The Beatles’ Rooftop Concert, 45th Anniversary of Last Live Show Coincides with 50th Anniversary of Ed Sullivan Show Debut

Photo courtesy of The Beatles

One week ago, January 30th marked the 45th anniversary of The Beatles' last live show, a performance on the rooftop of the offices of Apple Corps, at 3 Saville Row, London. The concert was filmed by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg for inclusion in the film Let It Be. This week there was an excellent piece in Mojo Magazine, 20 Things You Need To Know About The Beatles’ Rooftop Concert.

"A live concert had been suggested as a way to end the film and so it was that on January 30 The Beatles ascended the stairs at Apple HQ to play live together for the very last time. What followed remains one of the all-time greatest moments in pop culture…"

A fabulous article. This Sunday February 9th, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles Ed Sullivan Show debut with a Grammy produced tribute concert on CBS-TV. It blows my mind to think about how much amazing music The Beatles created in the five years between these events that nicely bookend their performing career, at least for American audiences.

Watch below the rooftop concert portion of the Let It Be film. Legal problems have prevented this movie from being distributed on home video. According to Wikipedia, "The film has not been officially available since the 1980s, although original and bootleg copies of home video releases still circulate. The film's director Michael Lindsay-Hogg stated in 2011 that a DVD and Blu-ray was possibly going to be released sometime in 2013, but this was not likely given the film's negative (though accurate) portrayal of The Beatles."

The movie documents the dissolution of the Beatles and while it is somewhat painful to watch in spots, it is essential viewing for every Beatles' fan. The film ends with the rooftop concert, 22 minutes of joyful live performance, which was the last time The Beatles ever performed live. The video and setlist are courtesy of Trevor Cox on Youtube: Intro, Get Back, Don't Let Me Down, I've Got a Feeling, One After 909, Dig a Pony, and Get Back (version 2).

The Beatles Live At The BBC - The Collection

It's a great time right now for Beatlemaniacs. In addition to all the tributes and anniversaries, there have been several excellent and essential releases. First came the second volume of live BBC recordings, joined by a remastered version of the first volume, for a total of four CDs jam packed with live Beatles performances. For a complete description and to hear some tracks, The Beatles: On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2, Coming November 11th, Plus the Newly Remastered 1994 Release, Live At The BBC.

The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963

In December, Apple (the record label) released The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963, consisting of 59 tracks, all previously unreleased. There are 15 studio tracks, mostly alternate takes plus a few demos. There are 44 more BBC performances that were not included in the earlier BBC releases.

The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963 was only released as a download on iTunes, it does not exist on record or CD. This release was made to preserve copyright in Europe. These tracks were about to turn fifty years old and had they remained unreleased, they would have entered the public domain.

And finally, just a few weeks ago The Beatles - The U.S. Albums box set was released. Even though the songs have been available for years on CD, all the releases up to now have followed the original British configuration. These were the albums as the Beatles intended. In the U.S., Capitol Records carved up the British albums and added singles to create many more albums in America than were released in the U.K. This practice ended with Revolver; starting with Sgt Pepper, new albums were released the same in the U.S. as in England.

The Beatles eventually had their say on the matter when Capitol released the Beatles Yesterday and Today. For the cover, The Beatles posed wearing butchers' jackets, with raw meat and decapitated dolls; this came to be known as the butcher cover. The album was manufactured and a good many were already in stores ready for release day, when Capitol recalled the albums and slapped a new cover right on top, resulting in the most sought after Beatles collector's item; fans were steaming off the Yesterday and Today covers to see if the butcher cover was underneath.

The Butcher Cover

Regardless of the artistic damage that may have been inflicted on this canon of work by Capitol Records, the U.S. albums are what we grew up with, those configurations for better or worse are part of our wiring. The British albums, like Rubber Soul and Revolver never seemed right because although they had the same cover as in the U.S., the tracks were different.

To now have the U.S. albums on CD is glorious; I can't stop playing them. Although the Beatles' songs have long been available on CD, the film score tracks from the A Hard Days Night and Help! albums are being released on CD for the first time. Also new to CD is The Beatles' Story, a two LP documentary. The Yesterday and Today album comes with both covers, a nice touch.

Bonus Track: Sounding just as fresh and biting as when he wrote it in 1993, now is the perfect time to listen to John Wesley Harding - When The Beatles Hit America.

Bonus Video: The Beatles' rooftop concert inspired this awesome final scene from Across the Universe, the hugely inventive film directed by Julie Taymor. Read my full review of Across the Universe.

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