Sunday, October 18, 2020

John and Yoko Bed-In revisited:

Drove from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton 
Talking in our beds for a week 
The news people said, "Say what you doing in bed?" 
I said, "We're only trying to get us some peace." 

- Lyric from The Ballad of John and Yoko 

Thomas asks:

Son Thomas sent me the following photograph with the question “Is this true?” 

The short answer, Thomas, is yes, it is true. The longer answer, and some more facts, appears below. 


From Wikipedia: 

As the Vietnam War raged in 1969, John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono held two week-long Bed-ins for Peace, one at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and one at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, each of which were intended to be nonviolent protests against wars, and experimental tests of new ways to promote peace. The idea is derived from a "sit-in", in which a group of protesters remains seated in front of or within an establishment until they are evicted, arrested, or their demands are met. The public proceedings were filmed, and later turned into a documentary Bed Peace, which was made available for free on YouTube in August 2011 by Yoko Ono, as part of her website "Imagine Peace". 


Some pics: 

John Lennon and Yoko Ono at the first day of their Amsterdam bed-in 


The maid pic: 

From a Facebook item by Rob Manuel, who disseminated the pic on the internet,  at: 

Digging through a photo archive of press shots I found this and it stopped me in my tracks. A superb photo that deserves to be better known - a photographer seeing a moment grabbing it: the rich artists waiting to do their protest whilst the maid makes the bed. A quick google could only find one copy on the internet - posted on Instagram where it didn't get much attention. But it's a potential classic - an iconic moment seen from a different perspective. 

Posted it on Twitter and it's got a few thousand shares - and the reaction has been interesting. 

I think most people just enjoy the juxtaposition and move on, but a few get very angry going that I'm very stupid, and they weren't protesting about capitalism but about war. Whereas some others don't want to engage with any idea of a nuanced view of Lennon and imagine they posed this on purpose and it's part of the artwork. Anyway. I think it says something about class. Money gives you a voice, a voice that isn't given to the person who makes your bed. 

And more than anything it says that good photography is about being there and seizing the moment. 

Apparently the photograph was taken by Charles Ley. 

Responses by other tweeters: 

The words- "rich" and "artist", so rarely go together. Nice when they do. 

Great facial expressions on the two: they know they've been somewhat busted. 

Hey! John Lennon was more than a "rich artist." How 'bout extremely brave artist? 

so what? they were staying in an hotel, which they paid for, the maid was doing her job. Or do you make your own bed when you're in a hotel? 

Typical privileged liberals they protest for the poor, it's a way of appeasing their guilty conscience ! 

Is that the bloke who would gave his wife the back of his hand ? 

Well, it was a hotel, doesn't everybody get his bed made there by the maid, no matter how rich he is? 

So rich can't protest? if you say so... If someone wants to protest please ask this guy for permission first. 

Imagine no possessions I wonder if you can 
No need for greed or hunger 
A brotherhood of man 

And see the robes they're wearing? Somebody else made them. All that money and fame and they didn't make their own clothing. 

The writing of “Give Peace a Chance”: 

From a Time magazine article at: 

John and Yoko, as Never Before Seen: New Photos from the Famous 'Bed In' 
Claire Suddath 
Dec 08, 2011 

In 1969, Stephen Sammons was a 20-year-old aspiring photographer living in Montreal. A friend of his worked at an avant-garde film magazine and had scheduled an interview with the artist Yoko Ono, who was in town with her husband John Lennon to host a “bed-in” for peace. Sammons was invited to come along and take photos. 

Lennon and Ono had already hosted one bed-in while on their honeymoon in Amsterdam earlier that year. Modelled after a sit-in, the famous couple sat in their bed for hours and talked about the need for world peace. Lennon would later recount the experience in the lyrics to the Beatles’ song “The Ballad of John and Yoko.” 

“It was a very interesting, cool sort of scene,” Sammons recalls. Lennon and Ono occupied a suite of rooms at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel and dozens of friends, journalists and other hangers-on—including Timothy Leary and comedian Tommy Smothers— dropped by throughout the day to visit. Sammons stayed all day long and says he doesn’t remember seeing Lennon or Ono ever get out of bed. “And then sometime in the afternoon, Lennon started writing this song,” he says. “He scribbled down the song lyrics and then started playing the tune.” 

The song was “Give Peace a Chance.” Lennon reportedly wrote it in 15 minutes, or as journalist Dave Patrick put it in a 1969 article for Canada’s Weekend magazine, “just slightly less than the time it takes you or me to write out the grocery list.” He wanted to record song right then and there, so he wrote out the lyrics on large pieces of posters and asked his manager, Derek Taylor, to scrounge up some recording equipment. 

Taylor had a portable sound system flown in from Toronto. Tommy Smothers found someone to loan him a guitar, and everyone scrambled to secure a local band to play back-up on Lennon’s impromptu track. It’s not easy to find a group of musicians on a moment’s notice, not even if you’re a Beatle. In the end, some local Hare Krishnas volunteered their services. “There was just Lennon and Smothers on guitar and a local DJ on tambourine,” says Sammons. “As far as I recall, the actual bass drum was someone kicking the bedroom door. And then everybody in the room joined in and sang the chorus.” Everybody, including the young photographer. “To be on a John Lennon record with no ability to sing is rather extraordinary,” he says. 

Sammons remembers Lennon as “a very down to earth character,” although the only time he spoke with the Beatle directly was when Lennon asked him to move out of the way. “I was standing in his sightline to one of these large cardboard placards he’d written the lyrics on, and he shouted at me, ‘Get out of the way, Englishman!’ I thought, well, this is a bit rich.” 

At home that night, Sammons developed his photographs of the concert. Only then did he realize that he’d witnessed something historic. He sold his pictures to Weekend (they accompanied the article quoted earlier)—his first major assignment as a photojournalist. Today, Sammons says he never listens to “Give Peace a Chance.” In fact, he’s never seen the video footage that exists of the recording. But he still remembers the day with fondness. “It was an extraordinary event,” he says. “There we were in a hotel room with John Lennon. It was an extraordinary event that still seems a bit surreal.” 

Stephen Sammons worked for several years as a photojournalist before moving into the travel industry. He spent much of his career as an executive producing incentive travel programs for major corporations, and now divides his time between the Caribbean and Europe, writing a guide about how to best enjoy any travel experience. 

Pic, recording “Give Peace a Chance”: 

Recording "Give Peace a Chance". Left to right: Rosemary Leary (face not visible), Tommy Smothers (with back to camera), John Lennon, Timothy Leary, Yoko Ono, Judy Marcioni and Paul Williams 

Video of recording, and comments, “Give Peace a Chance”: 

Click on:

"Nobody's ever given peace a complete chance. Gandhi tried it, Martin Luther King tried it, but they where 'shot...'" 

-John Lennon, during the bed in, shown in the above video 

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