You never know who you might meet on 30A!
Last summer, I was doing a book signing at The Hidden Lantern Bookstore and someone mentioned, “You know, you should meet Ken Mansfield. He’s also a Christian speaker and a local author.” I remember thinking, “I bet we’ve got a lot in common.” So, we arranged to meet for lunch. Little did I know, he was the Grammy Award-winning, former U.S. manager of the Beatles’ Apple Records! (So much for having a lot in common). Recently, I had the great honor of sitting down with Ken to discuss his seventh published book entitled The Roof: The Beatles’ Final Concert.
On January 30, 1969, Ken Mansfield was there! He was on the roof as an eyewitness to one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s most significant events - the Beatles’ last live performance together. Sitting beside Yoko Ono and Ringo Starr’s first wife, Maureen Starkey, on the rooftop of Apple’s headquarters (located at 3 Savile Row in the ritzy Mayfair district in central London), Ken stands out in the iconic photographs taken on that day because he is the only one wearing a white coat. Here is a portion of our conversation:
Ken, congratulations on your new book! It has now been five decades since that cold Thursday afternoon when you were privileged to be among a handful of witnesses as the Beatles performed their legendary final concert.
Q: What was it like working with the Beatles and witnessing one of the most monumental events in Rock ‘n’ Roll history?
A: In worldly terms, my story is about “a lucky man who made the grade.” I happened to be in the right place at the right time. As the U.S. Manager of Apple, I was invited into the Let It Be sessions to experience Rock ‘n’ Roll history in the making. I was blown away by being one of only two people in the studio besides the Beatles and Yoko Ono. I never realized how good the Beatles were until I was in the Apple basement studio with the other person, my old friend Billy Preston, watching them play their instruments and seeing their creative process unfold before me. Being on the rooftop for the Beatles' final performance was certainly the high point of my music industry career.
Q: What is something that Beatles fans might be surprised to learn about that legendary rooftop concert?
A: Their common down-to-earth manner and how they never made you feel inferior just because they were a Beatle and you weren’t. They were very loyal to old friendships and those people they had history with. There was always a deep sense of camaraderie that surrounded them and the people working with them. They stirred a sense of dedication inside you without ever requesting it. I felt privileged to be a part of their world and wanted to respect that. I was so amazed at how normal and easy it was to be with, and work for, these four guys. The Beatles was a giant superstar group, while they were simply themselves.
Q: What inspired you to write The Roof?
A: As the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ final performance began coming into focus, I was overwhelmed with requests to share my words, thoughts, feelings and impressions of that historical day. I was privileged to be on the scene in the days, weeks, and months leading up to this monumental event. I am one of the few remaining people who went up there with the Beatles and Apple mates that day and can uniquely describe the event and the emotions we shared. I not only wanted to share all the intricate pieces that came together that day, but I felt an obligation to include a firsthand experience feel of the event for the loyal legions of faithful fans, friends and followers who had made Apple and the Beatles an integral part of their lives for so many years.
Q: What was the mood of the band at that time?
A: In hindsight, the band was clearly burned out having just completed the massive thirty-song White Album in addition to a single featuring “Hey Jude” and “Revolution.”
Those sessions were filled with internal strife and strained relations among the group. Now, fewer than three months later, they were being asked to go to the well once more to deliver yet another album and a documentary feature film to boot.
Q: Why did the Beatles choose this particular location for their last live performance together?
A: In short, it was a last-minute solution to getting live footage for the Let It Be film.
It is interesting to note that the Beatles had not played together live since appearing at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966 (885 days prior). The Beatles wanted what every famous performing band wants when it’s over, and that is to go out on top. I love the way John Lennon famously (and humbly) ended the Beatles’ final live performance: “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.”
In addition to working with the Beatles, Ken Mansfield was a high-ranking executive at Capitol Records, MGM Records and Barnaby/CBS Records, working with such notable performers as James Taylor, Roy Orbison, Judy Garland, Willie Nelson, David Cassidy, Don Ho, Eric Burdon, Badfinger, Jessi Colter and Andy Williams.
As a record producer in the 1970s, he was instrumental in spearheading country music’s “Outlaw” movement by producing Waylon Jennings’ number-one album Are You Ready for the Country and Jessi Colter’s number one single I’m Not Lisa.
In 1991, Ken produced the Gaither Vocal Band’s Grammy and Dove Award-winning album Homecoming. In 2000, he penned his first book entitled The Beatles, The Bible and Bodega Bay. Amazingly, this was the only book officially approved by the Beatles outside their own Anthology.
Ken now lives, loves, and writes on the beautiful Florida gulf coast with his wife Connie.
If you are at all interested in the Beatles, the 60s, the music industry or how someone can go from being "on top of the world working with John, Paul, George and Ringo" to becoming a Christian speaker who wholeheartedly embraces the teachings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John --- you really should buy and read this book!
It is a masterpiece of Rock ‘n’ Roll history and is sure to become one of the most important and informative books about the final days of the greatest rock band of all time.
The Roof: The Beatle’s Final Concert is now available on Amazon.com