October 23, 2012

Photos of The Beatles' Final Performance

In 1969, after 7 years of virtually unlimited popular and commercial success, George, Ringo, Paul and John found themselves at cross-purposes.

The death of the group's manager, Brian Epstein in 1967, had eliminated the one person who best mediated the group's disagreements and the four musicians, left to their own devices, set off in individual artistic directions and quarreled frequently.

In January of 1969, the group began a film project around the music that would comprise the album Let It Be.

Though the project originally envisioned a concert before a live audience, disagreement between the band members over the location and nature of the show led them instead to play on the roof over the Apple's headquarters in Savile Row.

On January 30, the group played five songs on the roof: "Get Back" (three times), "Don't Let me Down" (two times), "I've Got a Feeling" (two times) "One After 909" and "Dig a Pony".

The group was joined by Billy Preston on keyboards. He stands behind Paul in the rear of this photo.

As the group performed, startled Londoners stopped in the streets below the building to listen and clambered up onto nearby roofs to get a view of the show.

At the end of the performance John Lennon says, "I'd like to say 'thank you' on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition!" This comment was later spliced on to the end of the Let It Be album.

After the rooftop concert, the group temporarily shelved the Let It Be project, opting instead to record the songs that ultimately appeared on Abbey Road. During this time, their disagreements grew more heated and frequent. George, whose songwriting (much of it influenced by his interest in Indian mysticism) had matured in the years since Epstein's death, grew resentful of John and Paul, who gave their own compositions precedence and priority.

During recording sessions for The White Album, tension in the group had run so high that Ringo walked out. By 1969, he was pursuing other interests, like acting. In this photo, he is dressed as Youngman Grand for the film The Magic Christian.

On March 12, a few weeks after the rooftop concert, Paul married Linda Eastman. Paul's desire that the Beatles' business matters be handled by her father and brother created more stress on the group (the others preferred to let Allen Klein represent their business interests). He would be the first to acknowledge the band's break up, in an interview published in Life in November of 1969.

Married on March 20 (eight days after Paul and Linda) Lennon and Ono would increasingly become involved in each other's art. She began to attend the group's recording sessions (violating a long-held unwritten rule that wives and girlfriends be barred from the studio) and he would form the first solo Beatles project with her, naming the resulting collaboration, Plastic Ono Band.

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