Ray Shayler was a 25-year-old constable when he was dispatched to a disturbance at 3 Savile Row, just 150 yards from the police station.
That disturbance was, of course, The Beatles’ final live concert ever, on the roof of their Apple Corps headquarters.
Shayler, now retired, looked back on the January 30, 1969, call in a recent interview with The Daily Mail. He recalled hearing the blaring music from his desk that afternoon. “And I thought to myself, that’s loud,” he said.
Alongside a younger colleague, Shayler set out to investigate, not yet aware of the history they were about to be part of.
The Beatles’ entire 42-minute performance, including intervention from the police, was captured by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg at the time and recut for Peter Jackson’s new documentary The Beatles: Get Back, which dropped this past weekend on Disney+.
Shayler and his fellow constable were initially refused access to the roof by Apple Corps employees. They were allowed upstairs only after explaining that other businesses on the street had complained about the noise.
Knowing that the Beatles’ racket would draw complaints, Lindsay-Hogg was prepared for a police intervention. While he was certain it would make for a great image in his film, he was uneasy about it, knowing that as an American, he could have easily been deported if things got out of hand.
Shayler admits that opening the door to the roof and seeing The Beatles playing up close and personal was “an interesting moment,” but he wasn’t too starstruck to allow them to keep it up for much longer.
“I wouldn’t say I was a fan – I didn’t like The Beatles much when they went a bit Hare Krishna,” he added, “but we had a few Beatles records and LPs at home; I liked their music. But when I got on the roof, I had a job to do and I thought, ‘Well, we’ve got to try and stop this.'”
The Beatles briefly regarded the two officers and then “carried on with what they were doing.”
Before cutting any cords, Shayler consulted with road manager Mal Evans, insisting that the band pull the plug.
“I told Mal that, much as I appreciated what they were doing it couldn’t happen any more as it was amounting to a breach of the peace.
“I asked how long it was going on for. He said, ‘One more record,’ so I said, ‘You might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb. Get on with that one and then it stops.’ It was a discussion; it never got heated,” he said.
When the set finished, John Lennon and George Harrison quickly skirted by the fuzz (both were on bail due to cannabis offenses). Shayler recalled Paul McCartney being “apologetic” while Ringo Starr laughed off the whole incident.
Ringo revealed later that part of him had hoped the cops would have dragged him away, noting that it would have made for a great scene in the film.
“I’m sorry we disappointed Ringo by not arresting him,” Shayler said,” but there was no intention of arresting anyone.”
Had the Beatles truly wanted to be dragged off the roof, Shayler said they would have had to have gotten “stroppy” or been “determined to carry on.”
“I always tried to resolve issues without arresting people.”
A few months after the rooftop concert, The Beatles latest single, “Get Back,” the last song of their rooftop performance, hit No. 1. Footage from the concert, including the officers’ arrival, was played on Top of the Pops for weeks.
Shayler told The Daily Mail that Apple kindly sent him DVDs of the new documentary. While he hasn’t watched it yet, he remembers seeing his appearance on screen in the initial Let It Be film.
“I don’t think I let myself down in the way I handled the situation, but I do look sort of severe,” he noted. “I blame the helmet.”