Just recently was the 50th anniversary of what turned out to be the final performance of the Beatles. On January 3oth 1969, The Beatles went up on the rooftop of the headquarters of Apple Records in central London and played an impromptu gig. At the time, The Beatles were recording their album, Let It Be, and the rooftop show let them run through various tracks from those sessions. Songs played during the set include “Get Back,” where the Beatles were accompanied by Billy Preston on the keyboards, and “Don’t Let Me Down” (see the video below), “I’ve Got A Feeling,” “One After 909,” “Danny Boy,” “Dig A Pony” and finally, another version of “Get Back.” The performance ends with the police shutting down the show due to noise and John Lennon uttering the immortal words, “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.” Luckily, film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg (who also worked with The Rolling Stones) captured the performance as well as the reactions of people on the street.
The Beatles – Don’t Let Me Down
Not as well known was a brief rooftop performance by the Jefferson Airplane in New York City roughly two months before The Beatles. On Tuesday, Nov. 19, 1968, the Airplane had agreed to participate in a work-in-progress by the radical French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, tentatively titled One A.M. (for One American Movie). As they’d often staged free concerts in their hometown of San Francisco, as well as in New York, the Airplane and Godard decided to set up their equipment on the roof of the condemned, nine-story Schuyler Hotel, at 57 W. 45th Street near Times Square. Needless to say, they didn’t bother securing a film permit and the band only has the opportunity to play one song before being shut down. The performance of that one song however is epic. The song is “House at Pooneil Corners,” a post-apocalyptic song from their recently released fourth studio album, Crown of Creation. Written by singer Marty Balin and rhythm guitarist/vocalist Paul Kantner as a sequel to the earlier “The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil,” the song showcases the band at it’s peak with each of the singers (Grace Slick, Balin and Kantner) weavuing lines around each other and the instrumentalists—lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, bassist Jack Casady and drummer Spencer Dryden, with Kantner on rhythm guitar, displaying a fierce intensity.
Jefferson Airplane – House at Pooneil Corners (In a New York roof 1968)