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BEATLES, THE: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS

A compilation of found footage featuring music, interviews and stories of The Beatles 250 concerts from 1963 to 1966 (opens in Australia on September 16, 2016) is like a rush of musical nostalgia – taking us back to those memorable, socially and musically blooming years in the 60s.

The stars are some of the biggest names in showbusiness and music in particular: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. The filmmaker is one of the most reliable at the helm: Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind (2 Oscars), The Da Vinci Code, Frost/Nixon). One of the producers is Ringo Starr, another is The Beatles manager Brian Grazer. Authoritative it is.

It’s being promoted as “The band you know. The story you don’t.”

That tagline counters the notion that we know all there is to know about The Beatles. “There have been plenty of documentaries, including the epic ‘Anthology’ series, but we still think that there’s room for a definitive big-screen film about the Fab Four,” writes Oliver Lyttleton in The Playlist.

Perhaps like this excerpt from a story reported by Alan Howe in The Australian on July 2, 2016:
The combined one-day audience for the Beatles in Manila would be their biggest, and for many years the world record for any band.

The venue was the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. Jose Rizal, a national hero, paved the way for Philippines independence and was executed by Spanish colonialists.

By 1966 a much less noble man ran The Philippines. Ferdinand Marcos had become president six months earlier. He was already a murderer and would evolve into a vicious dictator, killing and jailing his enemies and, with wife Imelda, would steal billions and impoverish his nation. Imelda, a former Miss Manila, had yet to secure her infamous reputation but the Beatles were to get a taste of what Filipinos had coming.

The trouble started early.

The trouble started early. When the Beatles’ party arrived at Manila airport, armed soldiers boarded the plane to remove the musicians.

“As soon as we got there it was bad news,” George Harrison remembered towards the end of his life. “There were tough gorillas — little men — who had short-sleeved shirts and acted very menacingly.”

The band, but not Brian Epstein, nor others of their entourage, were taken to the Philippines Navy Headquarters for a press conference. The band members were concerned to be separated from what they called their “diplomatic” bags. This was personal luggage in which they kept marijuana.

The Beatles, for the first time in a foreign land without the steady hand of Epstein and with no control over events, were transferred by launch, again by military officers, to a luxury yacht in Manila Bay owned by Marcos associate and industrialist Don Manolo Elizalde. His family controlled large media assets among a vast portfolio of businesses. He had arranged a party of Manila’s elite on his big boat and the Beatles were his prize trophies. It had even been arranged for the boys to sleep on another boat anchored nearby.

Meanwhile, Epstein, who had cleared Customs, was told of these arrangements. He hit the phones to arrange a launch to return the band to shore, where he booked rooms in the Manila Hotel. By 4am the English entourage was reunited in the capital. They were relieved to be together again, but within hours things would take a serious turn for the worse.

Local promoter Ramon Ramos had agreed to a request from the Malacanang Palace for the Beatles to attend an official function there. Imedla Marcos wished to meet the most famous young men on the planet and, in doing so, impress government ministers and senior defence forces officers. The plan was for a lunch at the palace with 200 children of Manila’s most influential families.

Unknown to the band, it had already been reported that they would attend. But when Epstein spotted it as a suggestion on the itinerary he had scratched it. Ramos chose not to tell the palace.

The brief afternoon concert went without a hitch, the 10 songs taking fewer than 30 minutes. But, resting back at the Manila Hotel before the later show, the Beatles watched in disbelief as the evening news reported they had snubbed the Marcoses and the children who had waited three hours for the Beatles. “The children have all the time in the world, but we are busy people,” Imelda told a reporter as the band’s place cards were removed.

A well-organised hate campaign was under way

Alarmed at the inadvertent slight, Epstein prepared a statement he read out on air but, at the point he began to talk a strategic burst of static rendered him inaudible. Before the band left the hotel for the second show, a well-organised hate campaign was under way, starting with the Manila Hotel and British embassy receiving bomb threats.

The show went ahead and its thrilled young audience of up to 70,000 fans seemed oblivious to developments elsewhere. But after the show the band found their police escort had withdrawn and the stadium gates had been locked. While they tried to negotiate their way out dozens of men surrounded their cars, pressing their faces against the windows, banging on the vehicles and rocking them.

Beatlemania was a youth phenomenon. These were adults and organised. At the hotel the stars were told to lock their doors. A minder was taken to police headquarters and questioned for hours about why the Beatles had embarrassed the first family.

In the morning no limos arrived to take the Beatles to the airport. They hurriedly grabbed cabs. Once there, so-called tax inspectors demanded Epstein pay tax on the previous day’s takings, a contracted obligation of the local promoter. Epstein paid anyway.

The airport’s escalators were turned off and the band struggled with their suitcases and equipment to get to the departure lounge, where thugs set upon them, even firing guns into the ceiling. Epstein and the band’s road manager, Mal Evans, were badly bashed. Chauffeur Alf Bicknall suffered a fractured rib and damaged spine. A triumphant Manila Times reported that “drummer Ringo Starr was floored by an uppercut. As he crawled away the mob kicked him. George Harrison and John Lennon received kicks and blows as they ran to the customs zone.”

All four Beatles vowed never to return to The Philippines. None ever has.

The youngest of them, Harrison, who had just turned 23 and was recently married, was deeply shaken. He declared he would never tour again and quickly brought Starr and John Lennon on board. Paul McCartney, though, wanted to continue and talked them in to completing the final dates of the following month’s US tour.

History records that the Beatles’ last ticketed concert took place at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on August 29 that year, after which Harrison sat back in his first-class seat and ­declared: “That’s it, then. I’m no longer a Beatle.”

Imelda, who turns 87 on July 2 and still has a seat in the Philippines House of Representatives, has, on occasion, implausibly denied involvement in this thriller in Manila. But there’s little doubt the Marcoses ended the touring life of the world’s most popular band. Yet in doing so they unleashed an unforeseen revolution.

Published September 1, 2016

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