Did The Beatles Really Smoke Marijuana Before Receiving An Honor From Queen Elizabeth?

The Beatles are one of the greatest musical acts of all time, an original boy band that is responsible for crafting some of the world’s most influential songs. Comprised of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, the Beatles remain hugely popular with fans of all ages, even though the group disbanded more than four decades ago.

Rumors have swirled around the Beatles ever since the group first formed, many of them that persist to this day. One of the most enduring rumors is an urban legend that still makes the rounds today, even though George Harrison personally debunked it several decades ago. 

How did the Beatles become so famous?

The Beatles wearing suits near a bottle
The Beatles | Getty Images

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In 1957, Lennon joined forces with a young McCartney for the first time. They formed a band, going through several name variations and welcoming a variety of different members before establishing the final lineup, with George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

Over the next several years, the group finalized a band name, and as The Beatles, they steadily grew in popularity around their hometown of Liverpool.

By early 1963, The Beatles had begun recording songs, impressing record producers with their unique sound. Their debut LP, Please Please Me, made waves around the world, and the phenomenon now known as “Beatlemania” was born.

Fans loved their hilarious approach to fame, their style, and, of course, their incredible music. Their first visit to the United States in 1964 only intensified the mania, and by the end of the year, the Beatles were known as worldwide superstars. 

The Beatles received a slew of awards and honors

Rock and roll band "The Beatles" pose for a portrait wearing suits in circa 1964.
(L-R) Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison. | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

After the British Invasion in 1964, The Beatles continued to sell records worldwide, releasing hit songs like “Help!” “A Hard Day’s Night” and “She Loves You.” In addition to the incredible amount of records sold, the Beatles garnered many other awards and accolades.

Over the years that the band was together, the Beatles won seven Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. 

In 1970, only six years after their historic trip to the United States, the Beatles broke up, each one going their separate ways in order to pursue their own individual musical interests. They had all grown apart, but even though they wouldn’t make music together anymore, they would continue to make waves in their own way.

These days, fans still turn to the music of the Beatles when they want to feel inspired, enriched, and encouraged.

Did the Beatles smoke marijuana before meeting Queen Elizabeth II?

The Beatles meet Queen Elizabeth in 1963.
4th November 1963: Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (1900 – 2002) talking to British pop group The Beatles after a Royal Variety Show at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London. | George Freston/Fox Photos/Getty Images

In addition to their multiple Grammys and other awards, The Beatles received one of the highest honors that England has to offer. In 1965, Queen Elizabeth II appointed all four members of the Beatles as Members of the Order of the British Empire.

Over the years, a rumor about the grand occasion emerged — one that was in line with the Beatles’ reputation as mischief-makers. The rumor claimed that when the four musicians met the queen to receive the honor, all four of them were high on marijuana. Lennon reportedly started the rumor, but as Harrison later clarified, Lennon’s remarks were misinterpreted.

“We never smoked marijuana at the investiture,” Harrison stated. “We were so nervous that we went to the toilet. And in there we smoked a cigarette. … Years later, I’m sure John was thinking back and remembering, ‘Oh yes, we went in the toilet and smoked,’ and it turned into a reefer. Because what could be the worst thing you could do before you meet the Queen? Smoke a reefer! But we never did.”