Bardiness

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The Beatles, the Philippines and President Marcos….

the-beatles

Fifty three years ago the Philippines fell out of love with the Fab Four. It was also the year that John Lennon made two comments, one which was to be his eventual downfall.

In July 1966 the Beatles toured the Philippines. Little did they know that the dictator President Marcos and his wife Imelda were accustomed to (and expected) absolute attention and devotion; and they certainly didn’t take kindly to the fact that the Beatles refused an invitation to attend a breakfast reception at the Presidential Palace.

Their manager Brian Epstein politely declined the invitation on the grounds that it was the group’s policy not to accept official invitations. Marcos took this as a personal snub and consequently revealed this perceived insult to the media, who ran with it, implying that it was also a snub to the Filipino people.

Subsequently all police protection was removed from them. The group and their entourage had to reach Manila airport unguarded. Their road manager Mal Evans was assaulted, and the band encountered a hostile crowd.

Although they managed to board the plane, Evans was removed, and Epstein was forced to hand over all their Philippines earnings before they were permitted to leave the country.

It led to John Lennon remarking that should he ever return to the country, he “would fly over it with an H-Bomb”.  Many biographies about the Beatles have suggested that they were all lucky to escape with their lives, such was the hostility which they encountered once Marcos stated that his people had been scorned.

Of course we can argue now that perhaps the Beatles were not familiar with international diplomacy, but they relied on their manager to manage, and the manager made a decision. Yet the times were different. Marcos was all powerful, and this unwitting act of disrespect to refuse an invitation to the palace was deemed a personal insult to the president who through hubris  was so offended, that he manipulated his people to turn against the Beatles. His insult was an insult to his people. It’s a classic example of one man exercising power for his own ends. Indeed, this event is not so much about the Beatles, but about pride, power, and dictatorship. It’s about a despot who assumed that his power was omnipotent. 

It would be another twenty years before Filipinos finally realised that this was power absolute and had the courage to rise up in 1986 with “People Power”.  

When John Lennon said he would like to fly over the Philippines with an H Bomb he was 25 years old and did not make that remark directed at the Filipino people. But it wouldn’t be the first hot-headed thing he said, because earlier he said something else which would eventually cause him even more controversy and years later – his murder.

Three months earlier in March, he was reported in the London Evening Standard, during a fairly innocuous interview as stating that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.  It was an off-the-cuff innocent and careless remark and typical banter from a young Liverpudlian. This was picked up by right-wing religious conservatives in the USA, and exploited. It further fuelled the anger in the Catholic dominated Philippines, which even today they wrongly regard as the blue touch paper which set the firework off. 

Through clever propaganda, instigated by President Ferdinand Marcos, the Filipino people, over half a century later, believe that their antagonism to the Beatles was because of Lennon’s Jesus statement. It could not be further from the truth. 

The story had no merit until a US teen magazine naively ran with it on their front cover, resulting in an evangelic radio station WAQY in Birmingham Alabama announcing that it wouldn’t play anymore Beatles music and that they were going to burn their records. This led to a domino effect, and other radio stations followed suit.

The English brushed off his comments in the newspaper at the time. It wasn’t news.  Not a single word of complaint came from the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church.

In August when the situation had reached a rolling-stone momentum which threatened the existence of the group, John Lennon was forced to apologise twice – stating that he was not boasting about the fame of the Beatles, and he never intended to cause offence to people of religious faith. It happened in Chicago and proved to be the last Beatles tour.

So let’s put the record straight – here and now! The Filipino people didn’t get angry with the Beatles because of what John Lennon said. They were manipulated and encouraged by a state-run media, controlled by a demigod dictator, who was snubbed by the biggest band of the age. Marcos was insulted, and it struck at his pride. Such was his bitterness that he ensured that his countrymen would feel the same pain and humiliation.

Marcos controlled the media, the military and the government and therefore he controlled the minds of the people. It is he and his cronies that the Filipino people should be angry with – not the Beatles.

Today, the Beatles are revered in the Philippines and there isn’t one karaoke bar which is not playing a Beatles song and not one Filipino crooner who doesn’t attempt to sing one.

As Paul McCartney has acknowledged – it wasn’t the people, but the regime that caused the problems, and he’s proud in hindsight that it was the Beatles which first snubbed the Marcos family and dented their crown. 

 

 

 

March 20, 2016 Posted by | Arts, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Events, History, Religion, The Beatles, The Philippines | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1914 – 2014

Great-warpicWhen I review my childhood I consider myself rather blessed.

It was spent throughout the 1960s. I began the decade aged four and ended it in 1969 as I turned a teen.

Things like the dawn of the Beatles, the JFK assassination, England winning the World Cup and the first moon landing are all fresh in my mind and I was old enough to comprehend what was going on.

But the reason I'm thinking about it now is because 2014 marks the centenary of the start of World War I. 

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January 15, 2014 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Events, General, History, The Beatles, United Kingdom, World War I | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

   

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