Beatles On The Roof: The Farewell Concert That Surprised The World book review

Excellent account of the Fab Four’s legendary 1969 rooftop gig

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On January 30, 1969, the four members of The Beatles, accompanied by Billy Preston, played together outdoors for the first time since 1966. There had been much discussion about a concert intended for a TV broadcast, which had the feeling of a reunion despite the band still being together, so estranged had they become. Suggestions for venues had included the Cavern, a Tunisian ampitheatre and, facetiously from John, Manila.

The Beatles’ story has been told countless times but Barrell’s account feels fresh and revealing. He is great on the runup to the gig, McCartney’s impatience at Lennon and Harrison’s apathy, dealing with the naïve money pit that was Apple, which McCartney tried to persuade Lord Beeching, dismantler of the railways, to take over. Mayfair is wonderfully depicted as an area under siege by rockers in the late 60s, including Hendrix and Hells Angels as well as The Beatles – never before, never again.