The Beatles had never intended to snub the Philippines’ First Lady, Imelda Marcos, on the day of their two concerts in Manila. However, on this day they awoke to chaotic scenes as a result of the misunderstanding.
The Manila Times newspaper carried a front-page story accusing The Beatles of “snubbing the First Lady and the three Marcos children,” leading to serious ramifications for the group.
Just after eight that morning a man in a shiny suit carrying a brown briefcase came to deliver an envelope for Brian Epstein: ‘Here is your bill for the income tax due on The Beatles’ fee.’ Our contract with Cavalcade, as with most concert promoters outside the UK, was very precise on the matter of local taxes. The responsibility for payment belonged with the promoter. Ramon Ramos Jr was contractually liable for the settlement of any tax bills. But the taxman insisted that the full fee was taxed as earnings regardless of any other contracts. His words were confirmed by the Manila Daily Mirror headline: BEATLES TOLD: PAY NOW, LEAVE LATER. The newspapers carried hostile headlines such as FURORE OVER BEATLES SNUB DAMPENS SHOW and IMELDA STOOD UP: FIRST FAMILY WAITS IN VAIN FOR MOPHEADS. According to a palace spokesperson, The Beatles had ‘spit in the eye of the First Family.’ It was also reported quite erroneously that The Beatles had requested an audience with Imelda Marcos in the first place, the one press story that brought forth hollow laughter from the boys.
John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me
From then on The Beatles’ troubles escalated. Staff at the Hotel Manila refused to provide room service or to handle their baggage, although their driver remained loyal. The group’s press officer Tony Barrow and NEMS employee Vic Lewis travelled ahead to the airport to check in.
Eventually the group’s manager Brian Epstein filed a bond for Pesos 74,450 to settle the tax levy, leaving NEMS Enterprises with a financial loss for the Filipino leg of the tour. Contesting the matter would have been fruitless, and the priority for The Beatles’ party was to leave the country at the earliest opportunity.
At Manila International Airport, management and staff had been instructed to give no assistance to The Beatles’ party. Escalators stopped working as they approached them, forcing them to carry heavy amplifiers and instrument cases.
When The Beatles joined us, Filipino thugs, some in military uniform, closed in on our party from all sides. Guns were brandished and fired into the air, makeshift cudgels and coshes were waved in our faces. Someone shouted in English that The Beatles were not special and deserved to be treated just like ordinary passengers. John said: ‘Ordinary passengers? They don’t get kicked and thumped, do they?’ There was no alternative but to run the gauntlet of the menacing mob. Brian Epstein was punched in the face and kicked in the groin. The roadies got the worst of it. Mal Evans was kicked in the ribs and tripped up but he staggered on across the tarmac towards the aircraft with blood streaming down one leg. We did our best to shield John, Paul, George and Ringo from direct blows. Vic Lewis and I were the last to go. He held an open hand across his back saying it might protect his spine from a sniper’s bullet.
John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me
Also on this day...
- 2014: Ringo Starr live at Global Event Center, Winstar World Casino, Thackerville, Oklahoma
- 2014: Paul McCartney live at Times Union Center, Albany, New York
- 1968: Recording: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
- 1963: Live: Plaza, Old Hill
- 1963: Live: Plaza, Handsworth
- 1962: Live: Majestic Ballroom, Birkenhead
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.