Tony Barrell deep dives into The Beatles’ infamous 1969 rooftop performance in his book ‘The Beatles on the Roof’

Get the latest from Beat

Tony Barrell deep dives into The Beatles’ infamous 1969 rooftop performance in his book ‘The Beatles on the Roof’


How much can be said about The Beatles’ infamous 1969 rooftop performance? A whole novel’s worth, according to Tony Barrell. The Beatles on the Roof explores the band’s final live performance in elaborate detail, sifting through not only the components which made up the concert itself, but the many factors which contributed to the pop legends finding themselves perched atop the Apple rooftop that fateful day.

If you’re not an avid music history or Beatles fan, this book has the potential to bore. Although the novel is coloured with anecdotes and retellings from those who worked closely with The Beatles at the time, overall the novel is predominately fact-driven and takes a historical approach, which can come off as dry. Dense chunks of information appear clunky at times and infrequently break the flow of the story, though as a whole Barrell has managed to fill the pages with a level of emotion and honesty that is compelling and adds sentimental value to the story.

At only four chapters in length, the novel is a quick read, though it touches on a vast range of factors one wouldn’t have considered to have had any relation to The Beatles’ break up. Elements such as the intimate details of John and Yoko’s relationship and their increasing experimentation with drugs, tension between the band members and the inner workings of their company, Apple, all come together to paint a well-researched, big-picture understanding of the event.

The book succeeds in bringing a great deal of new information to light, which is no easy feat for a biography of one of the world’s most famous bands. Additionally, the approach of focusing the story on the band’s rooftop performance and weaving contextual detail into that foundation is a fresh take on a band that have had countless books dedicated to telling their story. The Beatles on the Roof certainly won’t suit everyone’s taste, though Barrell’s emotional connection to The Beatles’ rooftop performance adds the perfect finishing touch to the highly informative and well-researched piece of writing and is something that will resonate with any reader.