Wales

The Beatles: Historians say 1967 Bangor visit was a turning point

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Media captionWhen Beatlemania steamed into Bangor in 1967

Fifty years ago The Beatles arrived in Bangor - but their visit caused a stir not only among fans but the media.

It was the place where they found out their manager had died, an event which some say marked the beginning of the end for the group.

It was 25 August 1967 and they had just released their eighth studio album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

They were at a career high-point and decided to visit Bangor - but not to play a concert.

Prof Chris Collins, head of music at Bangor University, said the band's visit to north Wales was unusual from the start.

George Harrison, the Beatles guitarist, had met Maharishi Yogi, a guru in Transcendental Meditation - a form of silent meditation - who had invited them to his conference in the Gwynedd city.

"George Harrison had become very interested in what the Maharishi was teaching and he'd taken John and Paul to a session in London, which was immediately followed by the retreat here in Bangor at what was the Normal College, now part of Bangor University," Prof Collins said.

"They simply jumped on a train and were here within hours of deciding to do that.

"The press were certainly very much clued into what was happening. There was a great interest in the fact that The Beatles seemed to have discovered eastern mysticism and there were suspicions around that in the press at the time.

"It really brought everyone to Bangor to follow them, as well as creating great interest locally."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption John Lennon shortly before the train's departure from Euston Station to Bangor

It was not just the press who came - the fans flocked too.

The Beatles stayed in the Normal College, now the university's Management Centre.

Len Jones was one of the gardeners there at the time and said they caused quite a stir.

"I came here at eight o'clock in the morning to start work and there were hundreds of people here. They were singing and they were meditating," he had said previously .

"The Beatles came then, you couldn't move with hundreds of people, especially the girls. And they were all screaming 'Beeeeatles, where are yooooooouuu'?

"The whole college, everybody stopped work for a day or two. It was heaven and it really put Bangor on the map."

But The Beatles would not be in Bangor for long. They arrived on Friday - and on Sunday, the payphone rang in the corridor of the university halls where they were staying.

Eventually, someone answered the phone and Paul McCartney received the news that their manager Brian Epstein had been found dead.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption On hearing the news about Brian Epstein, The Beatles decided to return to London.

Freelance journalist Derek Bellis was called to Bangor to interview The Beatles about the news.

"It was a strange occasion, I suppose surreal is the word that sums it up," Mr Bellis recalled.

"John did most of the talking and he said that the Maharishi had said they were to remember the happy things and the constructive things.

"It felt as if the Maharishi had made some quite neutral remarks, as you might describe them."

Historians said it was a turning point for The Beatles. Without Epstein to hold the group together, they spent more and more time on their own projects before splitting up in 1970.

"Coming to Bangor was George Harrison's thing, but John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr went along with it. After Brian Epstein's death, that didn't happen so much, and The Beatles started to follow their own individual routes," Prof Collins said.

Yet people in Bangor are still proud of their connection with the band.

"There are all the stories that everybody knows who lives in Bangor," added Prof Collins.

"Like The Beatles' visit to the Chinese restaurant, where George had a bank note in the sole of his shoe and that was the only way they could afford to pay for it because they didn't carry money with them.

"You have photographs of Paul McCartney in odd places just off College Road, which are part of people's local awareness of The Beatles.

"If you live in Bangor and a new book comes out about The Beatles, the first thing you do is turn to the index and look up Bangor!

"It's always there and you can read that bit about when The Beatles came into your world briefly."

That connection is still marked to this day - there is a plaque in the university and a slate slab in the high street recalling those three days in 1967 when The Beatles brought the attention of the world to Bangor.

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