The Beatles and Brian Epstein were unaware that a reception with the Philippines’ First Lady, Imelda Marcos, had been arranged for them to attend, followed by a luncheon in the group’s honour.
The group had finally reached their suite at the Hotel Manila at 4am. They were sleeping when two high-ranking government officials arrived later in the morning and announced that they would be escorting The Beatles to the palace.
The officers spoke coldly: ‘This is not a request. We have our orders. The children who wish to meet The Beatles will assemble at eleven.’ Vic [Lewis, NEMS employee] threw on a shirt and trousers, phoned me and we went to see Brian Epstein, who was having a late breakfast. Vic told me: ‘I have to warn him that these people are hot-blooded. A snub would be unwise.’ Unsurprisingly, Epstein refused to compromise: ‘I’m not even going to ask The Beatles about this. Go back, Vic, and tell these people we’re not coming.’ If everyone had acted quickly and positively at this point, the boys could have made it to the palace and avoided a disaster. Our convoy from the hotel to the football ground could have been re-routed via the palace and our stay reduced to a diplomatic minimum. Instead, Epstein left his breakfast to inform the general personally and very pompously that he knew of no formal invitation and he would not wake up the boys until it was time to prepare for their afternoon concert. The officers left without another word but within minutes Epstein took a phone call from the British ambassador’s office advising him that we would be playing a highly dangerous game if The Beatles failed to comply with the wishes of the First Lady and reminding him that the ‘help and protection’ that The Beatles were receiving in Manila was courtesy of the President. Epstein remained stubbornly adamant and washed his hands of the matter. The Beatles slept on in their suites unaware of all this mayhem and the rest of us went about the day’s business according to our various responsibilities on the day of a concert.
John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me
Despite Barrow’s recollections, The Beatles were aware of the commotion inside the hotel.
The next morning we were woken up by bangs on the door of the hotel, and there was a lot of panic going on outside. Somebody came into the room and said, ‘Come on! You’re supposed to be at the palace.’ We said, ‘What are you talking about? We’re not going to any palace.’ – ‘You’re supposed to be at the palace! Turn on the television.’
We did, and there it was, live from the palace. There was a huge line of people either side of the long marble corridor, with kids in their best clothing, and the TV commentator saying, ‘And they’re still not here yet. The Beatles are supposed to be here.’
We sat there in amazement. We couldn’t believe it, and we just had to watch ourselves not arriving at the presidential palace.
Paul McCartney and Neil Aspinall did manage to leave the hotel for a time, still largely unaware of the fuss that was surrounding their visit.
Paul and I sneaked out there as well, we must have been very brave or very naïve. We got in a car and drove for miles – it was like Manhattan for five minutes and then a dreadful shanty town for a long way out – to some sand dunes. We bought a couple of pictures, sat in the sand dunes and had a smoke, and then drove back to the hotel with everybody freaking out, especially the security: ‘Where have you been? How did you get out?’
Although people kept saying it was a failure in the Philippines, The Beatles did two gigs to a total of about 100,000 people, after the Marcos thing, and all the fans had a really good time. They really enjoyed it. There were still thugs about, organising things, nothing to do with the army, but they seemed to be organising the fans rather than us. The cars were going the wrong way and the dressing room was in a mess.
The Beatles performed two concerts at Manila’s Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. The first was at 4pm before 30,000 people, and the second was in the evening before 50,000.
Again, we had a big problem with the concert. Brian Epstein had made a contract for a stadium of so many thousand people, but when we got there it was like the Monterey Pop Festival. There were about 200,000 people on the site, and we were thinking, ‘Well, the promoter is probably making a bit on the side out of this.’ We went back to the hotel really tired and jet-lagged and pretty cheesed off. I don’t recall much of what happened after that, until the newspapers arrived and we saw the TV news.
Meanwhile, news broadcasts had reported the snub, which resulted in public hostility escalating at a rapid rate.
Back at the Manila Hotel between shows I watched the early evening television news with Brian Epstein. As part of an extended report on the visit of The Beatles, which I taped in sound only and kept on my cassette recorder, there were scenes from the Malacañang Palace showing intimate friends of the First Family and their children lining up with a crowd of Manila’s upper crust in a sumptuous reception room. ‘The children began to arrive at ten,’ the news reader began. ‘They waited until after two. At first we were told that a mob at the yacht basin was delaying the scheduled arrival of The Beatles. Then we learned that the group was not even aboard. At noon the First Lady decided properly and wisely not to wait any longer. “The children have all the time in the world, but we are busy people,” she said. The place cards for The Beatles at the lunch table were removed. This was the most noteworthy East-West mix-up in Manila for many years.’
John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me
A crew from Channel 5 television was persuaded to film an interview with The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein at the hotel. When his prepared statement explaining that no invitation to visit the First Family had been received was broadcast, however, the audio was inexplicably obscured by interference. This continued only as long as his speech, before the sound returned.
At the end of the second concert, our police escort back to the hotel was withdrawn and gates were locked against our convoy. This left our stationary limousines at the mercy of organised troublemakers, scores I would say rather than dozens, pressing menacingly against our windows, rocking the vehicles to and fro and yelling insults at The Beatles which none of us could understand. George said later: ‘It was a very negative vibe. We were being bullied.’ Eventually the gates were opened and we sped away. Back at the hotel we warned the boys to lock their doors and we did the same. An hour later a police deputation took Vic Lewis away for questioning. He told us that at police HQ he had heard the same question repeated over and over again: ‘You represent The Beatles. Why did you not bring them to the palace?’ It was almost dawn when Lewis was driven back to the hotel.
John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me
Also on this day...
- 2018: Ringo Starr live: Rockhal, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg
- 2015: Paul McCartney live: Roskilde Festival, Denmark
- 2009: The Beatles’ former manager Allen Klein dies at 77
- 2009: McCartney publishes extended tribute to Michael Jackson
- 1969: Recording: Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight
- 1969: UK single release: Give Peace A Chance by Plastic Ono Band
- 1968: Recording: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
- 1967: George Harrison visits his parents
- 1965: Travel: Barcelona to London
- 1963: Editing, mixing: She Loves You, I’ll Get You
- 1962: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (evening)
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.
I have a relative who attended one of the concerts. He said that there was way more people at the concert he was at then what was officially announced including a whole segragated section for army officers.