Please, Look at John Lennon’s Rolls-Royce Before It Found Flower Power

Turns out Lennon’s psychedelic limousine has a dark past.

byBen Keeshin|
History photo

John Lennon: Possibly the most beloved pop cultural icon in history. No celebrity is more greatly associated with peace, love and goofy misbehavior than the Beatles frontman. His reigning image is naked and wrapped around Yoko Ono; his reigning sound, “Imagine,” sung in fluted Liverpudlian. Car-wise, Lennon is remembered waving out the open window of his psychedelic Rolls-Royce limousine, its imperialistic grandeur undercut by sunshine-yellow paint decorated with fantastical swirls and whirls. You’re picturing this.

But Lennon drove the car for three years, between 1965 and 1968, in its original paint scheme. Or, “murdered out.” Yes, the three-ton limousine was all black, with black wheels and one of the world’s first applications of darkly-tinted windows. Look at it here in 1965, leaning deeply as it turns into Buckingham delivering Lennon to receive his Order of the British Empire. It’s downright sinister.

Three years later—the Rolls a bright, transfixing canvas—Lennon renounced knighthood on account of “Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing” and returned his medal to the palace. Because, hey, people change.