This week instead of focussing on the long career of an artist, we’re going to turn our attention to some very concrete temporal space coordinates: those of the morning of January 30, 1969 on the roof of #3 Avile Road in London. This would be where the Beatles would play their first gig in years, and even more significant, the last of their career.
For the 22 minutes of the original recording we can continually see the gear they used to make those songs sound the way they did and that formed part of the pop culture of the 20th century.
Both George Harrison and John Lennon are using what at the time would have been brand new Fender Twin Reverb Silverfaces. The palpable difference of tone between one Beatle and the other results from the big difference in the sounds of their respective guitars.
Lennon has his Epiphone Casino (natural colour) draped over his shoulder. It seems that he had the original finishing in sunburst changed looking for a better tone without much paint and varnish, and and we can see it in this nakedness howling and cracking the Twin thanks to the P90s on this rooftop gig.
On the other hand, the finest sound in the recording is heard from Harrison who is plugged into his Fender Silverface, an authentically rare guitar which Fender luthiers, Roger Rossmeisl and Philip Kubicki had made for him a year before and which no one knew anything about at the time. The guitar was a Fender Telecaster made completely out of rosewood, and it is known as the Fender Rosewood Telecaster. Harrison decided to use it that day on the roof and it became an object of desire for collectors from half the world. For Harrison that concert was a spectacle that he didn’t even want to do given the sore feelings among the band members and especially the cold temperatures that January in London capable of taking away any desire to play outside for anyone, but even still he left that punk gesture for posterity when he turned on his Twin Reverb once things started getting ugly with the police. Total Rock & Roll attitude!
On the left of the stage we have our beloved Sir Paul McCartney and his inseparable Höfner 500/1 jacked into what appears to be a new Fender Bassman Silverface head with a Fender cabinet from the same era. We don’t know if the head has more valves than the ever-powerful singer’s voice in the show. It’s incredible to hear his vocal chords sounding very ‘hot’.
And let’s not forget about what Ringo Starr used for this concert, even though his instrument is far from our orbit, his drum kit Ludwig Hollywood Maple which is resting today in the Grammy museum, we hope next to the red coat that lit up that gig which he borrowed from his wife because of the bitter cold that morning and which became one of his most remembered ‘outfits’ with the Beatles.
To finish up, and not leave anything in the inkwell, we must clarify that although there were just a few shots on the original tape, there was a 5th Beatle on the roof that day, Mr. Billy Preston, with what we suppose was his Fender Rhodes plugged into (we’re sure) another Fender Twin Reverb Silverface, that’s why we can see 3 of these amps onstage during the entire show.
So that is practically all the gear and musical instruments that was on that roof. The rest was pure talent... One, two, three, four Get Back Jo!