What Made the Final Beatles Performance So Incredible

Much has been written about the final years of The Beatles, and the stories continue to amaze fans. The time John Lennon stormed out of the recording studio during the White Album sessions definitely stands out among the best.

But fans had gotten used to a certain Beatles by then. Since 1966, the group was strictly a studio band that had quit touring and live performances altogether. In the late ’60s, Beatles fanatics got albums, films, and TV appearances, but they didn’t get live shows.

The ugly side of Beatlemania had put the group in this box. However, by early ’69, Paul McCartney wanted the group to get back onstage for a number of reasons. George Harrison wanted the opposite, and you could see the tensions between them during the filming of Let It Be.

For the last 20 minutes of the documentary, the four bandmates went to the roof of Apple headquarters to play what would be their final performance together on January 30. What followed exceeded the expectations of all concerned.

The band stuck to rockers like ‘Get Back’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Down.’

The Beatles as they play their final live performance on the roof of 3 Savile Row, Apple Corps headquarters, January 30, 1969 in London, United Kingdom. | Jeff Hochberg/Getty Images

If you think of the Let It Be album, monster singles like “The Long and Winding Road” and the title track usually come to mind. You see the band working on these Paul ballads during the recording sessions.

Things perked up when the band turned to rollicking tunes like “Get Back” and John’s “Don’t Let Me Down.” When The Beatles got to rocking, they could stand toe-to-toe with the best bands of the day. Up on the roof, the group’s chemistry is obvious from the opening notes of the latter tune.

Paul, in particular, seems rejuvenated by standing up and playing (not ot mention singing) with his old bandmates. John looks comfortable and even dominant as the lead singer — and, on “Get Back,” the lead guitar player — and his enthusiasm is contagious.

Smiles from George and Ringo confirm that the group made the right decision to get up there and play in front of an audience again. And anyone watching the film gets treated to John and Paul’s final great collaboration.

John and Paul’s final classic finds the band in top form.

30th January 1969: British rock group the Beatles performing their last live public concert on the rooftop of the Apple Organization building for director Michael Lindsey-Hogg’s film documentary, ‘Let It Be,’ on Savile Row, London, England. | Express/Express/Getty Images

While we know John and Paul were often at odds during this time period, they came together for one last brilliant collaboration. That song, “I’ve Got a Feeling,” even features alternating lead vocals that recall the early Beatles hits.

Paul really lets his inner rocker out on this tune with the lead verse. When John enters with “Everybody had a hard year / Everybody had a good time,” the song really lands its punch. In the studio and during that final performance on the roof, it sounds like a knockout.

Of course, no Beatles performance could be complete without gawking fans. The folks going about their business on Savile Row on January 30 filled that role. (We even hear from a grumpy businessman who wished they would keep the racket down.)

But The Beatles, who had Billy Preston on keys, could have affected any audience that day. They always did have the chemistry that could shake a crowd. Despite the rumors of a reunion that came five years later, fans would never see the likes of it again.

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