In 1969, John and I were so naïve to think that doing the Bed-In would help change the world.
Well, it might have. But at the time, we didn’t know.
It was good that we filmed it, though.
The film is powerful now.
What we said then could have been said now.
In fact, there are things that we said then in the film, which may give some encouragement and inspiration to the activists of today. Good luck to us all.
Let’s remember WAR IS OVER If We Want It.
It’s up to us, and nobody else.
John would have wanted to say that.
Yoko Ono Lennon
New York, USA
Tomorrow, Friday, January 20th, KEXP is holding a Bed-In for Peace in the Gathering Space, starting at 8:00 AM. And if you’ve been wondering where we’d get a kooky idea like that, you can look to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who pioneered the idea back in 1969.
When the two got married, they knew the paparazzi would be trailing them throughout their honeymoon. So, they turned the tables and used the spotlight for good, to promote the message of peace. The protest tactic of a “sit-in” dates all the way back to 1939, where large groups of people would occupy a space, refusing to leave until their demands are met. Yoko came up with the idea of a “bed-in,” mostly out of practicality, so the two would be comfortable during the grueling weeks ahead of them. At the time, she explained, “For us, it was the only way. We can’t go out in Trafalgar Square because it would create a riot. We can’t lead a parade or a march because of all the autograph hunters. We had to find our own way of doing it, and for now Bed-Ins seem to be the most logical way. We think the Bed-In can be effective.”
You can get a glimpse of what this event was like in the 71-minute-long documentary Bed Peace, produced by the couple’s own Bag Productions. Originally released on VHS, you can now watch the film in its entirety via Ono’s YouTube channel. Though production values are low, editing is, at times, confusing, and sound levels are hard to track since, I’m assuming, just the room was mic’ed, it’s an undoubtably fascinating watch, both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
For seven days, from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, John and Yoko spoke of nothing but peace. The movie covers the couple’s week-long stay at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, but keep in mind, they had already done seven days at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel. Over ten days, they gave over 60 interviews to the press. From all reports of those who were there, and as you can see in the documentary, Lennon was tireless and fueled by his passion. It’s more than a song lyric. It literally was all they were saying: give peace a chance.
At the time, the two were ridiculed in the press, but Lennon welcomed it. “If we make people laugh, that’s enough,” he says in the film. “Happiness is a good vibe for peace.” He adds, “If you think you can do better, do it. You top it. Stop asking us, ‘Do you think it’s going to work?’, y’know. Do something yourself.” Yoko concludes with an ideology that rings truer than ever today: “People are strong. They can do anything if they get together.”