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December 12, 2011

Rarely Seen Photographs of John and Yoko From the Famous ‘Bed In’ in Montreal, 1969

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. Modeled 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.

The following photographs are previously unseen images of John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their "Bed In" for peace at Montreal's Queen Elizabeth Hotel in June 1969. Here, Tommy Smothers, an unknown friend, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Rosemary Leary and Timothy Leary.

The couple sits among friends Tommy Smothers, far left, and Derek Taylor, standing far right, singing "Give Peace a Chance."

Timothy Leary and his wife Rosemary in room 1742 at the hotel.

Tommy Smothers, with Rosemary and Timothy Leary, gives the peace sign.

Kyoko Ono listens to John Lennon strum his guitar next to her mother, Yoko.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Tommy Smothers and Timothy Leary.

Rosemary and Timothy Leary, with Yoko Ono and John Lennon reading the local paper about their "Bed-In."

(Photos: by Stephen Sammons)



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