The day after their troubled trip to the Philippines came to an end, The Beatles arrived in India for the first time, following a brief refueling stop in Bangkok, early in the morning of 6 July 1966.
Although they had hoped to spend time in India resting and discovering the country’s music, their stay was anything but relaxing. Six hundred fans greeted their arrival at Delhi Airport in New Delhi, and the Oberoi Hotel, where they stayed, was soon surrounded.
Before the tour was planned, I had an arrangement made that on the return journey from the Philippines to London I would stop off in India, because I wanted to go and check it out and buy a good sitar. I had asked Neil if he would come with me, because I didn’t want to be in India on my own. He agreed, and we had booked for the two of us to get off in Delhi.
Somewhere between leaving London and going through Germany and Japan to the Philippines, one by one the others had all sad, ‘I think I’ll come, too.’ But we got to Delhi and, after the experience in the Philippines, the others didn’t want to know. They didn’t want another foreign country – they wanted to go home.
I was feeling a little bit like that myself; I could have gone home. But I was in Delhi, and as I had made the decision to get off there I thought, ‘Well, it will be OK. At least in India they don” know The Beatles. We’ll slip in to this nice ancient country, and have a bit of peace and quiet.’
The others were saying, ‘See you around , then – we’re going straight home.’ Then the stewardess came down the plane and said, ‘Sorry, you’ve got to get off. We’ve sold your seats on to London,’ and she made them all leave the plane.
So we got off. It was night-time, and we were standing there waiting for our baggage, and then the biggest disappointment I had was a realisation of the extent of the fame of The Beatles – because there were so many dark faces in the night behind a wire mesh fence, all shouting, ‘Beatles! Beatles!’ and following us.
We got in the car and drove off, and they were all on little scooters, with the Sikhs in turbans all going, ”hi, Beatles, Beatles!’ I thought, ‘Oh, no! Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but Beatles have nowhere to lay their heads.’
The Beatles managed to sneak out using the hotel’s rear exit, and did some sightseeing and shopping.
Delhi was a really funny feeling. I’m sure a lot of people have had this experience when they go there. In the parts of New Delhi that were built by the British, it isn’t the little streets you might expect: we were on big wide roads, dual carriageways with roundabouts.
The amazing thing was that there were so many people out there. All the roundabouts had hundreds and hundreds of people sitting in the dark, a lot of them squatting in groups, including old guys with pipes. There were crowds of people everywhere. I was thinking, ‘God! What’s happened?’ It was as if the Superbowl was on, or there’d been a big disaster, with all the people milling around. Then you get to realise that’s how it is – there are a lot of people there.