A Hard Day's Night In Manila
About forty years ago,
The Beatles landed in the Philippines from Tokyo for a two-concert stop. But what was anticipated to be The Beatles' second biggest concert ever became a dark spot in the group's history. Just exactly what happened on those fateful days remain confusing to many. Was it simply a case of miscommunication, lack of communication, false assumptions, opportunism? Whatever, the Philippine experience became one of the last nails on The Beatles' touring coffin as Neil Aspinall, a very close Beatle associate, put it.
The Manila concert was the last leg in the fab four's two-week tour of Germany and Japan. On July 3, 1966, The Beatles landed on Philippine soil for the first and last time. This two-night stopover in Manila proved disastrous from arrival to departure. Upon landing, The Beatles were immediately whisked to a pier and put on Marina, a yacht owned by Don Manolo Elizalde, two miles from the port. This arrangement completely cut The Beatles from their associates for at least two hours— the first time it ever happened.
On July 4, The Beatles held two soldout concerts at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium with a combined attendance of 80,000; the evening concert registered 50,000 paying audience, being rivaled only in size by the concert The Beatles gave at Shea Stadium in New York on August 15, 1965. Such record-making statistic though was supplanted by the succeeding events owing to a fiasco that happened earlier in the day.
The Beatles' alleged snub of then-First Lady Imelda Marcos remains hazy to many Beatles fans. Even reliable sources maintain conflicting accounts.
The common story goes this way.
On July 4, a lunch was set at Malacañang Palace at 11 a.m. with 300 children waiting to see The Beatles. An hour before the party, a delegation came to the Manila Hotel to collect The Beatles. Brian Epstein, The Beatles' manager, declined the invitation on the grounds that no earlier arrangement had been made and The Beatles were still in bed.
The day's scheduled concerts, however, later proceeded successfully. In between concerts, local televisions reported the alleged "snub" showing footages of children, some crying, disappointed by The Beatles. Epstein watched in horror and went immediately to the television studio to apologize and set the facts straight. But barely had he started reading his press statement when the transmission blipped.
Newspapers carried the headline, "Beatles Snub President." The following morning was the scheduled departure of The Beatles to New Delhi. Suddenly, The Beatles and their entourage realized they were practically on their own without any help: Room and transportation services were withdrawn. In the airport, the whole Beatles entourage was manhandled as it made its way to the plane.
Tony Barrow, the tour's publicity man and part of the entourage, claimed that Epstein received the invitation the night before the concerts but remained noncommittal. Whether it was wise for the local promoter to take this silence as approval is now moot.
Bill Harry, in his book The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia, acknowledges the existence of an invitation from Ramon Ramos, the local promoter, for The Beatles to pay a courtesy call on the First Lady, but it was slated for 3 p.m. of July 4, an hour before The Beatles' scheduled afternoon concert. Ramos did not pursue this invitation, since The Beatles wanted to be in the concert location two hours before the set. Nor did he inform anyone in Malacañang about this. A further mixup in schedule emerged when the Palace set the meeting at 11 a.m. as reported in The Manila Times on July 3. Whether anyone went out of his way to settle the matter, and what transpired in this effort, if any, remains unknown.
Peter Brown, the executive director of NEMS Enterprises (The Beatles' Vic Lewis, the tour agent, received the invitation while still in Tokyo but failed to relay this to him.
What is interesting about Brown’s account though was the call Epstein received, immediately after his refusal, from the British ambassador, who advised him against missing the party of the First Lady, and reminded him that the help and protection they were receiving in Manila was courtesy of the President. Epstein stood by his decision. Whether The Beatles would have come to the party even if Epstein recalled his decision is another question though.
UNKNOWN to many, almost 40 years ago on July 4, 1966, The Beatles made history in Manila. They played twice to the biggest paying crowd in a single day in Manila with at least a combined audience of 80,000 in attendance, unmatched anywhere in the band’s touring history.
At 4:00 p.m. that day, The Beatles launched their first gig before a delighted crowd of 30,000 at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium, yet unaware of the ugly events that awaited them owing to their inadvertent failure to show up at a luncheon party for them in Malacañang.
Four hours later, The Beatles returned to the same place for their second and last concert in Manila, this time to a crowd of 50,000. The latter, grossly ignored by many to this day, is The Beatles’ second-biggest concert attendance in history, surpassed only by their concert at the Shea Stadium in New York in August of 1965.
All in all, the Beatles performed 11 songs in their Manila con-certs. They opened with the Chuck Berry original Rock and Roll Music and followed it up with 10 original Beatles compositions: “She’s a Woman,” “If I Needed Someone,” “Day Tripper,” “Baby’s in Black,” “I Feel Fine,” “Yesterday,” “I Wanna be Your Man,” “Nowhere Man,” “Paperback Writer” and “I’m Down.”
This repertoire of less than a dozen songs basically went unchanged throughout the Beatles’ tour of Germany, Japan and Manila. In fact, the Beatles performed the same standard set when they toured the United States for the last time in August 1966, a month after the “Manila nightmare.”
From time to time, The Beatles deviated from this set by taking on “Long Tally Sally” instead of “I’m Down” as closing climax. On few occasions, they played both. Encore performances were probably not yet in vogue then, because whenever Paul introduced the last song with the line “Our next number will be our last number . . . ”, it was indeed the end of the show. Straight from the platform, The Beatles, as a rule, proceeded immediately to a waiting car parked nearby for a swift exit from the concert arena.
A recording of The Beatles’ concert here in Manila has yet to surface, if any. We listened to their last ever concert to a paying audience in Candlestick Park in San Francisco on August 29, 1966, and it carried the same standard repertoire. The whole concert clocked around 30 minutes, including the adlibs. By today’s standards, this is way too short. For example, Paul McCartney’s 3,000th gig in St. Petersburg on June 20, 2004, reportedly lasted for two and a half hours despite the threat of a downpour.
If anything, the concert in Manila proved that The Beatles were at the height of their success. One member of the audience present in this historical concert, a nine-year-old boy at the time, posted a comment in a website devoted to The Beatles back in 1999. He remembers that he was one of the spectators along with his two other older brothers. He said The Beatles looked too small as he and his brothers were seated in a more distant section from the stage and their singing could hardly be heard as their vocals were drowned by the screaming of fans.
Some of our best artists fronted for The Beatles in these concerts. They included Eddie Reyes and D’Downbeats (with the D’Cavalcade Dancers), Dale Adriatico, Wing Duo, Pilita Corrales, Lemons Three, Quartet (accompanied by Pilita Corrales and The Lemmons Three) and The Reycard Duet.
Based on the photos available on the Internet, the cost of a grandstand ringside ticket then was P30, while a field reserved ticket had a tag price of P20. Gate receipts from the two concerts totaled $100,000.
Despite the bitter experience that The Beatles and their entourage experienced at the hands of airport security personnel when they left the country, they did not leave without posting yet another milestone in their touring history with their Manila concerts.