What was clear was that John especially was intently listening to the sound system and shouted with concern to the audience: “Could you hear me back there?!” Of course, the audience’s reply was unclear, whether it was a Yes or a No.
But who cared? What was important was The Beatles were there IN PERSON! They wore striped light-gray suits, they were singing, talking, looking at us. They were human, not just some cardboard representations of the world icons that they still are. And they were in Manila!
Being an avid fan of the Beatles, I had bought two tickets maybe just two weeks or so before their performance. The tickets were naturally quite expensive, and so I got seats somewhere in the middle.
The concert was at 4 pm, July 4, 1966, at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. Days later, I found out my best friend was seated in the front row, and she told me how she wanted to run to the stage but didn’t because she was with her Maryknoll friends who sat prim and proper. How I envied her. Had she known I was there, she said, she would have dragged me to the front row and pulled me to the stage. As if that was an easy thing to do. So, there I was like all the others, standing on my chair, watching The Beatles as well as the audience who listened and not listened at the same time.
Pilita Corrales was front act, and much as I admired Pilita as a singer, I was so impatient for The Beatles to appear. When they finally did, my jaw dropped and for a moment I was so still, as I usually am when initially stunned or flummoxed. Then, they sang songs from their then-new album Rubber Soul, which I had memorized as the album was a pasalubong of my father who had visited London. Up to now, incidentally, Rubber Soul, is still my most favorite Beatles album. I love the melody, instrumentation, harmony, lyrics, social consciousness, etc. Nothing artsy-fartsy. It spoke of The Beatles and of us ordinary mortals, as in “Nowhere Man,” “Taxman,” “Michelle” and “In My Life.”
They threw in their signature songs like “Love Me Do” and “I Saw Her Standing There,” which, if I remember right, was the first song to blow the Filipino youth away.
Liverpool’s Fab Four did take us by storm. At that time, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which so-called music critics said “elevated Beatles music to art,” had not yet been done. But Beatlemaniacs had already passed judgment: The Beatles would be immortal. John Lennon had wanted to be like Elvis Presley, to enjoy and share music to the world. As John was often quoted: “Before Elvis, there was nothing.”
The Beatles epitomized the spirit of the ’60s – acceptance of rock as art, rebellion against authority, sexual revolution, anti-Vietnam War, drugs, Asian/Oriental influence, all that the conservatives feared.
Yes, The Beatles were in Manila. And although they were humiliated by Marcos bootlickers at the airport when they left, they later forgave the Filipinos after learning we were under a dictatorship.
Will there be another Beatles? Not in at least a century.