Queen's Honour Sparks Row!

The following article appeared in New Musical Express on June 25, 1965, page 10.

In the two weeks since The Beatles were awarded the MBE the more rational members of the pubic have had time to consider the logic of the honour...
Several previous medal winners have returned their trophies in disgust at being reduced to the same level as pop music...and other extremists have suggested that the MBE is insufficient and that the Liverpool lads should have been knighted - writes Derek Johnson.
Whichever way you look at it, this great recognition of The Beatles is the show business talking point, not only of the mouth-but, in all probability, of the entire year.
NME readers have been quick to voice their opinions. Here are just a few extracts from letters we received:
"In three years they have done more than a stuffy Civil Servant could hope to achieve in 100 years" (Roger Telling, W2); "It makes mockery of the whole system, to award them medals just because they've made a million apiece" (Dan WIlliams, Cardiff).
Let's consider some of the points which have been bandied around since the awards were made. Firstly, the question of war heroes who parceled up their medals and returned them from whence they came because they refused to be in the same category as The Beatles.
I have a certain sympathy for these gentlemen, for it strikes me as incongruous to lump war heroes with entertainers. By the same token, you might as well give the Academy Award to a policeman for tackling an armed thug!
Put yourself in the position of these previous recipients, and you might well feel embittered, too. Where they went wrong, of course, was in making their gester public. If they felt so deeply about it, they should have returned their medals quietly, without deriving the maximum publicity from their move.
And as for the men who refused to be associated with "nitwits" and "nincompoops" - well, this I regard as sheer downright snobbery. It has long been the practice for a certain toffee-nosed section to regard pop music as being beneath their dignity.
And so we come to the 64,000-dollar question-did The Beatles deserve to be honoured by the Queen? And the answer must be - Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
I think it's wrong to imply that they have earned their medals as dollar-earners. Let's face it, they haven't been earning dollars for Britain as much as for themselves! No, where The Beatles honestly and justifiably deserve their awards is in the field of prestige. Their efforts abroad to keep the Union Jack fluttering proudly have been far more successful than a regiment of diplomats and statesmen.
We may be regarded as a second-class power in politics, but at any rate we now lead the world in pop music!
I still maintain that it is unreasonable to embrace heroes and entertainers within the same order. I would like to see a new award created for entertainment, sports and the arts. It would still be a sovereign's award and thus carry the same high honour. But in this way it would be possible to discriminate between talent and achievement.
What is even more relevant is the recognition which has been conferred upon the acting, ballet and 'serious' music professions. Some will argue that Alec Guinness, Margot Fonteyn and Malcolm Sargent were honoured because of their contribution to culture.
But who could prove that The Beatles' music will not be regarded as culture by generations to come? And since when has culture taken precedence over prestige?
But so long as the system remains as it is, the award of the MBE to The Beatles was the most valid in the entire Birthday Honours List.

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