As Peter Jackson’s TV series Get Back recasts the Fab Four’s final days in a more positive light, the ex-Beatle remembers the responses to their historic gig above the streets of London
It’s lunchtime on a cold Thursday in January 1969. After weeks of sometimes difficult rehearsals and recordings, the Beatles and their new songs finally – and spectacularly – collide with the outside world. The occasion is now fixed in their iconography. On 30 January on the roof of 3 Savile Row, the London HQ of their company Apple, the four – joined by the US keyboard player Billy Preston – performed five songs: Get Back (three times), Don’t Let Me Down (twice), I’ve Got a Feeling (ditto), Dig a Pony and One After 909. They played with a tightness and confidence that belied the last-minute nature of events, while a sense of urgency and drama was provided by two police officers, determined to shut everything down.
This magical performance forms the finale of Get Back, Peter Jackson’s new three-part documentary series about the Beatles. Neither the band nor the people watching on the rooftop and down below are aware that this will be their last ever live performance. But for the viewer, that knowledge makes everything more compelling.