Following their initial meeting with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on 24 August 1967, The Beatles, along with Cynthia Lennon, Pattie Harrison, her sister Jenny, Alexis Mardas, Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull, travelled to Bangor, North Wales, to embark upon a 10-day conference on Transcendental Meditation.
Cyn and I were thinking of going to Libya, until this came up. Libya or Bangor? Well, there was no choice, was there?
The Beatles were to travel on the same train as Maharishi and his party. The resulting press scrum meant that their departure was anything but smooth, however.
It was a bright, sunny morning when we set off. I was ready early, but Pattie, George, and Ringo were coming in our car, and were late. By the time Anthony drew up at the station entrance we were cutting it fine and had five minutes to catch the train. John leapt out of the car with the others and ran for the platform – leaving me to follow with our bags. It was the result of years in which he’d taken it for granted that others would see to all the details. I followed him as fast as I could. The station was mayhem, with fans, reporters, police and passengers all milling around. I struggled to push my way through, but when I got to the platform my way was barred by a huge policeman who, unaware that I was with the Beatles party, said, ‘Sorry, love, too late, the train’s going,’ and pushed me aside.
I shouted for someone to help. John poked his head out of the train window, saw what was happening and yelled, ‘Tell him you’re with us! Tell him to let you on.’
It was too late. The train was already pulling away from the platform and I was left standing with our bags, tears pouring down my cheeks. It was horribly embarrassing. Reporters were crowding around me, flashbulbs were popping and I felt a complete fool. Peter Brown, Brian‘s assistant, had come to see us off: he put his arm around me and said he’d take me to Bangor by car. ‘We’ll probably get there before the train,’ he assured me, anxious to cheer me up.
But what neither he nor anyone else knew was that my tears were not simply about the missed train. I was crying because the incident seemed symbolic of what was happening to my marriage. John was on the train, speeding into the future, and I was left behind.
Neil Aspinall drove Cynthia to Bangor, in a journey lasting around six hours, and she rejoined The Beatles’ party. Aspinall went to see friends staying in a caravan in north Wales, and didn’t attend any of Maharishi’s lectures.
The Beatles, meanwhile, were in a first class compartment, travelling for the first time in many years without their manager Brian Epstein or their assistants Aspinall and Mal Evans. Maharishi was in another first class compartment, seated cross-legged on a white sheet laid out by his followers.
As the train approached Bangor The Beatles discussed travelling onto the next station to avoid the waiting camera crews and reporters, and taking taxis to Bangor instead. Maharishi, however, told them they should stick close to him, which they duly did.
Maureen had had the baby and everything was really cool, so we all went to Wales to meet Maharishi. He didn’t know who we were then, which was really fabulous. Only when we got off the train and he saw all the kids running, I think then he may have felt, ‘Wow, things are looking up for me.’ They ran right past him and were looking in our faces, and I think he realised that these boys could get his message across real fast.
The group were staying in dormitories at Bangor college, along with around 300 other followers of Maharishi. The rooms contained bunk beds and basic chests of drawers – a far cry from the comforts The Beatles were used to.
It was a bit funny going to those camps because it was like going back to school. Just the nature of it meant staying in a classroom and we’d been used to our nice comfortable homes or hotels so to be staying in an old school on a camp bed was a little bit disconcerting. Then trying to learn to meditate. It’s not that easy, you don’t just pick it up like that, it’s an effort and you’ve got to be involved, so it was like going back to school. And of course the food was all canteen food. But we were interested enough to learn the system, which we did.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
That evening the group, plus Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull, went to the Senior Chinese restaurant, the only such establishment open late in Bangor. At the end of the meal they realised they didn’t have enough money between them to pay the bill.
We went out to a Chinese restaurant in Bangor and ate on our own – just the Beatles, myself, maybe one or two others. When the bill came, we couldn’t pay. The Chinese waiter amazingly didn’t recognize them, and he was afraid we were going to do a runner. Suddenly, George put his bare foot on the table and opened the sole of his sandal, where he had hidden a £20 note. The Beatles were like the royal family. They didn’t have money, didn’t use money. But George had put this £20 note there just for this sort of situation.