Across the Universe

The Beatles/Hawaii connection

1964: Two Beatles hiding out in Kailua.

Photo: Honolulu Magazine archives

It’s Beatlemania! With the new release of the Beatles version of the popular Rock Band video game—in which players can strum and sing like the famous quartet—and a special performance by the Honolulu Symphony honoring the 40th anniversary of the Abbey Road album, the world is remembering why the band was so great. The Beatles never performed in Hawaii, but, like many other celebrities, came to the Islands for some much-needed R&R. 

It was 1964, the first time the band had come to the U.S. and the same year the group released A Hard Days Night and Beatles for Sale. Before heading to Tahiti, John Lennon and George Harrison, along with Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia, and Harrison’s then-girlfriend (and later wife), Patti Boyd, made a pitstop on Oahu. They briefly stayed at the Royal Hawaiian before throngs of people crowded its lobby for a sneak peek of the two Beatles. The group left and headed to the Kailua home of John McDermott—the head of the hotel’s public relations agency—for more privacy.

“It can’t be too bad. People in Hawaii respect the privacy of celebrities,” McDermott recalled thinking in a 1969 HONOLULU story. “Teenagers turned out to be an unbelievable exception.”

The musicians and their partners were briefly able to enjoy Kailua beach, before word spread of their new location.

“Fans were everywhere! They were on the roof next door,” McDermott said. “The mob was growing steadily and my wife was becoming undone.”

Lennon, Harrison and company enjoyed a hasty steak dinner on the McDermott’s living room floor, away from the windows, before being escorted out by the police in a black Cadillac to the airport. “In my little world you just can’t be more famous than that.”

Other Hawaii/Beatles connections: In 1981, George Harrison bought 63 acres in Nahiku, Maui because he was so taken with its “beauty and remoteness.” And if you plan on staying at the Kauai Country Inn next time you’re on the Garden Island, you’re in for a treat. Owners Mike and Martina Hough are the proud keepers of a small Beatles museum. Guests are invited to take a Magical Mystery Tour of the Hough’s collection, including a Mini Cooper S car, owned by Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ former manager.