Personalities | The Beatles | The Break-Up Years (1969) | Key Events
The Let It Be Sessions
After inconclusive discussions about playing a concert, The Beatles agreed instead to film rehearsals for a ‘back-to-basics’ album, with Michael Lindsay-Hogg who had directed their singles’ promos. But the tensions that had dogged The White Album quickly resurfaced and the atmosphere was as cold as the sound stage at the Twickenham Film Studios. John Lennon barely spoke except to row with George Harrison who was already smarting from what he saw as Paul McCartney’s patronizing attitude. The songs were in short supply and the playing was uninspired. Harrison walked out after a week and returned only after it was agreed to move the filming and recording to the band’s own studio at Apple’s HQ.
The soundtrack album to The Beatles’ full-length cartoon, released in mid-January, gathered up the four unreleased songs plus the title track and ‘All You Need is Love’. None of the other songs featured in the movie appeared. Instead, the second side of the album was filled with George Martin’s film score. The album got to No. 2 in the US and No. 3 in the UK, a respectable performance all things considered. To The Beatles themselves, however, it must have seemed like a distraction from a distant eon.
To diffuse the tensions within the band, American keyboard player Billy Preston, who had met The Beatles in 1962 playing with Little Richard and was visiting Apple to talk about a record deal, was hastily corralled into the resumed recording sessions. A lack of material had driven the band back to their beginnings to exhume songs like ‘One After 909’ and ‘Maggie Mae’. They also tried to rekindle the flame by jamming on old rock’n’roll favourites that Preston was familiar with. They recorded onto two four-track machines borrowed from the Abbey Road Studios as the 72-track console promised by John Lennon’s friend ‘Magic’ Alex had not materialized. He hadn’t even made provision for running cables between the studio and the control room.
The ‘Rooftop’ Concert
With director Michael Lindsay-Hogg facing an inconclusive film project without a live performance from The Beatles, a hasty decision was reached. On 30 January, with the Apple staff unaware of what was happening, the band’s equipment was set up on the roof of their Savile Row HQ. The Beatles played a 42-minute impromptu lunchtime concert watched by the film crew, friends, family and some lucky office workers in neighbouring buildings, but heard by many more in the streets below. Police from Savile Row Station arrived to stop the show but stonewalling tactics by the crew allowed The Beatles to finish their set, at which point John Lennon said, ‘I’d like to say “Thank you” on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we passed the audition’. It was the last public performance they would give together.
Having told music paper Melody Maker that The Beatles would be ‘broke in six months’ if Apple continued...
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