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Sunday, July 23, 1967

The Beatles visit Greece • Day 1

Last updated on February 24, 2024


Location

Arachova, Greece

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On July 22, 1967, Paul McCartney and his girlfriend Jane Asher joined John Lennon, his wife Cynthia and son Julian, Pattie Harrison’s 16-year-old sister Paula Boyd, Mal Evans, and NEMS employee Alistair Taylor on a trip to Athens, Greece. They aimed to explore a group of Greek islands that The Beatles were interested in purchasing to live on. The remaining group members, George and Pattie Harrison, Ringo Starr and Neil Aspinall, had already travelled to Greece two days before.

To reach the islands, they had arranged for a luxurious yacht named MV Arvi. However, it was delayed due to a storm off Crete, so they stayed at the residence of Alexis Mardas in Athens until it arrived on July 25, 1967.

On this day, July 23, The Beatles took the opportunity to go sightseeing in the scenic countryside surrounding Athens. They travelled in a convoy consisting of a Mercedes car and two large American taxis. Unfortunately, the taxi carrying Paul McCartney, Jane Asher, and Neil Aspinall encountered a mechanical issue, catching fire from the intense heat. After the group was reunited, they had lunch and visited a small village, Arachova. In the afternoon, they had a beach break.

In the evening, The Beatles were invited by the Oxford University Dramatic Society to attend a performance of Agamemnon by Aeschylus at the theatre in Delphi. However, their host, Alexis Mardas, had given prior notice of their visit to the tourism authorities, leading to the news being broadcast on Athens Radio.

Upon reaching Delphi, the group was greeted by a crowd of fans, photographers, and journalists. Faced with this unexpected reception, The Beatles opted to return to their limousine and depart for Athens without witnessing the play.


From The Beatles History (beatles-chronology.ru)
From The Beatles History (beatles-chronology.ru)
From The Beatles History (beatles-chronology.ru) – Paul McCartney and Julian Lennon
From Meet the Beatles for Real: Dancing in Greece
From Meet the Beatles for Real: A Day at the beach – This photo of Paul and Julian in Greece in 1967 is SO cute!  Paul has been a great uncle to Julian.  

OUR VISIT TO GREECE BY MAL AND NEIL

[…] On Sunday we all piled into a convoy of cars — a big Mercedes and a couple of huge old American taxis! For three hours we drove through the countryside in the blistering hot sunshine. Suddenly the rest of us realised that the taxi carrying Paul, Jane and Neil was missing. Apparently the extreme heat had been too much for it. Thick black smoke poured out as the engine all but caught fire. So Ringo’s taxi turned back to look for them — and found the trio walking happily along the dusty road towards the village we’d stopped at for lunch !

Everyone spent an hour or so looking round the village, admiring the tiny shops, buying beads, Greek antiques and odd bits of clothing. Then we were taken to lunch at a lovely house high up in the hills, and while we ate, a guitarist and a clarinet player provided colourful accompaniment with their folk music. We all tried a bit of Greek dancing on the patio to work off some of that marvellous meal !

We left the village loaded down with presents. The girls were given Greek dresses with classical patterns. Julian got a foot-high doll (a Greek soldier) and the boys received long slip-on shirts.

SHOPPING

Before going any further we decided it was time we bought something to carry all the gear in. Obviously we were going to do a lot of shopping during the week! So everybody picked up brightly-patterned hand-woven shoulder bags and started filling them with beads, old Turkish and Greek jewellery.

We drove for another hot and sticky hour before coming to rest on a beautiful beach where Paul helped Julian to construct one of the finest sandcastles you ever saw.

The same evening Alex had hoped we’d visit the old Delphi theatre but there were so many people waiting for us when we arrived that we split and headed home to Athens rather than face all those crowds. News of our whereabouts and our plans seemed to spread round like wildfire! […]

From The Beatles Monthly Book, September 1967

A place in the sun

Here are the chart-hitting Beatles at their happiest. Greece, sun, peace, quiet and a few minutes alone with their nearest and dearest. These pictures were taken before the shadow of Brian Epstein’s death was cast over their line.

  • Originally the carpets were put up to keep out the sun. Paul is hiding behind one to keep away from the photographers. One caught him though…
  • Barefooted Jane takes Julian and Paul for a quick dance in a Greek street. It’s a good job the lady knows the steps, her gentlemen partners seem a little bit bewildered.
  • Long drive away from the crowds deserves a stretch of the legs. George and John, well shielded from the sun, survey the scenery around the ancient oracle of Delphi.
  • All eyes on Julian. John’s four-year-old son seems to have captured the attentions of Uncle Paul and Auntie Jane. Wonder what he’s done!
  • Conversing with the natives needs the assistance of hands, John finds. His wife Cynthia laughs — Ringo just looks puzzled.
  • Celebrity or not, holidaying still means carrying things backwards and forwards wherever you go. Paul seems to have got landed with the carrying.
  • When you’re abroad it’s good really to get to know the people and their customs. The Beatles did. Here’s George and John dancing Greek style with some of the locals
From Fabulous – October 7, 1967
From Fabulous – October 7, 1967

The Beatles in Arachova: The detail that few have found in the photo

Aristotelis Sarrikostas, an associate photographer for the Associated Press since 1965, received a call from the Beatles’ agent informing him about their incognito arrival in Greece. “His only request”, as Mr. Aristotle tells NEWS 24/7 today, was “to be as discreet as possible“. Knowing the data, July 22, exactly 50 years ago, the photographer waited for their flight from Heathrow to the VIP lounge at Hellinikon airport with his camera in his bag.

Being a simpler time, even international stars had to cover some distance to reach the cars waiting for them. Sarrikostas took advantage of the natural light and took some shots of the initially surprised Beatles who then, accustomed to such situations, marched to the two black limousines waiting for them.

That first contact lasted about 10 minutes. I tried to be as discreet as possible. Just before they depart, I approached John Lennon and asked him about their next stop. ‘I have no idea,’ he said, a little annoyed.” This moment of the conversation between Aristotle Sarrikostas and John Lennon was immortalized by his colleague Fotis Floros.

Two days later, the phone at the agency rang again. It was the agent who had forgotten to inform the photographer about the Beatles’ first trip to mainland Greece. “We are in Arachova, you can come as quickly as possible,” were his words.

“At that time, I had an Alfa Romeo Giulia. I don’t know how fast I was driving to catch up. In Arachova, I literally caught up with them at the last minute. A local photographer, with a Minolta if I remember correctly, had set them up and photographed them between two traditional instrumentalists. I went and took a shot too.”

Aristotle Sarrikostas hated staged photographs, so he decided to take the initiative. “‘Do something,’ I said, and while most of them were indifferent, John Lennon, who was clearly more cheerful, polite and friendly than our first meeting, responded. Few people notice it, but on the guitar, there are three hands as he also stretched out his hand at my urging.

I’m glad I managed to take this photo that went around the world through the Associated Press. From what I learned later, apart from Arachova, they had visited other nearby villages, asking to listen to traditional Greek music.

After Arachova, the Beatles continued their adventure in the Aegean islands, with plans to acquire a Greek island.

From The Beatles in Arachova: The detail that few find in the photo (tilestwra.com), July 23, 2017 (translated from Greek to English)
From The Beatles in Arachova. The detail that few spot in the photo (news247.gr)
Photos: Aristotelis Sarrikostas / ERT Archive – From The Beatles in Arachova. The detail that few spot in the photo (news247.gr)

THE ‘NEW’ BEATLES — During a visit to Greece this summer the Beatles spent a sunny July day in the village of Arazhova, eating, drinking, singing and listening to Greek songs. The two staid looking characters here are local folk singers; the garishly garbed lads are, from the left, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

From The Herald Statesman, October 9, 1967
From The Herald Statesman, October 9, 1967

Quick Departure Disappoints Beatles’ Fans

DELPHI, Greece (AP) — Greek pop fans waited for eight hours at this ancient town Sunday to see the Beatles, but they barely got a glimpse. “That’s not very polite of them not to have stopped,” said one boy, who had traveled four hours from Athens to see the British group.

The Beatles were to attend an English-language performance of Aeschylus’ tragedy “Agamemnon.” But as they drove up to the site of the famed Delphi Oracle, drummer Ringo Starr hopped from a car and shouted, “There are many people here.” With that, the foursome pulled away, leaving behind some 50 disappointed fans.

From Argus Leader – July 24, 1967
From Argus Leader – July 24, 1967

The Beatles’ Travels in Greece and the Dream to Buy an Island

[…] Last year, I came across some articles from July 1967 in the Greek newspaper To Vima, containing daily reports about the group’s movements. Together, these suggest a detailed and plausible route for the group’s cruise in Greece, including a number of specific locations, which I’ve never previously seen discussed.

According to these reports, the first of the group to arrive in Greece were George Harrison and Ringo Starr. On July 21st, the newspaper reported that the pair had been spotted in Athens the previous day, noting the former’s outfit of orange trousers, a flowery shirt, and a striking blue jacket. […]

On July 23rd, To Vima’s coverage of the Beatles became more prominent, with an exclusive article on page four headlined “In the Beatles’ bolthole.” The article reports that John Lennon and Paul McCartney had arrived in Athens the previous afternoon. […] This article is bylined “L. Tsirigotakis,” presumably referring to Labis Tsirigotakis, who was at that time a reporter for To Vima, and who would later become a well-known London-based correspondent for Greece’s state broadcaster ERT. Two days later, the newspaper published another article by Tsirigotakis on a day trip north of Athens by the Beatles and their companions on Sunday, July 23rd.

The report says that the group’s party first visited the mountain village of Arachova, where they danced on a rooftop with local people, accompanied by an ensemble of traditional Greek instruments. After being given an array of gifts, in the early evening, the group visited the nearby beach at Itea before later heading to Delphi, the ancient sacred site with an amphitheater. They had been due to see a play there, but the “exhausted” group scrapped these plans and returned to their Athens base. […]

Jonathan Knott – The Beatles’ Travels in Greece and the Dream to Buy an Island – GreekReporter.com

‘Used as propaganda’: the Beatles’ Greek island plans and international politics

In July 1967 the Beatles were making plans to buy a Greek island, and visited the country with this aim in mind. At the time, negative international opinion regarding the military dictatorship that had recently come to power in Greece was contributing to a decline in the country’s tourism sector. Several credible accounts suggest that the Beatles’ visit was used to generate publicity in the hope of encouraging tourism to Greece. But if so, the details of how such an initiative might have come about have remained unclear. In this article I examine the evidence for the group’s activity in Greece, as well as relevant actions from other individuals and the wider historical context. Doing so highlights a range of political connections and dimensions to the events that offer a new perspective on the Beatles and may help us better understand the interactions between politics, celebrity and culture at the time. […]

The Athens-based daily newspaper To Vima reported in detail on the Beatles’ movements in nine articles published between 21 and 30 July. This included a report on 23 July by the journalist L. Tsirigotakis, who visited the group’s ‘bolthole’ (κρησφύγετο) in Athens. Two days later, another article by Tsirigotakis said that on Sunday 23 July the Beatles and their travelling companions had visited part of the Greek mainland north of Athens, close to the ancient sacred site of Delphi. According to this, the group’s first port of call, at about 1:00 p.m., was the mountain village of Arachova. After a brief interaction with a tourism representative, the article says the Beatles joined in with a traditional Greek dance accompanied by an ensemble playing from the rooftop of a local home:

In Arachova, the representative of the tourism [organization] said to the Beatles: ‘You choose the place that you want to stay to rest.’ They didn’t think for long. They pointed at a simple house, which stood on a hill and belonged to a builder called Mr Raptis.

Within a few minutes, says the report, ‘a party had started up on the roof of that rustic home’ (‘στήν ταράτσα τοῦ χωριάτικου αὐτοῦ σπιτιοῦ τό γλέντι εἶχε ἀνάψει’). An ‘orchestra’ (‘ὀρχήστρα’) formed from traditional Greek instruments began to play folk dances, which the group joined in with: they danced ‘hand in hand with the locals for quite some time, with Greek spirit’ (χέρι-χέρι μέ τούς χωριάτες, χόρεψαν μέ ἑλληνικό κέφι ἀρκετή ὥρα’). Following this, the Beatles and their party were given gifts: ‘dresses and bags for the women, beads and ancient masks for the men’ (Φορέματα καí ταγάρια στíς γυναῖκες, κομπολόγια καí ἀρχαῖες μάσκες στούς ἄνδρες’).

At about 6:00 p.m., the article says the Beatles’ party visited the beach at the nearby seaside town of Itea. By 8:00 p.m. the group had moved on to Delphi, where they ‘stayed a little while, ate and afterwards returned to their bolthole in Athens’ (Ἔμειναν λíγο, ἔφαγαν καí μετά ἐπέστρεψαν στό κρησφύγετό τους στήν Ἀθήνα). But the group scrapped their original plans to watch a performance of an ancient drama there, the article says, adding that they were ‘exhausted’ (κατάκοποι).

The Beatles’ excursion on this day was also reported by another Greek newspaper, Makedonia, which makes more extensive references to tourism representatives, including describing the group as being ‘entertained by the tourism organization’ (φιλοξενούμενοι τοῦ ὀργανισμοῦ τουρισμοῦ). Contradicting To Vima, this article says that the group first visited Itea, and were afterwards taken by tourism representatives to a large house at Arachova, where they ate kokoretsi (a traditional dish consisting of seasoned offal wrapped in intestines) and drank local wine on the balcony. At the end of this meal, the group and their companions were presented with gifts, says this report, which goes into more detail than To Vima:

During dessert time, they were offered gifts by the tourism representatives. For the men: shirts with meander patterns, worry beads, tsolia figures, various bead charms and other folk art items. For the women: skirts with meander patterns, bead charms, necklaces and pashminas; and for John Lennon’s child, a hand-woven textile, a shirt with meander patterns and a tsolia figure.

In line with the To Vima report, the article then says that that evening the Beatles went to Delphi, where they were due to see a play, but they left without watching it as they were tired.

The reports of the Beatles’ excursion on 23 July in To Vima and Makedonia differ in some details, but both agree on the broad outline: that the group’s party visited both Arachova and Itea before going to Delphi and then leaving without watching a play they had been due to see. Both articles also refer to the group being offered gifts in Arachova. To Vima’s report is accompanied by photos which appear, as the newspaper’s captions state, to include John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney. In addition, as I have written elsewhere, several scenes described in these articles seem to align with images from The Beatles Anthology, which should bolster our confidence regarding their accuracy.

Significantly, both articles describe the Beatles interacting with at least one tourism representative. To Vima refers to ‘the Tourism representative’ (ὁ ἐκπρόσωπος τοῦ Τουρισμοῦ). (The upper-case ‘T’ here suggests this may have been a representative of an official tourism organization of some kind.) The Makedonia article makes more extensive reference to tourism representatives (generally using the same word as To Vima for ‘representative’ — ἐκπρόσωπος). It says that on Sunday 23 July the group were ‘entertained by the tourism organization’ (φιλοξενούμενοι τοῦ ὀργανισμοῦ τουρισμοῦ). The Greek word used here, φιλοξενούμενοι, can also mean ‘hosted’ or ‘invited’: the sense conveyed is of the Beatles being guests of the organization. This article also says that:

  • The group arrived at Delphi that morning ‘accompanied by the representatives of the [tourism] organization’ (συνοδευόμενοι ὑπό ἐκπροσώπων τοῦ ὀργανισμοῦ).
  • After the Beatles visited Itea, ‘the tourism representatives took them to a large house at Arachova’ (‘οἱ ἐκπρόσωποι τοῦ τουρισμοῦ τούς ὡδήγησαν εἰς ἕνα ἀρχοντικό τῆς Ἀράχοβας’) where they ate a meal.
  • During dessert, ‘they [i.e. the Beatles’ group] were offered gifts by the tourism representatives’ (τούς προσεφέρθησαν δῶρα ἐκ μέρους τοῦ τουρισμοῦ)

Taken together, these articles give the impression that Greek tourism representatives helped to facilitate at least some of the Beatles’ excursion on 23 July. The various references to representatives of ‘tourism’ or a ‘tourism organization’ suggest an official body — as does To Vima’s use of an upper-case ‘T’. A plausible candidate for this would the NTO, though neither article specifically mentions this organization. […]

Jonathan Knott – From ‘Used as propaganda’: the Beatles’ Greek island plans and international politics | Journal of Beatles Studies (liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk)

Going further

The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years

"With greatly expanded text, this is the most revealing and frank personal 30-year chronicle of the group ever written. Insider Barry Miles covers the Beatles story from childhood to the break-up of the group."

We owe a lot to Barry Miles for the creation of those pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - a day to day chronology of what happened to the four Beatles during the Beatles years!

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