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November 1, 2022

John & Yoko at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital: Outtakes From the Cover Shoot for ‘Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions’

From November 4 until November 25, 1968 John Lennon and Yoko Ono occupied Room Number 1, Second West Ward Queen Charlotte’s Maternity Hospital, London. When John’s bed was needed, he moved to an inflatable mattress on the floor. Going through a miscarriage, vilified by large sections of the press and public, there is a real sense of isolation in these photographs. Note the pictures on the wall, including the other Beatles’ White Album portraits, and John’s Christmas card painting. No longer welcome at Montagu Square, within a week they’d be back at Kenwood for the last time.

It could be an homage to the child that Yoko miscarried in November 1968 at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital whose heartbeat is featured on Track 2 (“Baby’s Heartbeat”). The child, due to be born in February 1969 was a boy, to be named John Ono Lennon II (he likely could have been born on Yoko’s birthday – February 18, as Sean later was born on Johns birthday – October 9).

Due to the severe stress of publicity, and the trauma of their arrest for drug possession, Yoko suffered a miscarriage after three weeks in St. Charlottes Hospital. They recorded the album Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions while in hospital. Two tracks represented the life and death of the child. John and Yoko’s unborn child was buried in a secret location.

The album cover photo was taken in the suite, with Ono in her hospital bed and Lennon in a sleeping bag made up on the floor next to her, both of them looking exhausted from the process. The side begins with “No Bed For Beatle John,” a sing-songy reading of gossipy newspaper clippings wherein the press thought it newsworthy to report upon Lennon’s lack of a hotel bed. The cover image and track become especially cheeky given that Ono and Lennon spent a good amount of time in bed in 1969 as part of their famous Bed-in for peace protests against Vietnam.

Front cover for the LP Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Cover art by Kosh with front cover photo was taken by Susan Wood.

The back cover was a news photo of Lennon and Ono leaving Marylebone Police Station on October 19,  1968, after their arrest for hashish possession the previous day, at 34 Montagu Square, Lennon’s residence. The arrest later caused problems for Lennon with US immigration authorities. The back cover also carried a “quote” from Beatles producer George Martin: “No comment”.

Back cover for the LP Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono leave Marylebone Magistrates’ Court after their hearing on charges of drug possession in 1968. (Photo: Getty Images)

“That’s just saying whatever you want it to say. It’s just us expressing ourselves without any words or format, not formalizing the sound we make to words or to make music or beat.” – John Lennon, 1969.
Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions was reissued through Rykodisc under the observation of Ono, with two bonus tracks, “Song for John” and “Mulberry,” on 3 June 1997. Ed Ward wrote in Rolling Stone magazine that the album was “utter bullshit” and “in poor taste.” In a review for Cambridge Evening News, Douglas Oliver said the Cambridge concert was “strange and chilling. Not in a bad sense, but because there was so much unusual texture. At no time did the music become comforting. It was an extraordinary experience.” Record Mirror’s reviewer described Life with the Lions as “a fine example of how two young people CAN amuse themselves without television.” The couple followed the album with the Wedding Album.


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