The interview took place at Tittenhurst Park, Lennon’s mansion in Ascot, Berkshire. Lennon began by explaining his reasons for returning the award, adding that he had to send three copies of the letter: to the Queen, prime minister Harold Wilson, and “one to the someone of the Chancery” – the secretary of the Central Chancery.
Asked by Zelig why he accepted the MBE, Lennon said he was a hypocrite but had been convinced by Brian Epstein “and a few people” that it would be prudent for all The Beatles to accept. He added that he had originally put the letter from the palace in a pile of fan mail.
Zelig asked what Lennon and Yoko Ono’s plans for the peace movement were against the wars in Vietnam and Biafra. Lennon said progress was being made, but said he wasn’t prepared to travel to battlefields to prove his points: “We don’t intend to be dead saints,” he said.
With the interview taking place shortly before December, talk turned to Christmas memories. Lennon recalled receiving a harmonica in a stocking when he was eight or nine, describing it as “one of the great moments of my life”. Ono remembered her family receiving a lava lamp one year, and Lennon named Good King Wenceslas as his favourite carol. He said the couple would spend Christmas 1969 together watching “all those terrible shows” on television.
Around five minutes of the interview is in current circulation. It was broadcast in seven sections in various episodes of the US radio series The Lost Lennon Tapes.
Also on this day...
- 2011: Paul McCartney live at Mediolanum Forum, Milan, Italy
- 1967: US single release: Hello, Goodbye
- 1967: US album release: Magical Mystery Tour
- 1966: John Lennon films a sequence for Not Only… But Also
- 1964: UK single release: I Feel Fine
- 1963: Live: Rialto Theatre, York
- 1962: Radio: The Talent Spot
- 1961: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (lunchtime)
- 1960: Live: Kaiserkeller, Hamburg
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.