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Beatle McCartney knighted Sir Paul by queen

March 11, 1997
Web posted at: 12:02 p.m. EST (1702 GMT)

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LONDON (CNN) -- Paul McCartney, the Beatle who joked 30 years ago about smoking marijuana in the Buckingham Palace toilets, went back to see Queen Elizabeth on Tuesday to collect a knighthood for helping to revolutionize pop music.

The impish lad from Liverpool, one of the most successful songwriters in history, became Sir Paul in a centuries-old ceremony of pomp and solemnity.

But outside the palace, it was just like the old days as central London was treated to the screaming adulation that marked Beatlemania in the 1960s.

Hundreds of tourists and die-hard fans of the Fab Four, wearing Beatles T-shirts and badges, gathered outside the palace gates for a glimpse of McCartney. As they waited they sang old Beatles songs and played Beatles cassettes on sound systems.

The crowds screamed as McCartney swept through the gates in his chauffeur-driven limousine and he answered with a thumbs- up.

'Long way from ... Liverpool'


On the way out he lowered the car window to smile and wave to the fans. His wife Linda, who is fighting breast cancer, and his four children were not with him. McCartney admitted he was very nervous before the ceremony but said it had been a great experience.

"Proud to be British, wonderful day and it's a long way from a little terrace (street) in Liverpool," he told reporters.

It was the second trip to Buckingham Palace for McCartney, now 54, who has made an estimated $642 million fortune from his talent for dreamy ballads such as "Yesterday" and catchy pop songs like "Band on the Run."

Along with the three other Beatles, McCartney collected an MBE (Member of the British Empire) medal in 1965 -- and shocked the stuffy British establishment by joking that the band had smoked marijuana in the palace toilets before meeting the queen.

The Beatles

McCartney described his first visit to the palace, which attracted thousands of Beatles fans, in the typically iconoclastic tones of the 1960s.

"It's a keen pad and I liked the staff. I thought they'd be dukes and things but they were just fellas. The queen was lovely. She was just like a mum to us," he said.

Honor dedicated to fellow Beatles

McCartney dedicated his knighthood to fellow Beatles George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon -- shot dead in New York in 1980 -- and the people of the northwestern port of Liverpool.

Aides say he won't be calling himself "Sir Paul" -- the title conferred when the queen tapped him on each shoulder with a naked sword as he knelt on the investiture stool.

"He's always been a modest chap and he won't be getting us all bowing and scraping," one aide said.

Lennon, McCartney's co-songwriter, sent back his MBE in 1969 in protest of the Vietnam War. But McCartney, always the Beatles' diplomat, kept his.

Knighthood considered overdue

McCartney's knighthood is considered long overdue even by the conservative standards used in Britain, which sees most such honors going to judges, scientists and politicians.


Cliff Richard, Britain's other enduring 1960s pop star, was knighted in 1995. George Martin, the musical genius who produced virtually all the Beatles hits, got the award last year.

McCartney formed the group Wings after the Beatles split up in 1970, and made records with stars like Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder before trying his hand at composing classical music.

He now lives a quiet life on his organic farm in southern England with Linda, his vegetarian wife of 27 years. A spokesman for the former Beatle said Linda was fine but had not accompanied him to the palace because Paul wanted to keep the family out of the spotlight.

McCartney was not the only celebrity to meet the queen Tuesday. Actress and author Joan Collins received the Order of the British Empire medallion and ribbon.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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