The Beatles famous rooftop gig nearly happened in the ruins of a Roman city in Libya

27 September 2021, 13:48 | Updated: 15 January 2024, 11:14

The Beatles on the rooftop in Sabratha, Libya
The Beatles on the rooftop in Sabratha, Libya. Picture: Getty

By Mayer Nissim

Did you know that The Beatles' final performance on the Apple Corps HQ rooftop nearly took place in Libya?

The Beatles quit touring in the summer of 1966 to focus on recording in the studio, but they had one final, special live performance before they eventually broke up.

While recording the album that would eventually become Let It Be, the band were planning a special one-off TV special performance, which ended up being their impromptu final gig on the roof of Apple Corps headquarters at 3 Savile Row in London.

But before they ended up taking the amps and guitars up the stairs, there had been plans to book a more conventional show in venues like The Roundhouse in Camden, the Royal Albert Hall, or the Tate gallery.

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There was even talk of a gig at an orphanage or Houses of Parliament, or a special show for dogs (really).

Let It Be filmaker Michael Lindsay-Hogg apparently was pushing hard for the band to take a cruise ship to Libya and play in the ruins of amphitheatre in Sabratha, an ancient Roman city in Libya.

Journalist John Harris, who has compiled and edited the upcoming Beatles Get Back, drawn from transcripts, audio and video of the band during the sessions, revealed in The Guardian that John Lennon was especially enthusiastic about the idea.

Paul McCartney was also up for it, saying: "It does make it like an adventure, doesn't it?"

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But while Ringo Starr didn't say no, George Harrison dismissed the "very expensive and insane" idea, adding that he didn't want to be "stuck with a bloody big boatload of people for two weeks".

The band eventually nixed the idea of a TV special, and in the end the Fab Four, joined by Billy Preston, played that final show on Thursday, January 30, 1969.

Released on October 12, the Get Back book is just part of a special series of Let It Be projects due for release this autumn.

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The album itself has been remastered and remixed and packed with outtakes and other bonus tracks for a special deluxe edition re-release on October 15.

And Lord of the Rings filmmaker Peter Jackson's six-hour Get Back documentary series will air over three nights on Disney+ from November 25-27.

Meanwhile, McCartney releases his own two-volume "lyrics memoir" The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present on November 2.