Monday, 26 October 2015

50 YEARS AGO TODAY: THE BEATLES RECEIVE THE MEMBER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE (MBE)

FIFTY years ago it was rare for pop stars to make it on to the Honours List but that all changed on October 26, 1965 - the day The Beatles collected their MBEs from Buckingham Palace.

With four thousand screaming teenagers gathering at the gates of the Queen’s official London residence before the 11am investiture, it must have looked more like the queue for one of their concerts than the scene of a usually sombre ceremony - but patient fans got their reward when the band turned up together in John Lennon’s Rolls Royce.
The ceremony took place at 11am story was front page news in the Liverpool Echo:



Despite several years of stage experience, the band were nervous before meeting the Queen - which led to one particular urban legend springing up about their day at the Palace.
John Lennon claimed later that the band smoked marijuana in the toilets beforehand to calm their pre-gong jitters (these were pre-smoke detector days after all) although George Harrison said later: “We never smoked marijuana... What happened was we were waiting to go through, standing in an enormous line with hundreds of people and we were so nervous that we went to the toilet. And in there we smoked a cigarette - we were all smokers in those days.”

However, the band all remembered the investiture fondly in the end - even though the guardsman reading out Ringo Starr’s name before the drummer stepped forward to receive his medal struggled to keep a straight face.
Ringo remembered: “The Queen was great... it was obvious she was doing her best to make everyone feel relaxed and not nervous.”

Paul said: “For four Liverpool lads it was, ‘Wow, hey man!’ It was quite funny. But she was sweet. I think she seemed mumsy to us because we were young boys and she was a bit older.”
The ceremony took place in between the release of the singles Help!, which hit the top in August 1965 and their Christmas number one, the double A-side of Day Tripper and We Can Work It Out. None of the lads' relatives were at the ceremony although their manager Brian Epstein was in attendance.
The ceremony was big news nationally but four years later, in November 1969, Lennon returned his MBE to the Palace via his chauffeur, Les Anthony. It was accompanied by a handwritten letter with copies also going to Prime Minister Harold Wilson and the secretary of the Central Chancery. The message, on notepaper headed Bag Productions, the company Lennon had set up with Yoko One, gave three reasons for why Lennon was returning the honour:
“Your Majesty,
“I am returning my MBE as a protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing [the Nigerian civil war], against our support of America in Vietnam and against ‘Cold Turkey’ [his latest single] slipping down the charts.
“With love, John Lennon of Bag.”
His fellow Beatle, Paul, didn’t feel quite the same about his honour and in March 1997, more than 31 years after he first queued to receive an honour from Her Majesty, he became Sir Paul McCartney. It was an honour John and George never received in their lifetime (perhaps unsurprisingly where Lennon is concerned after returning his original title) but we may still hear the words: ‘Arise, Sir Ringo’ someday. And hopefully the guardsman can keep a straight face second time around.


1 comment:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...