The Beatles Were ‘Manhandled’ at a Nightmarish Party at the British Embassy

When The Beatles arrived in America in 1964, they begrudgingly attended a dinner at the British Embassy. Typically, they tried to avoid these types of events, but they decided to attend an embassy dinner for the first and last time. The Beatles were reaching the height of their popularity, and even guests at the exclusive event demanded their attention. Fed up, John Lennon left the party early.

The Beatles stand in a line against a white background.
The Beatles | Bettmann/Contributor via Getty

The band came to America in 1964

In 1964, The Beatles came to America for the first time. The band hadn’t had much success in the country until recently; “I Want to Hold Your Hand” hit number one, and Beatlemania was officially ablaze

“What happened in the States was just like Britain,” Ringo Starr said, per the book The Beatles: The Authorized Biography by Hunter Davies, “only ten times bigger, so I suppose it wasn’t like Britain at all. That first Washington crowd was 20,000. We’d only been used to 2,000 at home.”

They first arrived in New York, then headed to Washington D.C. for another show.

The Beatles attended a dinner at the British Embassy when they visited America

After The Beatles concluded their show at the Washington Coliseum, they attended a party at the British Embassy in the city. They were begrudging guests.

“We always tried to get out of those crap things,” George Harrison said. “But that time [in Washington] we got caught. They are always full of snobby people who really loathe our type, but want to see us because we’re rich and famous. It’s all hypocrisy. They were just trying to get publicity for the embassy.”

While the evening started pleasantly enough, with Lennon and Harrison jokingly giving false names to Ambassador William David Ormsby-Gore, it took a turn for the worse. A number of other attendees, aided by officials, demanded autographs from the band.

“Sign this,” one reportedly said to Lennon, who refused. “You’ll sign this and like it.”

Guests cornered the band, leading to a Member of Parliament later writing a letter demanding to know if “the young British entertainers known as The Beatles were manhandled by British officials” (via NME).

While the Foreign Office denied these rumors, Starr told a different story.

“Most of the people didn’t relate to music in any shape or form,” he said. “After they had a few drinks they got really silly and one guy decided he’d cut a lock of my hair off. I just started screaming at him and we didn’t stay there long. These diplomats just don’t know how to behave.”

Fed up, Lennon left early, but the other three Beatles remained. When they left, the ambassador’s wife told them, “I really am terribly sorry about the scene in the ballroom.”

The Beatles avoided further events like the one at the British Embassy

The chaotic night ensured that The Beatles would not attend another Embassy event again.

“Both the Ambassador and his wife were extremely nice,” manager Brian Epstein said. “But as is so often the way, their friends and guests were not quite as pleasant. The Beatles loathed that reception. Since then they have refused every invitation of that type.”