A Brief History of Secret Concerts

Not all gigs are announced in advance–at least not to the general public. Maybe it’s something that only insiders know about. Perhaps it’s the culmination of a contest. Or maybe no one knows about it and you just kind of stumble upon a really cool surprise. Heather Lang, one of the writers in the Citizen Edge program at 102.1 the Edge, put together this list of secret shows.

Jefferson Airplane

Manhattan Rooftop, 1968

Shouting  “Hello New York! New York, wake up you fuckers! Free music! New songs! Free love!”, Jefferson Airplane took over a Manhattan rooftop in Midtown to perform a loud, enthusiastic set filmed by Jean-Luc Godard and D.A. Pennebaker for an unfinished film One American Movie. New Yorkers were relatively unfazed and it wasn’t long until police were on scene to shut it down.

The Beatles

Rooftop, 3 Savile Row, 1969

Fittingly this final public performance by the Beatles became an historical trendsetter. One of the first secret shows by a hugely popular band the rooftop of the Apple Headquarters in Central London became the scene of 9 takes of 5 separate songs before police asked them to turn it down a notch worrying about noise and traffic. It was a bit of a confusion for locals before word got around what was actually happening and people poured out of buildings and onto neighboring rooftops. John Lennon was reported as finishing the set with “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and I hope we passed the audition.”

The Sex Pistols

River Thames, 1977

In 1977 The Queen celebrated her silver jubilee. An event feted across all of Britain. For theSex Pistols this seemed like the perfect opportunity to shake up the establishment. A boat was hired and the band’s set list included banned songs “God Save The Queen” and “Anarchy in the UK.” Unfortunately plenty of booze, drugs and loud music had the captain radioing for help. Arrests were made, a beating of the bands manager took place and the Sex Pistols were further attacked after media and pundits got their hands on the story.

See the rest of the list here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “A Brief History of Secret Concerts

  • July 28, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Aww Alan, what about the Pearl Jams? The best one yet in their history @ Third Man Records!


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