it in Egypt, let’s do it in the Roman amphitheater, let’s walk across the road,” Starr said. “I think Paul just said, ‘Let’s walk across Abbey Road.’”

McCartney was proven right and Starr recognizes that sometimes keeping it simpler is better.

“I mention Abbey Road because that’s so iconic and it’s just four boys walking across a zebra crossing for Christ’s sake,” Starr said. “People are still doing it today. They’re flying in from all over the world to stand and stop the traffic. The joy is we made some great music and I’m part of it and I love that. And it’s still happening today.”

Even the rooftop concert almost didn’t happen 

Starr also remembers other Beatles weren’t so keen on doing the rooftop show at all. They had given up touring in 1966 to focus on recording. McCartney tried to get out of doing the rooftop show, but Starr spoke up.

“The livest we got was on the roof,” Starr said. “Even then, I was laughing with Paul the other day. The conversation’s going on, I’m not in the shot. He says, ‘Who wants to play live?’ And you hear me going, ‘I do.’”