The famous band had a strange time during one of their visits abroad. Here's the day the Beatles had to flee for insulting a country's first lady.
In the sixties, these four guys conquered the world with their romantic rock and roll melodies. They all shared the same mod hairstyle and wore similar suits, yet they each had a unique, charismatic, and rebellious personality. By playing in seedy pubs in Hamburg, Germany, they honed their skills and widened their reputation, and it wouldn't be long before they signed their first record deal. Who would have thought this group would become one of the most iconic bands of all time, setting the highest selling records of the sixties' music charts. From their famous gigs at The Cavern to playing before thousand of fans worldwide, The Beatles were considered and treated like gods.
By 1966, John, Paul, George, and Ringo were enjoying the sweet fruits of stardom, but behind closed doors what seemed to be a dream life was tiring them. It's widely known that they were harassed everywhere they went and sometimes during their concerts they would just pretend to be playing because the screaming was so loud their instruments wouldn't be heard. Perhaps the most bizarre symptom of Beatlemania was incontinence, apparently their concerts were said to smell heavily of urine due to overexcited fans.
A line had been drawn and passed long ago. Enough was enough. They decided to stop doing live shows and focus instead on their albums. First however they had to complete their tours in Germany, Japan, the Philippines, and the US.
“No plane’s going to go through the Philippines with me on it. I wouldn’t even fly over it.” –John Lennon
From the start the tour was tinged with controversy. Many in Japan were reluctant to receive this British rock and roll band of rebellious young men, since they were in a period of bringing back their roots as a country. Moreover, the venue where they would play was the Nippon Budokan, an arena built for martial arts competitions.
Many thought it was very disrespectful to Japanese traditions to have Western musicians playing there, and radical nationalists even sent death threats to these young kids from Liverpool. Despite the insane use of security and how brief the shows were, Japanese fans were satisfied with what was later called “The Beatles Typhoon.”
“As we were leaving the hotel, everyone was a bit nasty at reception, so we had to scuffle out as if we hadn't paid our bill.” –Paul McCartney
Happy with their Japanese experience, the FabFour set off to Manila and to their worst nightmare. Since the moment they arrived things were weird: they were received by thousands of fans, as well as hundreds of soldiers and police officers. Now, you may think this was just an exaggerated security measure, but it takes on a whole other meaning if we take a look at our history lessons. About six months prior to The Beatles’ visit, Ferdinand Marcos was elected as president of the Philippines.
His government, which would soon became a dictatorship, enforced military might and police brutality over its citizens. Once the band landed on June 3, 1966, they were practically abducted by some officers who drove them to the harbor and onto a private yacht, leaving behind their personal belongings and staff at the airport. When Brian Epstein and Neil Aspinall (road manager) managed to leave the airport, they rescued their stars and took them to a hotel suite. They gave two "normal" shows and returned to their hotel room to rest.
“There was chanting, with people hating us all the way. They started spitting at us, spitting on us, and there's the famous story of John and me hiding behind these nuns because we thought, ‘It's a Catholic country, they won't beat up the nuns.’" –Ringo Starr
The drama came the next morning when, as George Harrison stated, they “were woken up by bangs on the door of the hotel, and there was a lot of panic going on outside.” They heard a man telling them that they were supposed to be at Marco’s palace. After a quick discussion, they were told that their promoter in the Philippines had promised the first lady, Imelda Marcos, that The Beatles were going to attend a party in their honor. Now, after a very bad experience in Washington where they had been treated like animals on a zoo, they had implemented a clause in their contracts to not attend any private event held by politicians, aristocrats, monarchs, and, of course, dictators. So, obviously, they refused to go.
"BEATLES SNUB FIRST FAMILY"
In the hours that followed, their phone lines at their hotel room were cut and all the staff denied them service. They turned on the TV on and saw the First Lady, accompanied by about 300 crying kids, complaining about how the quartet of Liverpool had offended and disappointed the people of the Philippines.
All the newspapers in the country painted the event as a national offense and in the face of so much heat, the band quickly packed their bags and headed to their airport. Everyone stood back and watched the FabFour leave the country, and no one lifted a finger to help, in fact, the airport staff would turn off the elevators and electric stairs, so they'd have to cart their luggage around. Chased by angry fans, and police officers who literally were throwing things and trying to punch them, they fled the country and headed towards London where they shared their frightening experience.
“We were really gloomy, very brought down by the whole thing. We wished we hadn't come here. We should have missed it out. As soon as we got there, it was bad news.” –George Harrison
On their return home, they vowed never to return to this country, and even today, and despite all the efforts to have them perform, both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have not set foot there. Many campaigns have emerged to show them things have changed, but apparently, they haven’t worked at all. So, I guess, as their song says, there won’t be a "Second Time."