John Lennon brought a connection to former Beatles‘ drummer Pete Best to the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. While Paul McCartney and George Harrison adorned their costumes with their MBEs, Lennon did not want to do this. Instead, he reached out to Best’s family several years after unceremoniously firing him from the group. Here’s how he got a hold of his grandfather’s medals.
John Lennon requested to wear Pete Best’s grandfather’s medals on the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ cover
In 1962, The Beatles fired their drummer, Best, and hired Ringo Starr. They were too afraid to tell Best themselves, so they had their manager, Brian Epstein, let him go. Lennon admitted this was cowardly.
“We were cowards when we sacked him,” he said, per The Beatles: The Authorized Biography by Hunter Davies. “We made Brian do it. But if we told Pete to his face, that would have been much nastier than getting Brian to do it. It probably would have ended in a fight if we’d told him.”
Though they ended on bad terms, Lennon decided to reach out to the Best family about wearing the war medals of Pete’s grandfather, Major Thomas Shaw. He received them for his service with the British Raj in India. Lennon reached out to Best’s mother, Mona, about borrowing them for the cover shoot.
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“Every time John came to the Casbah [Club], he would ask to see the medals,” Best said, per the Evening Standard. “He just loved the look and the feel of them and never tired of the stories behind them. Mum lived in India for a while, which was when my grandad was awarded the medals.”
Mona Best did not hold her son’s firing against The Beatles. She was happy to let Lennon borrow five medals.
“She was delighted to see John wear them on what turned out to be one of the greatest albums ever,” Best said. “John knew how important they were, so they were returned swiftly with a polite thank-you note.”
Paul McCartney and George Harrison wore their MBEs
McCartney and Harrison also wore medals on the cover of Sgt. Pepper. They chose to wear their MBEs, though. The band had received these from Queen Elizabeth II in 1965. They weren’t sure what to make of the honor, and many people were very upset about it. While they all accepted their MBEs, Lennon disliked the ceremony.
The Beatles | Bettmann/Contributor via Getty
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“I always hated all the social things,” he said. “All the horrible events and presentations we had to go to. All false. You could see right through them all and all the people there. I despised them. Perhaps it was partly from class. No, it wasn’t. It was because they really were all false.”
Lennon ultimately returned his MBE.
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Source:: Showbiz Cheat Sheet