The Beatles‘ last public performance, on the roof of 3 Savile Row on January 30, 1969, has become iconic since being included in the Let It Be film, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are the latest to pay homage to the Beatles’ performance, in the Marc Klasfeld-helmed video for “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie.” It takes more than just a rooftop and a PA to make a truly iconic rooftop performance, and five have stood above the rest; we’ve listed them chronologically. Check them out, and let us know in the comments if you think Kiedis and co. measure up!
1987: U2, “Where The Streets Have No Name”
U2 were deep in Beatle-appreciation mode when they shot the video for “Where The Streets Have No Name” on a roof in Los Angeles, at the corner of Seventh and Main, which a radio announcer in the video describes as “not one of your more fun neighborhoods.” (Oh, 1987.) The video is a pretty direct homage, down to the shots of police trying to shut the performance down, though Bono looks less like a Lennon and more like an Eddie Vedder style icon. On U2’s tour that same year, the band covered “Helter Skelter,” which Bono introduced, (as heard on live album Rattle and Hum,) “This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles. We’re stealing it back.”
1993: The Be Sharps, “Baby On Board”
This Simpsons parody, from the episode “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet,” got the blessing of at least one-third of the living Beatles: George Harrison voices his animated self, passing the quartet’s performance on the roof of Moe’s Tavern in a limousine and remarking, “It’s been done.”
1995: Coyote Shivers Featuring Reneé Zellweger, “Sugarhigh”
Seven years before her Academy Award nomination for her performance as Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago, Reneé Zellweger played lowly record-store clerk and wannabe lead singer Gina in Allan Moyle‘s Empire Records. Like all Moyle films (e.g. 1980’s critically panned punk fairytale Times Square and 1990 sleeper hit Pump Up the Volume) Empire Records was a mishmash of teen issues, pop nostalgia, and rock music, so it’s only fitting that, near the end of the film, a rooftop performance is staged to save the record store.
2003: Alien Ant Farm, “These Days”
A number of VMA performances have been held on rooftops—most notably My Chemical Romance‘s “Welcome To The Black Parade” atop Rockefeller Center during the 2006 pre-show—but the closest to an award-show Beatles homage was actually the Alien Ant Farm music video for “These Days.” The band, till then best known for their cover of “Smooth Criminal,” filmed the video guerrilla-style on a rooftop above the red carpet at the 2003 BET Awards. We’re not sure how staged this was, but from the moment Murphy Lee looks up in bemusement midway through an interview, we don’t really care. (If they’d annoyed the crowd we’d have taken exception, but they seem not to have.)
2009: Paul McCartney, “Get Back (Live On Late Night With David Letterman“
Does it count as an homage if you were one of the originators? In July of 2009 Paul McCartney and his band played a 22-minute surprise mini-set from atop the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater for the Late Show With David Letterman. The intended main attraction was his then-new single “Sing The Changes,” but the set not accidentally kicked off the same way the 1969 Beatles set had—with “Get Back.” A year later, Jay-Z planned to repeat this spectacle with Eminem, but the performance had to be relocated at the last minute to the roof of the theater, when NYPD nixed the performance, citing crowd-control concerns after a Drake set scheduled at South Street Seaport eleven days earlier turned into a near-riot. We doubt Jay-Z thanked Drake later.