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‘Get Back’: Beatles’ Rooftop Concert Finally Gets a Digital Release

“It’s 40 minutes, so it didn’t make any sense,” Giles Martin says of ‘Get Back: The Rooftop Performance.’ “But the response to Get Back has been so extraordinary”

Ethan A. Russell/Apple Corps

The audition is finally here. The Beatles’ famous farewell rooftop concert is finally getting its digital audio release.

Get Back: The Rooftop Performance will have the complete 40-minute gig, with new mixes in stereo & Dolby Atmos by Giles Martin and Sam Okell. It’s available for streaming at midnight ET on Friday, January 28 from Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe. This marks the first-ever release for the January 1969 roof show, in the wake of the Peter Jackson docuseries Get Back and the expanded Special Edition box of Let It Be.

“We wanted to put it on the box set,” Giles Martin tells Rolling Stone in an exclusive interview. “But it just took up too much real estate. It’s 40 minutes, so it didn’t make any sense. But the response to Get Back has been so extraordinary.”

Get Back: The Rooftop Performance debuts just in time for the show’s anniversary on January 30th, 1969, at the end of the sessions. The Beatles went up on the roof of their Apple headquarters in London, as crowds gathered in the streets below, until the show got shut down by the police. Three of the roof performances made it on to the finished Let It Be album: “I’ve Got a Feeling,” “Dig a Pony,” and “One After 909.” It turned out to be the last time the Beatles ever played live in public.

“I always thought the rooftop concert is better to be seen and listened to, rather than just listened to,” Martin says. But the rapturous acclaim for Get Back changed his mind. “There was such an overwhelming request: ‘Why don’t we have this?’ That’s why we did it. I think this is more of a historical document for fans. I’ve made it so fans can listen to everything I have, really. I cut off a bit at the end, which is basically just wind noise, and that’s it. I mixed the whole thing from start to finish in its entirety.”

On Sunday, January 30, there will be Get Back: The Rooftop Performance screening events in 80 IMAX theaters in the U.S. and U.K. The 60-minute screenings will happen simultaneously at 3 pm ET, starting with a Q&A with director Peter Jackson.

The weekend is full of celebrations of the concert’s anniversary. On Friday at 12pm ET, Norah Jones is releasing two rooftop tribute videos on her YouTube channel, doing “Let It Be” and “I’ve Got a Feeling,” filmed in December on top of the Empire State Building. The Beatles Channel on SiriusXM will air a special on the roof performance, hosted by Beatles historian Kevin Howlett, debuting on Friday at 11 am ET. On Saturday (9 am ET), Cirque du Soleil will also debut a tribute video, with “Get Back (LOVE Version),” from cast members from its Vegas show The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil.

In addition, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is announcing a new exhibit dedicated to the January 1969 sessions, The Beatles: Get Back to Let It Be, opening on March 18. It includes Ringo’s drum kit, John’s glasses, Paul’s handwritten lyrics for “I’ve Got a Feeling,” and George’s pink pinstripe suit, just one of his many iconic fits from the docuseries.

The full rooftop performance is included in Get Back. The Beatles and director Michael Lindsay-Hogg spent much of the sessions debating exotic locations for their live comeback: a cruise ship? A hospital? An orphanage? Out in Libya, in the middle of the desert? But they decided to just give it a go on the roof, braving the London winter. It famously ended with Paul giving a shout out to Ringo’s wildly applauding wife Maureen Starkey (“Thanks, Mo!”) and John quipping, “I hope we passed the audition.”

But the gig has a whole new mystique after Get Back, which captures the Fabs’ boyish excitement over playing for a crowd again—especially Paul McCartney, always the most gung-ho about the live experience. As Martin says, “I love when Paul jumps up and down on the plank, to see if it’s going to hold his weight. He comes across being as hard as nails. They’re all complaining about the cold, but he’s wearing less clothes than anyone else. He’d like to do a two-hour set—impervious to any temperature whatsoever.”

That raw enthusiasm comes through in the audio version—a tribute to George Martin and Glyn Johns. As Giles Martin says, “It’s a remarkable recording, really, when you think about the fact that it’s a windy rooftop in January. Glyn Johns is a great engineer. My dad’s pretty good. And the Beatles are playing a gig on a roof with no monitors or anything. It would’ve sounded crap to them up there. They couldn’t hear themselves. So when they went downstairs, you can see they’re surprised: ‘Wow, this is actually a good recording!’ They wouldn’t have heard any kick-drum on the roof—no low end.”

The spirit comes through, despite the technical and logistical challenges. It was so cold that John and Ringo had to borrow winter coats from Yoko and Maureen, with John muttering, “Hands too cold to play the chords.” “A last-minute thing as well,” Martin says. “That’s what I love about it. I love how people view the rooftop as some big event, but it’s just that they had nowhere else to go.”

So maybe it’s for the best the Beatles didn’t opt to play on a cruise ship? Martin shudders at that idea. “The cruise-ship tour,” he says. “They might still be on it.”

Track 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. “Jam/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)

From Rolling Stone US