Which Beatles songs mention the Queen?
“We all kind of liked the Queen”
Paul McCartney has often expressed his admiration for the Queen, who came to power five years before he joined The Quarrymen. In an interview with the Radio Times in September 2019 he tried to explain the affection all The Beatles felt towards their monarch
It’s an age thing. We were kids when she was crowned, so to us she was like a glamorous film star. We identified with her. She’s ours. She’s the Queen.
Of course, John Lennon appeared to be expressing a different message when he sent back his MBE. Yet, in photos taken at the time he seems to be delighted at the honour — as they all were.
An story later spread that the Beatles had expressed their contempt for the Royal family by smoking weed in a Buckingham Palace lavatory. This was firmly quashed by George.
“We never smoked marijuana at the investiture. 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.”
Even Lennon, for all his later fist waving at the Establishment, never expressed any personal animus against the monarch.
There are four Beatles tracks which directly refer to Queen Elizabeth II: Penny Lane, For You Blue, Mean Mr Mustard and Her Majesty. All are playful and affectionate.
In Mean Mr Mustard John drags the monarch into a dysfunctional family dynamic:
His sister Pam works in a shop
She never stops, she’s a go-getter
Takes him out to look at the Queen
Only place that he’s ever been
Always shouts out something obscene
While only a long puff on the peace pipe can explain the intro to George Harrison’s For You Blue on Let it Be:
The Queen says no to pot-smoking FBI members.
In contrast, the two McCartney lyrics Penny Lane and Her Majesty are warm and upbeat. In the former, a homage to his childhood, there is famously a ‘fireman with an hour-glass’ carrying ‘a portrait of the Queen’ in his pocket.
Paul McCartney wrote one song solely dedicated to the Queen — and it almost ended up on the cutting room floor. It was recorded on the 2nd July, 1969 — at the first Abbey Road session following an eight week break.
McCartney arrived first at the studio and recorded what Ian Macdonald describes as a ‘party throwaway’ in the early afternoon, before the others arrived. This was tentatively scheduled to form part of the Medley (between Mean Mr Mustard and Polythene Pam).
Later Paul he decided that Her Majesty didn’t work and asked second engineer John Kurlander to cut it out and throw it away. Conscious that all Abbey Road staff were under strict instructions never to discard any Beatle recording, Kurlander cut out the relevant tape, but attached it to the end of the Medley recording — with twenty seconds of leader tape preceding it.
By chance, McCartney heard this new sequence and liked the random effect, which chimed the tone and theme of the song. It opens less than reverentially:
Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl,
But she doesn’t have a lot to say
The irreverence persists but adoration wins through:
I want to tell her that I love her a lot.
But I gotta get a bellyful of wine
Her majesty’s a pretty nice girl
Someday I’m going to make her mine
Her Majesty stayed in the final mix and on the album, though unlisted on the original LP.