Press conference about the MBE announcement

As news outlets went into overdrive following the announcement that The Beatles were to be awarded MBEs, a press conference was hastily convened at Twickenham Film Studios where the group had been watching a rough edit of the Help! film.

John Lennon was 70 minutes late for the conference, and had missed the film screening as he had been in bed. In the end he had to be fetched from his home in Weybridge by Brian Epstein.

At 1.30pm all four Beatles appeared in front of 150 reporters at the studios.

John Lennon: I set the alarm for eight o’clock and then I just laid there. I thought, ‘Well, if anyone wants me, they’ll phone me.’ The phone went lots of times, but that’s the one I never answer. My own phone didn’t go at all, so I just laid there.

Reporter: How did you first learn that you were getting the award?

George Harrison: Paul was looking through the pile of fan mail in our dressing room a few weeks back and he came across this envelope that had ‘From the Prime Minister’ written on it. It must have been there at least a couple of days. He opened it and the letter said that he was being considered for an award and would he sign the enclosed form. We all said, ‘We wish we had one,’ then dived through the rest of the mail and found that we did have one – one each!

Paul McCartney: We thought that MBE stood for Mr Brian Epstein, because we always sign his contracts, because he’s our manager.

Reporter: Why have you been honoured this way?

Ringo Starr: Look at the dollars we’ve pulled in from America.

Lennon: We’ve paid the government quite a bit in tax, don’t you think?

Reporter: Do you think you deserve the awards?

Harrison: It’s not up to us to say that. The Queen must have thought so, or she wouldn’t have given them to us, would she?

Reporter: What will you do with your medal?

Harrison: Hang it on the wall.

Starr: Tuck it around my neck.

McCartney: Keep it in a safe place.

Lennon: I think I’ll have mine made into a bell push so that people have to press it when they come to the house or I’ll take it to an antique dealer and find out what it is.

Reporter: Do you think Cliff Richard should have got a medal too?

Harrison: Yes, a leather one with wooden strings.

Reporter: What do you think now of Mr Wilson?

Harrison: We think of him what we always thought of him. He’s a good lad.

Harold Wilson may have thought awarding the MBEs would be a popular move, but it attracted widespread criticism – particular from previous recipients, some of whom returned their medals in protest. They included Hector Dupuis, a Canadian former MP who complained at being “on the same level as vulgar nincompoops”.

Last updated: 20 December 2023
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