The Beatles on the Rooftop & all that ~ A Celebration of Innocence, Incompetence and the Open Air


Last Friday marked the 40th anniversary of the no-longer mop-topped, but altogether shaggier and fragmenting, Fab Four playing together in public for the very last time. On a chilly Apple rooftop in Savile Row they play for 42 minutes with Lennon famously quipping that “I hope we passed the audition”.

This provides a very nice contrast with the theme of this particular blog. Far from being your last public performance, one of the very first things that any band does upon forming is to take the gear somewhere outdoors, set up and play, or at least have a few photos taken. I am not talking of festivals here. I am talking of playing on landscape, without a stage, and invariably, without an audience.

It happened to me. No sooner had I got a drum kit at the age of fourteen than I couldn’t wait to set them up in the back garden. I suppose this affliction is something one grows out of with maturing years. Or is it? The prompt for highlighting this little nugget of band lore is not the Beatles performance, but the following amazing clip sent to me by my good friend Donnie Schnook from Portland, Oregon. Where or how he found it I do not know, but it wonderfully captures the moment, soon after the Big Bang of any bunch of teenagers who have ever taken up the instruments and had a bash at Louie Louie, Waiting for the Man or House of the Rising Sun. Never heard of the Wayds till this morning, but they have a website and it seems that even as they approach pensionable age they haven’t improved a great deal but still can’t resist setting up in the open air (good for them, I say).

Exhibit B, your honour. A perfect excuse to broadcast this gem, this nugget of absolute genius from punk legend (and the term is not used loosely in this instance) Johnny Moped. This is when music is FUN. No arguments over who can or cannot play, you’re all just as useless as each other and it doesn’t matter. No discussion as to what direction you should be taking. That all comes later. For the moment just plug in and play, get the singer in a funny outfit and get someone to film it. The credits state that two kids were paid sixpence to watch! Score an extra point for spotting Moped’s pal Ray Burns aka Captain Sensible.

Johnny Moped live in the Back Garden 1974

Here’s another clip of four young men, who have achieved a degree of competence but have reached the stage where direction is becoming an issue. The youthful urge to set the gear up in an open field and dress up in silly costumes remains intact.

I jest. I didn’t mean this to be a Beatlesfest but it does seem that John, Paul, George and Ringo just couldn’t resist the urge to pit their instruments against the elements. Here’s Another Girl on rocks against an ocean backdrop. I Need You, also from Help, was filmed in an open field. Do all bands take their lead from them or is the alfresco urge something within us all, pre-programmed?

For my final clip, Edison Lighthouse prove that the steps of a very large building with a backdrop of doric columns will do just as nicely. The fact that they’re miming to one of the very greatest pop songs, if not the greatest, of all time is just dandy.


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