On March 25, 1969, John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono staged their first â€œBed-Inâ€ for peace. Married five days earlier in Gibraltar (â€œnear Spainâ€), the world-famous rock & roll couple invited the international press to come and interview them about their ideas concerning war and peace, in their Amsterdam Hilton suite, while they lounged in their pajamas celebrating their honeymoon--Ono-Lennon style.
"The newspeople said, 'Say, what you doin' in bed?' I said, 'We're only tryin' to get us some peace . . . '"
--from the "Ballad of John and Yoko."
On March 25, 1969, John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono staged their first “Bed-In” for peace. Married five days earlier in Gibraltar (“near Spain”), the world-famous rock & roll couple invited the international press to come and interview them about their ideas concerning war and peace, in their Amsterdam Hilton suite, while they lounged in their pajamas celebrating their honeymoon--Ono-Lennon style.
According to John, it was Yoko who suggested they use their celebrity and the worldwide attention their marriage would draw to make a statement about the need--and realities--of world peace. Yoko had used “performance events” for more than a decade to draw attention to sociopolitical issues in Japan and New York City and believed that as artists, she and John had an obligation to be relevant to the changing times, and to act outside of their respective media to get the message across.
Having had his off-handed “the Beatles are bigger than Jesus” comment blown completely out of proportion by the television and print media a few years before--resulting in Beatle record burning and death threats--John already new that when the media focuses on an idea, the crux of that idea usually gets lost or distorted, so they decided that their message needed to be something simple and presented in a novel and inventive way that would catch the public eye yet present their viewpoint clearly. The idea of a “Bed-In” seemed to serve their purpose perfectly. And although John was already world renown for his stand on peace--having written the famously popular “All You Need Is Love”--he and Yoko decided that their message must be that same point but more straightforward: Peace is Now If You Really Want It!
As John would later explain, “We thought, ‘the other side has war on every day, not only on the news but on the old John Wayne movies and every damn movie you see: war, war, war, war, kill, kill, kill, kill.’ We said, ‘let’s get some peace, peace, peace, peace on the headlines, just for a change. We thought it highly amusing that a lot of the world’s headlines on March 25th 1969 were ‘Honeymoon Couple in Bed.’ Of course, most people thought they’d see something sexy--an ex-Beatle and his Japanese wife making love in public!” (Considering the controversy surrounding the Two Virgins album cover on which the couple appeared nude, that was a logical assumption.)
“We thought, instead of just being 'John and Yoko Get Married,' like 'Richard and Liz Get Married,’ it should be 'John and Yoko get married and have a bed-in for peace.’ So we would sell our product, which we call 'peace.’ And to sell a product you need a gimmick, and the gimmick we thought was 'bed.' And we thought 'bed' because bed was the easiest way of doing it because we're basically lazy! It took us a long train of thought of how to get the maximum publicity for what we sincerely believed in, which was peace--and we were part of the peace movement.”
Of course, John and Yoko didn’t believe that two people lying in bed in their pajamas--even two as famous as they had become--were going to actually stop the war, but they hoped to plant a seed of the idea. And with mass communication normally being used to promote war and consumer junk, maybe it would be effective in promoting peace also.
John and Yoko sent out hundreds of invitations to friends and press that read, "Come to John and Yoko's Honeymoon: A Bed-In, Amsterdam Hotel." Reporters and cameramen literally fought their way through the door of the hotel's Presidential Suite, Room 902, to find the couple just lying there (as John described) “like two angels in bed, with flowers all around us, and peace and love on our heads,” with signs that read “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace.”
The couple's week-long, ongoing interviews were reported in newspapers, radio, television, and newsreels worldwide, and although they received condemnation and frequent hostility from much of mainstream society, their peace message was nonetheless distributed worldwide--as they‘d hoped. Additionally, the momentous event was filmed, resulting in a 40-minute color film, “Honeymoon,” which was edited from the extensive footage. John and Yoko also recorded several audio selections that would later appear on their third album, The Wedding Album.
Following the event, when asked if he thought the “Bed-In” had been successful, John confided that the failure of the press to take them seriously was part of what he and Yoko had wanted: "It's part of our policy not to be taken seriously. Our opposition, whoever they may be, in all manifest forms, don't know how to handle humor. And we are humorous."
Two months later, the couple staged a second "Bed-In" in Montreal where they recorded “Give Peace A Chance.” Initially planned to take place in New York City, John wasn’t allowed into the country at that time because of his 1968 cannabis conviction, so they decided to hold the event in the Bahamas at the Sheraton Oceanus Hotel. But after arriving there on May 24, 1969 and experiencing the heat, they decided to return to Montreal.
Among those joining in on the famous “Peace” song were Timothy and Rosemary Leary, Tommy Smothers, Judy Marcioni, Paul Williams, Dick Gregory, Murray the “K,” Al Capp, and dozens of other celebrities. In October, "Give Peace a Chance" was taken up as an anthem by half a million protesters rallying against the Vietnam War in Washington. It has been heard on the streets in every city around the world ever since.
Following later renovation, the famous "Bed-In" room was reassigned as number 702, and is now marketed as the "John and Yoko Honeymoon Suite." (Couples are able to be married there in a civil ceremony.)
In 2010, the city of Montreal unveiled a commemorative artwork in Mount Royal Park commemorating the famous Bed-In. The work, by Linda Covit and Marie-Claude Séguin, is entitled "Give Peace a Chance" and features the words "give peace a chance" in forty languages.
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