Woodstock: What If …?

Beatles at Woodstock

In 1969, nobody knew that the Woodstock music festival would be the defining cultural event of the era.  If we knew that in advance, some things may have been different.  For instance: what if the Beatles had played Woodstock?

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Beatles were nearing the end of the line.  Although no one else suspected it, the four Beatles may have realized the group’s demise was imminent.  And it is possible they were looking to say goodbye from the grandest stage of all.  They were filming a movie of their recording sessions and they wanted to play live, possibly as a climax to the documentary film, but no venue proved to be big enough for the world’s biggest band.  There were a lot of ideas involving exotic locations – an ocean liner, an outdoor amphitheater in Africa – but the boys wound up playing on the roof of Apple studios in January of that year.

What if the Beatles, always ahead of their time (if not ahead of themselves), recognized the significance of Woodstock and realized what a statement their appearance would make?  They were, after all, the gods of the counterculture and what better place to share a message of peace and love than from a stage in front of thousands?  Their mere presence at Woodstock would have guaranteed worldwide media attention, which the festival got anyway.

So … what would the Beatles have played?  Well, in 1969 they had a bagful of songs that eventually appeared on Abbey Road (released late that year) and Let It Be (1970).  It’s possible they would have kicked off a live set at Woodstock with “Get Back,” and they could have reprised some of the songs they did on the roof in January – “I’ve Got A Feeling,” “Don’t Let Me Down” and “One After 909.”  They could have done “Come Together,” or “Oh! Darling,” or George Harrison’s “Something” or “Here Comes The Sun.”

They could have extended the then-recently recorded “The End” (from Abbey Road) and performed the three-guitar jam along with a Ringo drum solo.  Then the song would have wowed the crowd with its ultimate 1960s lyric, “And in the end, the love you take/Is equal to the love you make.”

And what  “greatest hits” would the Beatles have performed?  Surely they might have played “Hey Jude” or “Nowhere Man.”  Certainly “I Saw Her Standing There,” or even “She Loves You.”  The perfect encore to a Beatles set at Woodstock would have been “All You Need Is Love,” with half a million people singing in unison.  What a message for the world, and what a way to sign off a decade that the Beatles virtually created and defined.  If only …

MP3: “Get Back” (first rooftop version)

MP3: “One After 909” (rooftop)

MP3: “Here Comes The Sun” (live, Concert for Bangladesh)

The Beatles official website



Woodstock Universe

CNN reports on the site of the Beatles rooftop concert, 40 years later

More stuff about the Beatles on the roof

One Response to “Woodstock: What If …?”

  1. 30daysout Says:

    They could also have done “Give Peace A Chance.”

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