It was probably a bad idea for the Beatles and their manager Brian Epstein to snub a breakfast invitation from Imelda Marcos, the first lady of the Philippines.
Especially as they were staying in her country.
The Fab Four were in the Far East on a concert tour in July 1966 and had just played two shows at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila.
Epstein had politely declined breakfast as it was the band’s policy never to accept such official invitations. He even apologised on TV for any unintentional slight he may have caused, but a patchy signal prevented many from seeing it.
Either way, it cut no ice with the imperious Imelda, wife of the country’s autocratic ruler Ferdinand Marcos. The Beatles were thrown out of their hotel the same day and driven to the airport under police escort.
The drama didn’t stop there. As they boarded the plane, Epstein and Beatles’ personal assistant Mal Evans were ordered off and told to repay all the money earned from the Manila concerts.
Epstein duly handed over £6,800 worth of Philippine peso notes and was forced to sign a tax bond making the exchange official before being allowed back on the plane.
This was just one of the colourful episodes during Epstein’s time as the Beatles’ manager. His life with them was nothing if not eventful.
The association started at a lunchtime concert at the Cavern Club on Thursday November 9th 1961. Epstein, who owned the North End Music Stores (NEMS) record shop on Charlotte Street, came along to see the Beatles play.
By this time, Epstein was already a big name on the Merseyside music scene – and it was no surprise when resident disc jockey announced over the public address system: ‘We have someone rather famous in the audience today – Mr Brian Epstein.’
Epstein’s personal assistant Alistair Taylor thought the Beatles were ‘absolutely awful’ but Epstein saw something in them. He watched them over the next three weeks and invited them into NEMS on December 3rd 1961 to talk about a contract.
It was not an auspicious encounter. John Lennon, George Harrison and drummer Pete Best arrived late because they had been drinking in the Grapes pub on Mathew Street. Paul McCartney was missing because he was taking a bath after getting up late.
Epstein was not amused, but Harrison defused the tension by saying: ‘He may be late, but he’ll be very clean.’
After much negotiation, the Beatles signed their first five-year contract with Epstein on January 24th 1962. Best was replaced by Ringo Starr in August and the band’s first single, Love Me Do, burst into the UK charts on October 1st 1962.
The Beatles had arrived.
A whirlwind five years followed. Epstein managed other top Merseyside acts including Billy J. Kramer, Cilla Black and Gerry and the Pacemakers – and the Beatles took the world by storm.
But the hectic lifestyle was taking its toll. By 1967, Epstein was suffering from acute insomnia and was addicted to amphetamines.
His friends were fearful for his health. When they rang him at his London home on Chapel Street on August 25th, he sounded very groggy, but promised to eat something while watching Juke Box Jury on TV.
That was the last anyone heard from him. Epstein died of an overdose of sleeping pills in his locked bedroom on August 27th 1967. He was 32 years old.
The Beatles were on a retreat with the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Bangor, North Wales, when the news broke.
They were absolutely stunned.
Photos from the Echo archive capture the shock on their faces as they tried to come to terms with the death of the man McCartney described as ‘the Fifth Beatle.’
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Lennon said Epstein’s death marked the beginning of the end for the group. He simply said: ‘I thought… we’ve had it now.’
After Epstein, the Beatles virtually stopped touring and concentrated on studio albums before breaking up in 1970.
But the very first contract they signed at NEMS survived. It was auctioned in London for £240,000 in 2008.