"F**k it – let's go do it": On this day in 1969, John Lennon gave the final green light to The Beatles' legendary rooftop performance

The Beatles on the rooftop
(Image credit: Getty Images/Evening Standard)

It's a story you already know, the minutiae of which have long been sifted by Beatle-ologists and more recently exhaustively exposed in Peter Jackson's epic 2021 Get Back reworking of the original Let it Be footage. But until the last minute, no one was even sure if it would happen.

Let it Be director Michael Lindsay-Hogg recalled that some of the band, already reluctant, were seriously considering nixing the Beatles' now-legendary rooftop gig at the last minute, despite preparations being in place.

Moments before the band was due to start, The Beatles huddled together inside the door to the rooftop of the Savile Row HQ of Apple Corp. 

“George didn’t want to do it," says Lindsay-Hogg, "and Ringo started saying he didn’t really see the point"

“Then John said, ‘Oh, fuck it — let’s go do it.'”

The resulting performance - The Beatles' first live appearance for two years, as well as their iconic last - consisted of nine takes of just five songs, including probably the earliest complete Lennon-McCartney composition, One after 909 (“It’s not a great song,” McCartney said later, "but it’s a great favourite of mine because it has great memories for me of John and I trying to write a bluesy freight-train song.”)

The complete Beatles' rooftop set-list

  1. "Get Back" (Take 1) 
  2. "Get Back" (Take 2) 
  3. "Don't Let Me Down" (Take 1)
  4. "I've Got a Feeling" (Take 1)
  5. "One After 909" 
  6. "Dig a Pony" 
  7. "God Save the Queen" 
  8. "I've Got a Feeling" (Take 2)
  9. "Don't Let Me Down" (Take 2)
  10. "Get Back" (Take 3)

Of course, the concert was eventually cut short by a pair of fairly reluctant policemen, much to the satisfaction of some  - "It’s a bit of an imposition to absolutely disrupt all the business in this area" said one disgruntled vox popper. 

One Apple employee recalls a fair warning from the police, however: "Before the raid, someone called from the Savile Row police station saying, ‘You’ve got 10 minutes.' So we knew they were coming and everyone was ready for it... there was a whole chorus of toilets being flushed.” 

But what else could have been on the set-list, had the law not intervened? We'll never know, but some eagle-eyed fans have spotted unused instruments, including an extra keyboard and Lennon's lap-steel, leading to speculation that Old Brown Shoe and For You Blue may have been due an outing.

If you haven't already, you really should immerse yourself in the full story and performance, brilliantly brought to life in Get Back, available on Disney+.

Will Groves

I'm lucky enough to be MusicRadar's Editor-in-chief while being, by some considerable distance, the least proficient musician on the editorial team. An undeniably ropey but occasionally enthusiastic drummer, I've worked on the world's greatest music making website in one capacity or another since its launch in 2007. I hope you enjoy the site - we do.