The Beatles’ rooftop concert, 3 Savile Row, London, January 30, 1969

They poke about the rooftop. John wears mink
And Paul a three-piece suit without a tie.
Lime trousers and black fur embellish George.
Ringo’s in ketchup-colored plastic mac.
Planks wobble slightly; tangled leads snake by;
But when at once they play, each subtle link
Of eye and voice intact, the currents forge
A separate space-time bubble with “Get Back.”

Below there gather men whose coats seem dark
From London air, and girls with Alice bands,
Sheet-water hair, and clothes like poster paint.
This racket’s spoiled one elderly woman’s nap;
The slouched ironic doorman understands.
Most praise the gig with a restrained remark.
A pleasure-loving priest has no complaint,
Grateful it’s free; but chewing on the strap

Of his peaked helmet, Constable Ray Dagg,
Nineteen, with studied flat impassive manner,
Must stop these notes, heart-opening, sweet and sour,
That tease the stony Cicero and Hume
In Burlington Gardens, bawl a new hosanna
Past the perfumery’s Gothic spire, play tag
Around a straight-faced, cell-packed office tower,
Diffusing to a hospital admin room

Where factual brisk adoption forms are signed.
A baby’s picked up from a nursery cot
And taken to his mother, their fine tether
Of eye and voice intact on this last day.
Elsewhere, the rooftop’s awed police are not
Aware that as the final notes unwind
The Beatles’ live performances together
Are done. Down narrow stairs all make their way.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 42 Number 4, on page 34
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