Museum Exhibit Puts You In The Bed-In

Want to soak up the atmosphere of the hotel room where John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their famous Montreal Bed-In? It all comes alive in a re-creation of the historic moment at The Museum at Bethel Woods.

Photo: Gerry Deiter / peaceworks
At the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in 1969. 

The exhibit at the museum, located in at the Bethel Woods Center For The Arts in Bethel, NY, is called “Give Peace A Chance: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-In For Peace” and it freezes in time the moment over 40 years ago when the newly married couple held court from their bed in a room at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel in 1969 where they spent a week campaigning for peace.

Oh, yeah. They also recorded a song – “Give Peace A Chance.”

“They started to talk about maybe doing a recording a few days before, but the actual decision was taken very shortly before the actual recording took place,” Andre Perry told Pollstar. As the producer of the live recording session, Perry had insider access to John and Yoko as well as the celebrities that flocked to the famous Bed-In, including comedian / activist Dick Gregory, LSD advocate Timothy Leary and Smothers Brother Tommy.

Photo: Bethel Woods Center For The Arts

“It was a bit of a circus, really,” Perry said. “There were people coming in and out. There were newspaper people, film people. In and out, in and out of the suite. Even though it’s called a ‘suite,’ if you were to go there you would realize on film and on camera it looks much larger than it is. It’s very small really, with a very low ceiling.

The recording of “Give Peace A Chance” took place on June 1, 1969. Along with it being a landmark moment in ‘60s pop, it also features one of the more unusual pairings in rock history – John Lennon and Tommy Smothers.

“He [Lennon] spent most of his time with Smothers figuring out the guitar playing, because Smothers was playing more in a folk style. They kind of got that going, and then we had a run-through. The second take – one, two, three, four, and there it went.”

And that’s how the first solo single by a Beatle while still a member of the famous foursome was recorded.

“I wanted to preserve the essence of it, which was his voice and the two guitars,” Perry said. “What we’re hearing on that recording is exactly him. It’s completely untouched. It’s absolutely wonderful. That energy is there.

Photo: Bethel Woods Center For The Arts

“And it’s take one because the first take wasn’t considered a real take. It was a take for sound. It was also a take making sure everything was in place.”

You can see it all at the “Give Peace A Chance” special exhibit at The Museum at Bethel Woods, including never-before-seen photos from the archives of photographer Gerry Deiter who was assigned by Life magazine to cover the event, and was requested by John and Yoko to stay for the entire week of the Bed-In.

The exhibit also includes, along with more than 30 large-format photographs, 15 text panels with personal stories and recollections from those who were there. Like Andre Perry.

“We spent four wonderful hours together – John, Yoko and myself – doing the flip side of the 45,” Perry said. “That was a very tender moment for me. They had just gotten married at that time, and it was really wonderful because they were very much in love. He was very sweet to her.

“She sang ‘Remember Love,’ which was the flip side, a very difficult song to sing in falsetto as she sang it. She had been bashed around by critics for the Beatle thing, or whatever, She wasn’t known to be the greatest singer in the world, and yet that was a very difficult song to sing.”

Perry said they took numerous takes of the song, but Yoko was having problems with it. Eventually, according to Perry, the famous couple stopped recording and went back to bed.

“They tickled and laughed and kissed each other,” Perry said. “I felt a little strange, so I said, ‘Look, do you want me to leave for a while?’ and they said, ‘No, no no.’

Photo: Gerry Deiter / peaceworks
John sniffs a blossom, one of the cascade of flowers that always filled the room, while Yoko stretches languorously.

“What he was doing was putting her in a relaxed mode. They were lying on the floor leaning against the bed and I was about five feet from them. They kept doing it until they got the perfect take.”

“Give Peace A Chance: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-In For Peace” runs through September 7. For more information, please click here for the Bethel Woods Center For The Arts Web site.