John Lennon’s flippant questioning of self-described Christians’ devotion to Jesus is often portrayed as a defining moment for the band. The comment received widespread attention in March, 1966, and resulted in a perception that Lennon was anti-religion. (He claimed not to be so at the time, but the experience may have inspired some of the lyrics to a later Lennon hit, Imagine.)
They were to learn the strength of certain types of devotion a few months later.
During their 1966 tour, the Beatles played two sold-out concerts in Manila. Shortly after their arrival, they were invited to brunch with the First Lady, Imelda Marcos. The band was tired from the flight and worried about their ability to play properly for the crowds that night, so they politely declined, with thanks and appreciation.
What they did not know was that Marcos was used to getting her way. She had assumed that, having been invited, The Beatles would be present. With that in mind, she had invited a few hundred children of the most influential families in the Philippines to brunch as well. She even had television cameras set up to record the event.
The children of the elite were, like Marcos, used to getting what they wanted… even moreso, when they were promised something by the First Family. Without John, Paul, George and Ringo present, the cameras broadcast the wails and tears of the children to the nation.
This did nothing to affect the concerts, which went smoothly. It did, however, affect them the next morning, when newspapers carried headlines that the Beatles had snubbed Marcos.
They had to leave. The plane, in theory was a safe place… but they quickly discovered that they weren’t being allowed to go to it. Overnight, a set of taxes had been levied against the band, and they were expected to pay it before their plane would be cleared for takeoff. Band manager Brian Epstein paid the taxes, which happened to be just a little bit more than the full receipts from both concerts played the night before.
Their security detail was nowhere to be found. The hotel staff would no longer provide food or handle any suitcases. The band members paid their bill, gathered their luggage and headed to the airport… which is where a group of very large nationalists were waiting for them. Eager to enact revenge for the insult to the Philippine aristocracy, they first pushed the band around, then began physically assaulting them. The manager and road crew intervened, taking the worst of the blows as the Beatles ran for the airplane. As BeatlesBible.com points out, members of the band and the crew were seriously concerned they would be shot as they tried to make it onto the plane.
One might have thought an experience like that would keep the band together… and apparently, even though that didn’t happen, those types of experiences were enough to bridge hard feelings, given enough time.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite Beatles song?