The moment The Beatles nearly bought an entire Greek island
Remember when we were optimistic teenagers who made impossible plans like going on a very expensive trip with friends or designing our dream house? Well, it seems as though The Beatles were still in that phase in their late twenties.
In 1967, when the band was at the peak of their success, they travelled to Greece in July and almost bought an island on the spot. Surreal as it may sound, the band was in the phase in which they dabbled in hallucinogenics and other psychedelic modes of exploration. Besides, they weren’t broke like teenagers and in truth, they could actually afford an island.
Drugs were a way life in the 1960s-70s, especially for artists who were inspired by the ‘Flower Children’, hippies and fully immersed within the counter-culture movement. Drug-induced psychedelic artforms became popular during this period and Paul McCartney wrote in his autobiography Many Years From Now, “I suppose the main motivation for that would probably be that no one could stop you smoking.” He then tried to explain the plan by stating how they, as a band, wanted to turn the land into a hippie commune where there would be absolute freedom and zero interference: “Drugs was probably the main reason for getting some island, and then all the other community things that were around then… it was drug-induced ambition, we’d just be sitting around: ‘Wouldn’t it be great? The lapping water, sunshine, we’d be playing. We’d get a studio there. Well, it’s possible these days with mobiles and…’ We had lots of ideas like that”.
The team set off for their island-hopping journey on July 23rd in a hired yacht, the MV Arvi, and travelled along the coast of the mainland visiting various villages on their way to Delphi. They reached their Eden after three days. It was reportedly an eighty-acre land with a fishing village, a large olive grove and four beaches. “It was a great trip. John and I were on acid all the time, sitting on the front of the ship playing ukuleles,” said George Harrison in the Anthology. “Greece was on the left; a big island on the right. The sun was shining and we sang ‘Hare Krishna’ for hours and hours. Eventually, we landed on a little beach with a village, but as soon as we stepped off the boat it started pouring with rain. There were storms and lightning, and the only building on the island was a little fisherman’s cottage – so we all piled in: ‘Scuse us, squire. You don’t mind if we come and shelter in your cottage, do you?”
“We were all going to live together now, in a huge estate. The four Beatles and Brian would have their network at the centre of the compound: a dome of glass and iron tracery (not unlike the old Crystal Palace) above the mutual creative/play area, from which arbours and avenues would lead off like spokes from a wheel to the four vast and incredibly beautiful separate living units. In the outer grounds, the houses of the inner clique: Neil, Mal, Terry [Doran] and Derek, complete with partners, families and friends. Norfolk, perhaps, there was a lot of empty land there. What an idea! No thought of wind or rain or flood, and as for cold… there would be no more cold when we were through with the world. We would set up a chain reaction so strong that nothing could stand in our way. And why the hell not? ‘They’ve tried everything else,’ said John realistically. ‘Wars, nationalism, fascism, communism, capitalism, nastiness, religion – none of it works. So why not this?” said Derek Taylor while elaborating their plan in the Anthology. The of the main island Leslo, however, is said to be non-existent.
The Beatles required special export dollars before they could appeal to the government of Greece to spend them. By the time they got the clearance, they forgot about the island and moved on to their next crazy adventure. Ringo Starr said while reminiscing, “It came to nothing. We didn’t buy an island, we came home. We were great at going on holiday with big ideas, but we never carried them out. We were also going to buy a village in England — one with rows of houses on four sides and a village green in the middle. We were going to have a side each.” The £90,000-worth of dollars land was sold back to the government, that too with a profit; “It was about the only time The Beatles ever made any money on a business venture. To make the purchase, we’d changed the money into international dollars or some currency. Then, when they changed the money back, the exchange rate had gone up and so we made about twenty shillings or so,” said George Harrison jokingly.
Well, be it drug-induced or not, The Beatles can’t be laughed at for their impromptu plans because honestly, who doesn’t like to build castles in the air?