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On This Day In Music... March 25, 1969: John Lennon and Yoko Ono Begin Their Bed-In for Peace in Amsterdam

The consensus was that the gathering would be privy to a public lovemaking session. What they were given instead were the newlyweds in bed, wearing pajamas while discussing their message of non-violence.

Source: Dutch National Archives/Eric Koch / Anefo/CC0

Lennon and Ono at the Amsterdam Hilton, Room 702, March 25, 1969.

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John Lennon and Yoko Ono were a potent combination. Both artistic. Both controversial. Both aimed for something beyond themselves and were willing to invite everyone along for the ride, no matter how silly or naive it seemed at the time.

On March 20, 1969 the couple married in Gibraltar, after encountering legal obstacles to having their wedding aboard a ferry crossing the English Channel (the Captain not being allowed the privilege), or in Paris (the couple had not lived there long enough). Within an hour of the short officiation, they flew back to Paris and stayed at the Plaza Athéné.

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Source: Gibraltar Philatelic Bureau

30th Anniversary of the Marriage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1999.

His status as one of the most recognizable people in the world gave Lennon the idea to use his honeymoon to promote world peace. Five days later, with the help of longtime Apple confidante Peter Brown, who had helped arrange the Gibraltar nuptials, the pair were driven from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton and whisked up to Room 702.

Through a somewhat chaotic environment, partly fueled by the Lennons' sudden appearance after being denied accommodations at another hotel, the Dutch and world press were slightly baffled at what they were presented with. Given their notoriety with the 1968 release of Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, (posing full fronal naked on the front cover) the initial consensus was that the gathering would be privy to a public lovemaking session. What they were given instead were the newlyweds in bed, wearing pajamas while discussing their message of non-violence.

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Source: YouTube

John and Yoko in Amsterdam, March 25, 1969 (Interview with Niek Heizenberg for NCRV television.

The projected air of innocence and belief that laying around for a week in bed, courted by journalists and photographers, would solve the conflict in Vietnam seemed at best, a rather naive idea. What was missing in the reports - although partially alluded to by the couple themselves - was their sense of humor about exactly how the message was conveyed. "The world is getting more and more violent and tense," Ono stated in their Dutch TV interview. "So instead of becoming violent about it... let's stay in bed and have a laugh."

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Source: Dutch National Archives/Eric Koch / Anefo/CC0

John Lennon and Yoko Ono leave the Amsterdam Hilton, March 31, 1969.

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The Lennons staged their bed-in for a week and left on March 31 for Vienna where they held a press conference at the Hotel Sacher while encased in a white bag, ostensibly to promote Honeymoon, a short documentary of their Bed-in for Austrian television.

"When we were in Amsterdam doing Bed Peace, halfway through the week we sort of realized a tag to put on what we're doing which makes it easier for us and you to recognize what we're doing, by calling it Bagism," Lennon relayed during the press conference. "That means, if we have something to say or anybody has something to say, they can communicate from one room to another, and not confuse you with what color your skin is, or how long your hair’s grown, or how many pimples you’ve got."

qjohn lennonyoko ono hotel sacher press conference
Source: Screenshot via YouTube

John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Hotel Sacher press conference (Vienna), March 31, 1969.

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During April, Lennon and Ono sent out pairs of acorns to various heads of state, along with a letter that read: "Enclosed in this package we are sending you two living sculptures—which are acorns—in the hope that you will plant them in your garden and grow two oak trees for world peace. Yours with love, John and Yoko Ono Lennon." Their small gesture was in fact acknowledged by several recipients including, Queen Elizabeth II, Golda Meir, Cambodian head of state Norodom Sihanouk and those in South Africa and Malaysia.

Source: imaginepeace archives

Buckingham Palace letter sent to the Lennons on receiving the pair of acorns.

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Lennon then decided the best way to convey all of this was to naturally, set it to music. However, his bandmates George Harrison and Ringo Starr (abroad and filming The Magic Christian, respectively) were unavailable for the session on April 14. But those factors didn't dampen his enthusiasm. When he called Paul McCartney, a person who was not only his co-songwriter, but someone who instinctively understood that this was of importance to his friend, the two hammered out a quick seven-hour session – with McCartney subbing for Starr – and "The Ballad of John and Yoko" was complete.

Source: ℗ © Lennon, McCartney/The Beatles/Apple Corps. LLC/YouTube

The Beatles - The Ballad Of John And Yoko

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The single reached Number 1 on the Official Charts and was the Beatles' last chart-topper until "Now and Then" in 2023. The song peaked at number 8 in the U.S., mostly due to radio's refusal to air a song that mentioned "Christ" and "crucify."

The significance of the Lennons' Amsterdam Bed-in (and their subsequent May Bed-in at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal) from a 55-year perspective has only deepened in meaning. Oasis' Noel Gallagher wrote in 1996's "Look Back In Anger":

I'm gonna start a revolution from my bed / 'Cause you said the brains I had went to my head / step outside, summertime's in bloom

Fifty-five years later, the world continues to remember the Lennons' Bed-ins from a time when their only objective was to encourage a more creative release for the messages of peace and love.


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