Fifty years ago today, on Jan. 30, 1969, The Beatles gave what would be their final concert. And on this special episode of All Songs Considered, we talk with someone who was there: Ken Mansfield wrote and just released a new book on this life-changing event called The Roof: The Beatles' Final Concert. Mansfield was the U.S. Manager for The Beatles' brand-new label, Apple Records at the time the unconventional and historic event took place on the Apple rooftop in the heart of London. The daytime concert delighted the fans who gathered below, angered some of the business folks who found the noise too unruly and mystified many. Everyone could hear the band down on the street, but no one could see The Beatles.
In fact, Ken Mansfield was one of just a few people who were actually allowed on the rooftop for that performance. It was mostly the film and sound crew documenting The Beatles for a movie that would be called Let It Be. This concert on the roof was to be the closing scene.
It was a tense time for The Beatles, having just completed a 30-song double album (the self-titled "White Album") and then jumping into making a film with hardly a break. But as Ken Mansfield says in our conversation, the performance made everyone forget everything, if only for a while. "John [Lennon] looked over at Paul [McCartney] and Paul looked over at John — and I saw this look on their face it was like, 'This is us. It doesn't matter what's going down and all the problems and everything that's happening, this is who we are. We're mates. We've been together for so many years, we've been through things no body else has experienced. We are a good rock and roll band and that's what we are and that's what we're doing right now.' And you look at that performance, and man, they started having a good time, like a live show. John's throwing out these one-liners and they're just rocking out."