It was the high summer of love, and The Beatles had just returned from an abortive trip to Greece in search of an island on which they could all live together and build a recording studio; it was John’s idea, but it quickly proved to be honey pie in the sky and they all gradually began to drift home.
Ringo had left early as Maureen was due to have a baby, George Harrison and Pattie flew home on 29 July 1967 to prepare to fly to Los Angeles.
The centre of the counterculture
Arriving in Los Angeles on 1 August, George rented a house on Blue Jay Way and while he was waiting for Derek Taylor, the Beatles former PR man who had moved to California where he set up his own PR business, to arrive, having got lost in the fog, George wrote a song named after the street, which was included on the Magical Mystery Tour album.
Over the next week George spent time at Ravi Shankar’s Music School, attended his musical mentor’s concert at Hollywood Bowl, and went to a Mamas and the Papas recording session before flying to San Francisco and walking around Haight-Ashbury, which was the centre of the counterculture and Hippies. before flying home to London on 9 August.
Two days after George arrived home, the Beatles were photographed by Richard Avedon for what became the psychedelic posters that seemed to adorn every bedroom, everywhere.
A week later on 19 August Maureen gave birth to her and Ringo’s second child; a boy they named Jason. By way of celebration The Beatles went to No.1 on the American charts with ‘All You Need Is Love’.
“I was actually after a mantra”
After a couple of days spent working on ‘Your Mother Should Know’, another track for their upcoming Magical Mystery Tour project John, Cynthia, Paul, Jane, George and Pattie went to the Hilton Hotel in London to hear a lecture given by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on Thursday 24 August. According to George, “I got the tickets. I was actually after a mantra. I had got to the point where I thought I would like to meditate; I’d read about it and I knew I needed a mantra – a password to get through to the other world. And, as we always seemed to do everything together, John and Paul came with me.”
Afterwards they had a private audience with the Maharishi and all three of the Beatles and their wives, along with Paul’s girlfriend Jane Asher decided to head to Bangor in North Wales the following day where he was to hold a seminar at a teacher training college over the weekend; Ringo and Maureen went too, along with, Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull. Together with the Maharishi they all left Euston Station on a train.
All that is, except Cynthia Lennon. There was such a large crowd at Euston that Cynthia became separated from John after a policeman refused to let her through the barrier to the train, which meant that Neil Aspinall, the band’s road manager, had to drive her to North Wales.
“How do we handle this?”
Saturday was spent listening to the Maharishi’s message. Then on Sunday 27 August Brian Epstein was found dead in his flat in London; he was 32 years old and while his influence had decreased over the band he had done so much to steer their career.
The Beatles knew nothing about it until early in the evening when Jane Asher took the call from London that told of the tragedy. Soon afterwards George, Ringo and John faced the press, while Paul and Jane left to be driven home to London. Before he left Bangor Paul asked the Maharishi “Our friend’s dead. How do we handle this?” To which he replied, “Nothing you can do. Bless him, wish him well, get on with life.”
Brian’s funeral was held two days later with none of the band in attendance; it was a purely family affair and all four Beatles did not want to turn it into a media attraction. The day before the funeral George gave Nat Weiss, a good friend of Epstein’s a single flower (wrapped in a newspaper on behalf of all four Beatles, with instructions to place upon Brian’s coffin as a final farewell. Flowers are forbidden at Jewish burials and after Epstein had been buried and Weiss saw men beginning to shovel dirt onto the casket he threw the flower, still wrapped in newspaper on it and it was immediately covered in earth.
‘He dedicated so much of his life to the Beatles. We liked and loved him. He was one of us. There is no such thing as death. It is a comfort to us all to know that he is OK.” – George Harrison.
Brian Epstein purchased the Saville Theatre in London and began promoting a series of Sunday concerts. On the day he died he was promoting two shows by Jimi Hendrix, one in the afternoon and another in the evening, the latter got cancelled after they learned of Epstein’s passing.