We’re celebrating 50 years since the last ever Beatles gig atop a rooftop in Savile Row with our Beatles rooftop gear guide. Our resident Beatles aficionado, Luke Woolhouse shows us the gear the Fab Four used and the modern-day equivalents
30th January, 1969 – it was a brisk winter’s day in London when The Beatles hit the rooftop of Apple Corps Ltd at 3 Savile Row, performing together in public for the very last time.
Performing now legendary songs Get Back, Don’t Let Me Down, I’ve Got a Feeling, One After 909 and Dig a Pony – the Fab Four gave us an unforgettable and historical event, a real iconic occasion for pop culture, rock and roll and the 20th Century as a whole.
It was captured on the documentary film “Let It Be”, which saw The Beatles collectively winning an Academy Award for Best Original Score and gave Fab Four fans who weren’t lucky enough to be walking through Mayfair, central London that day the chance to experience this monumental performance.
In celebration of the 50 years since the Beatles took that trip to the rooftop, Luke Woolhouse, our resident Beatles superfan and online merchandiser, has put together our Beatles Rooftop gear guide to show us what they used back then, and the instruments you can buy today which will give you the same (or close enough to) sound.
Here's a look at the gig:
What gear did Paul McCartney play on the rooftop?
Paul, as ever, was accompanied by his trusty Hofner 500/1 Violin Bass. Unique and instantly recognisable, the violin bass has become somewhat of a musical celebrity itself.
If ever there was a bass guitar that could be referred to as the Beatle Bass, this is it, and Paul was seen using it at the Beatles Rooftop gig.
Available now, is the Hofner Contemporary Violin Bass.
This is available on Special Order so contact us today to order yours.
Although extremely similar by most counts, McCartney’s original is fully hollow bodied while the contemporary version features a centre block. The addition of a spruce centre block reduces feedback issues while increasing sustain so you can get classic tone while being able to handle more modern styles of music.
The electronics are all made in Germany too, so you get authentic Paul McCartney bass tone. There's also a more budget friendly version called the Hofner Ignition Series Violin Bass Sunburst.
To get his sound out to the people of London, Paul plugged into a Fender Bassman amp – you can even see the “BASSMAN” sticker that came with his amp adorning his Hofner Violin Bass during the rooftop performance.
Another great way of getting that old school Paul McCartney sound is to fit your bass with Rotosound Tru Bass 88 strings; the exact bass guitar strings Paul used during the rooftop performance.
What gear did John Lennon play on the rooftop?
The guitar John Lennon used on the roof of Apple Corps headquarters was his trusty Epiphone Casino.
Originally boasting a sunburst finish, Lennon sanded the Epiphone Casino down, removing the finish and exposing the natural wood of the body.
Used by The Beatles at the height of their fame, they could surely have chosen any guitar on the market, so the Epiphone Casino being used by them on their records and on stage is testament to the incredible performance this guitar offers.
John plugged his guitar into his trusty Fender Twin Reverb guitar amp which was boasted the eye-catching, late ‘60s “silverface” look.
Check out the Fender ’68 Custom Twin Reverb combo amp below.
What gear did George Harrison play on the rooftop?
Musicians and savvy Beatles aficionados alike had their eyes drawn, not just to the fabulous winter coats the Liverpool boys wore to fend off the London winds, but the new Fender Telecaster that Harrison performed on, drawing attention to itself with its distinctive all Rosewood body and unique tone.
Designed especially for George Harrison by renowned luthier Roger Rossmeisl, this Beatles guitar was used extensively throughout the Get Back sessions.
Although Fender did release a replica of this beautifully unique guitar in 2017, the Fender George Harrison Rosewood Telecaster sold out pretty much instantly.
As one of the most popular guitars in history however, the Telecaster has been in production in one form of another since it was first released in the autumn of 1950.
More recent iterations of the Telecaster include the fantastic examples found in the new Fender Player series.
Of course, George was famous for playing other guitars too, and it’s now possible to pick up the Gretsch G6128T-GH; a tribute to George and his original 1957 Gretsch Duo Jet. This is limited edition, so if you can't get your hands on that, we also recommend the full range of Gretsch Duo Jet Guitars.
Like his bandmate John, George also plugged his guitar into a Silverface Twin Reverb to get that sparkling sound out to the gathering London crowds.
What gear did Ringo Starr use on the rooftop?
Ringo, of course, was accompanied by a trusty Ludwig drum kit. On this occasion, he took up his new Ludwig Hollywood maple five-piece kit and a three-cymbal setup instead of his usual set of two.
While the Ludwig drum company started out in 1909, they really took the drum world by storm in the 1960s when Ringo Starr flew around the globe with the Fab Four providing the back bone for the music that fuelled Beatlemania.
Today, you can get that classic sound from shell packs like the Ludwig Classic FAB 3-piece configuration.
Combining beautifully crafted shells and Ludwig’s own proprietary RSFT process, the Classic Maple FAB drum shells offer excellent sound and reliability.
What gear did Billy Preston use on the rooftop?
No talk of the famous Beatles Rooftop Concert would be complete without mentioning Billy Preston.
While Preston, along with a select few others, is often referred to by fans as “the Fifth Beatle”, he actually nearly became the official fifth Beatle!
During the Get Back sessions, Lennon suggested the idea of bringing on Billy Preston as the fifth Beatle but ultimately it was decided that The Beatles had a difficult enough time coming to agreements with just the four of them.
When they hit the rooftop of Apple HQ, Billy took with him the band’s Fender-Rhode Seventy-Three electric piano.
Much like the Liverpool boys themselves, Billy Preston had clear influences from rock ‘n’ roll musicians of the past while pushing boundaries in his own right giving him his own unique style.
If he were still with us today, I’m sure the world would love to know what great performances Billy could give us with more modern electric pianos such as the Nord Stage 3.
Featuring heavily on songs such as Don’t Let Me Down and Get Back, the rooftop concert just wouldn’t have been the same without Preston’s tickling of the keys.
Keys players that love The Beatles will certainly be interested in the Korg Liverpool professional arranger.
This fantastic arranger keyboard has 100 classic Lennon and McCartney songs built into it and it automatically provides musical accompaniment to your playing to match the original song.
How to Get the Beatles Sound
While that just about wraps up the instruments The Beatles used on the rooftop, there are a few other things we would be remiss not to mention when discussing how to get the Beatles sound.
What guitars did the Beatles use?
One fantastic guitar that is synonymous with The Beatles is the Gibson J-160E. Used during Lennon’s “Bed-In” days and the only instrument to have been used on every single Beatles album from Please Please Me to Abbey Road, this one is definitely a “Beatles guitar”.
The Beatles were also extremely fond of Rickenbacker instruments with guitars such as the Rickenbacker 325 and Rickenbacker 360 12-string featuring prominently on many records, providing that distinctively Beatles-esque jangly tone that is unique to Rickenbacker guitars.
A fantastic tribute to the Beatles’ use of Rickenbacker guitars can be found in the Rickenbacker 350V63 Liverpool model.
Going into the latter part of The Beatles’ career, Paul would often be seen wielding a Rickenbacker 4001S bass which took on an interesting custom paintjob.
Available today, you have incredible bass guitars such as the Rickenbacker 4003S in Fireglo offering up that classic look and sound.
What amps did the Beatles use?
While they used the Twin Reverb quite extensively in the latter part of their career, there is no amp more synonymous with The Beatles than the Vox AC30.
Fuelling the fire that took America by storm, the AC30 was a major part of the British Invasion and was seen on stage with The Beatles at many of their concerts.
Today, Vox offer some great amps that deliver that amazing sound.
The AC30C2 is an awesome standard that more than delivers on that sought after ‘60s sound.
If you want to go all out though, you should check out the Vox AC30HW60; a limited edition, 60th anniversary edition of the AC30.
It features vintage style components and is hand wired, delivering the ultimate recreation of the original ‘60s tone.
Alternatively, you can opt for the ultimate “old meets new” technology by checking out the Vox Mini Superbeetle 50W guitar amp.
Using incredible NuTube technology, the Superbeetle gets awesome valve sound from a surprisingly small amp.
If you’re more of a “behind the glass” kind of artist that focuses more on the recording and production aspects of music then these software packages are a must have.
Included in Arturia’s 3 Preamps You’ll Actually Use, you’ll find an assortment of fantastic plugins, most notable of which (for Beatles fans at least) is the V76-Pre.
The original V76 made use of German engineered, tube-driven preamps and when the engineers at Abbey Road Studios used it, they fell in love, integrating with their REDD mixing console.
It was then used on The Beatles’ White Album and became one of the most sought-after pieces of gear in the world. Nigh on impossible to find nowadays, you can wield the power of the V76 with this great software.
You’ll also love the Waves Abbey Road Reverb Plates. Featuring a precise modelling of Abbey Road’s reverb plates, this software allows you get the incredible reverb sound heard on famous records by The Beatles and many more acts that recorded in Abbey Road Studios throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Want more Beatles gear guides? Check out our Beatles Sgt. Peppers gear guide.
We hope you enjoyed our Beatles Rooftop Concert gear guide!