The Beatles were in Bangor in north Wales when word came through that their manager Brian Epstein had died. Plans were immediately made for a return to London.
Earlier that day they had been fully inducted into Transcendental Meditation by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
The actual ceremony in Bangor when we got given the mantra was nice. You had to wait outside his room as he did people one by one, and then you got to go into the inner sanctum, just a room they’d put a lot of flowers in and a few drapes around, and lit a few joss sticks. You had to take some cut flowers to Maharishi as some sort of offering. It was all flowers with Maharishi, but flowers were the symbol of the period anyway so it was very easy. So you got your flowers, you took your shoes off and went into a darkened room where Maharishi was. It was quite exciting. It reminded me of Gypsy Rose Lee’s tent in Blackpool.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
Afterwards, The Beatles were in the college grounds in Bangor following a late Sunday lunch when the pay phone in their dormitory began to ring.
After a while the phone continued to ring, and Jane Asher went inside to answer it. Brian Epstein’s assistant Peter Brown, who had been given the number by Pattie Harrison, asked to speak to McCartney immediately.
In Bangor we heard that Brian had died. That was a real downer because of the confusion and the disbelief: ‘You’re kidding me!’ Your belief system gets suspended because you so badly don’t want to hear it. You don’t know what to do with it. If you look at our faces in the film shot at the time, it was all a bit like: ‘What is it? What does it mean? Our friend has gone.’ It was more ‘our friend’ than anything else. Brian was a friend of ours, and we were all left behind. After we arrived there with hope and flowers – now this. And then we all left – real slow.
Although the details surrounding Epstein’s death were vague, the story had already reached the British press. Reporters began to gather around the college entrance, eager to speak to The Beatles.
The press wouldn’t leave until someone came out and gave a statement. The others came to our room to talk about who should speak on their behalf. John said he’d do it, and stumbled toward the mêlée of lenses. He was hit by a barrage of questions.
The following interview took place outside the hall. Paul McCartney was already on his way back to London, but John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr spoke briefly to members of the press.
John Lennon: I don’t know what to say. We’ve only just heard, and it’s hard to think of things to say. But he was just… He was a warm fellow, you know, and it’s terrible.
Q: What are your plans now?
Lennon: We haven’t made any, you know. I mean, we’ve only just heard.
Ringo Starr: Yes, you know, it’s as much news to us as it is to everybody else.
Q: John, where would you be today without Mr Epstein?
Lennon: I don’t know.
Q: Are you driving down to London tonight?
Lennon: Yes. Somebody’s taking us down. Yeah.
Q: You heard the news this afternoon, I believe, and Paul’s already gone down?
Q: You’ve no idea what your plans are for tomorrow?
Lennon: No, no. We’ll just go and find out, you know. And…
George Harrison: We just have to play everything by ear.
Q: I understand that Mr Epstein was to be initiated here tomorrow.
Q: When was he coming up?
Harrison: Tomorrow, just Monday. That’s all we knew.
Q: Had you told him very much about the spiritual regeneration movement?
Harrison: Well, as much as we’d learned about spiritualism and various things of that nature, then we tried to pass on to him. And he was equally as interested as we are, as everybody should be. He wanted to know about life as much as we do.
Q: Had you spoken to him since your, since you became interested this weekend?
Lennon and Starr: No.
Harrison: I spoke to him Wednesday evening, the evening before we first saw Maharishi’s lecture, and he was in great spirits.
Q: And when did he tell you that he’d like to be initiated?
Harrison: Well, when we arrived here on Friday we got a telephone call later that day to say that Brian would follow us up and be here Monday.
Q: Do you intend returning to Bangor before the end of this conference?
Harrison: We probably won’t have time now, because Maharishi will only be here till about Thursday and we’ll have so much to do in London that we’ll have to meet him again some other time.
Q: I understand that this afternoon Maharishi conferred with you all. Could I ask you what advice he offered you?
Lennon: He told us not to get overwhelmed by grief. And whatever thoughts we have of Brian to keep them happy, because any thoughts we have of him will travel to him wherever he is.
Q: Had he ever met Mr Epstein?
Lennon: No, but he was looking forward to meeting him.
Q: Have you a tribute that you would like to pay to Mr Epstein?
Lennon: Well, you know, we don’t know what to say. We loved him and he was one of us.
Harrison: You can’t pay tribute in words.
Q: What are your plans now?
Harrison: To return to London, and do whatever we can.
Q: Did the Maharishi give you any words of comfort?
Lennon: Meditation gives you confidence enough to withstand something like this, even the short amount we’ve had.
Harrison: There’s no real such thing as death anyway. I mean, it’s death on a physical level, but life goes on everywhere… and you just keep going, really. The thing about the comfort is to know that he’s OK.
Also on this day...
- 1968: Tape copying: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Blackbird, Not Guilty, Revolution 9
- 1967: Brian Epstein dies
- 1966: Day off in Los Angeles
- 1965: The Beatles meet Elvis Presley
- 1964: Live: Cincinnati Gardens, Cincinnati
- 1963: Live: Odeon Cinema, Southport
- 1963: Television: The Mersey Sound
- 1962: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (evening)
- 1961: Live: Casbah Coffee Club, Liverpool
- 1960: Live: Indra Club, Hamburg
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.
I thought Brian had called down to servants for his breakfast and newspapers. He was groggy but not overly so. Then I thought he had taken amphetamines to wake up, but the drugs killed him.