The presence of no less than the Queen of England herself may have fazed performers who have gotten onstage for this annual event but not John Lennon, who have even unabashedly asked its regal guests to “rattle your jewelry!”
Exactly 50 years ago, The Beatles performed at the Royal Variety Performance held at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London. It is an annual event that started in 1912, and is attended by members of the British Royal Family. In 1963, it was Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret who graced the event in behalf of the monarchy.
Apart from The Beatles, that year also saw the performances of about 19 acts including The Clark Brothers and cast members of “The Sleeping Beauty” ballet and “Half a Sixpence” West End musical comedy.
The Beatles were the seventh act to go up onstage. Beatlemania was already at its peak by this time, and so the band’s appearance was highly anticipated. The Beatles set list was comprised of “From Me To You,” “She Loves You,” “Til There Was You,” and “Twist and Shout.” But just before singing their last song, Lennon addressed the audience and said:
For our last number, I’d like to ask your help. Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewelry.
Lennon followed his “infamous” yet “hilarious” quip with a cheeky grin and a thumbs up, to which Queen Elizabeth responded by raising her free hand and smiling back at him! Even the crowd laughed and clapped in amusement!
On an interesting side note, Lennon was said to have made a joke to their manager Brian Epstein prior to their performance that he wanted to say “fookin’ jewelry”! Epstein must’ve been so relieved that he didn’t do it!
Unfortunately, this was the only time that The Beatles accepted the invitation to perform at the Royal Variety Performance. Lennon, in 1970, was quoted to have said about the matter:
We managed to refuse all sorts of things that people don’t know about. We did the Royal Variety Show, and we were asked discreetly to do it every year after that, but we always said, ‘Stuff it.’ So every year there was a story in the newspapers: ‘Why no Beatles for the Queen?’ which was pretty funny, because they didn’t know we’d refused. That show’s a bad gig, anyway. Everybody’s very nervous and uptight and nobody performs well. The time we did do it, I cracked a joke on stage. I was fantastically nervous, but I wanted to say something to rebel a bit, and that was the best I could do.