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What did John Lennon do that was “more punk than anything punks did”?

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Back in 1965, Queen Elizabeth II honoured The Beatles for the music accomplishments with MBE’s. On 25 November 1969, John Lennon returned his medal in protest against the Vietnam War and Britain’s involvement in the conflict in Biafra.

Sean Ono Lennon has recently spoken out about his father’s actions claiming it to be “maybe more punk than anything the punks did.”

The Beatle, who would have turned 80 yesterday (9th October), got his chauffeur Les Anthony to return the insignia of the award to Buckingham Palace, also delivering handwritten letters to the Queen, prime minister Harold Wilson, and the secretary of the Central Chancery, explaining his actions.

The letters were written on notepaper headed Bag Productions, the company Lennon had recently set up with Yoko Ono.


Your Majesty, I am returning my MBE as a protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts. With love. John Lennon of Bag.”


The letters were written on notepaper headed Bag Productions, the company Lennon had recently set up with Yoko Ono.

Speaking on George Stroumboulopoulos’ Apple Music Hits show STROMBO, Ono Lennon reflected on his dad’s actions, which happened just after the release of the track ‘Cold Turkey’.

“Famously, the single didn’t do well and he hilariously wrote that letter to the Queen of England returning his MBE,” he said. “It was a big deal to return the Member of the British Empire thingamajig that he was given. To the Queen, that was very irreverent,” Sean said.

“I mean, it was pre-punk rock irreverent, and frankly, maybe more punk than anything the punks did really! And he does it in such a funny way. That’s what I love.

“I can’t remember the exact wording, but he says something like, ‘Your majesty, I’m returning the MBE in protest against the Vietnam War and the Biafra thing.’ He goes, ‘And in protest of ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts,’ which I just think is great. It’s funny.”

You can listen to the full interview with Ono Lennon now via Apple Music.

What did John think of punk?

During a radio interview, John Lennon talked about how he ‘digs’ the Sex Pistols and they remind him of The Beatles before Brian Epstein came along and “told us to stop throwing up and sleeping on stage and swearing.”

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