Discovered: Conversation with John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Timothy Leary at Montreal Bed-In (1969)

On May 26, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko One began their sec­ond “Bed-In,” a form of anti-Viet­nam War protest that com­bined the media impact of a press con­fer­ence with the com­fort of hotel sheets. Their first Bed-In, which hap­pened in var­i­ous rooms of the Ams­ter­dam Hilton in late March of that year, saw them grant inter­view after inter­view about peace all day long with­out mov­ing from the bed in which they had ensconced them­selves. They’d sched­uled its fol­low up in New York City, but Lennon found he could­n’t enter the Unit­ed States due to a pre­vi­ous con­vic­tion for mar­i­jua­na pos­ses­sion. They relo­cat­ed it to the Bahamas, where the heat soon prompt­ed them to move again to the entire­ly cool­er Queen Eliz­a­beth Hotel in Mon­tre­al. There they record­ed the song “Give Peace a Chance,” aid­ed by such vis­i­tors as Tom­my Smoth­ers, Dick Gre­go­ry, Mur­ray the K, and psy­che­del­ic drug advo­cate Tim­o­thy Leary.

But Leary did­n’t just come to pro­vide a back­ing vocal. With his wife Rose­mary, he record­ed a con­ver­sa­tion with Lennon and Ono about… well, about a vari­ety of sub­jects, but they’d all fall under the broad head­ing of Leary’s one great pur­suit, “con­scious­ness.” Only recent­ly did Leary archivist Michael Horowitz dis­cov­er the tran­script of this ses­sion in “an unmarked enve­lope in a box of mis­cel­la­neous papers,” and this week the Tim­o­thy Leary Archives made it avail­able to the pub­lic for the first time ever. The con­ver­sa­tion begins with the fin­er points of teepee life, moves on to the effects of place on one’s state of mind, touch­es on both cou­ples’ hav­ing found them­selves on the wrong side of drug law enforce­ment, and ends with Lennon and Leary com­par­ing notes on how they use the media to con­vey their mes­sage:

TIMOTHY: John, about the use of the mass media … the kids must be taught how to use the media. Peo­ple used to say to me–I would give a rap and some­one would get up and say, “Well, what’s this about a reli­gion? Did the Bud­dha use drugs? Did the Bud­dha go on tele­vi­sion? I’d say, “Ahh—he would’ve. He would’ve….”

JOHN: I was on a TV show with David Frost and Yehu­di Menuhin, some cul­tur­al vio­lin­ist y’know, they were real­ly attack­ing me. They had a whole audi­ence and every­thing. It was after we got back from Amsterdam…and Yehu­di Menuhin came out, he’s always doing these Hin­du num­bers. All that pious bit, and his school for vio­lin­ists, and all that. And Yehu­di Menuhi said, “Well, don’t you think it’s nec­es­sary to kill some peo­ple some times?” That’s what he said on TV, that’s the first thing he’s ever said. And I said, “Did Christ say that? Are you a Chris­t­ian?” “Yeah,” I said, and did “Christ say any­thing about killing peo­ple?” And he said, “Did Christ say any­thing about tele­vi­sion? Or gui­tars?”

To learn more about Lennon and Ono’s Bed-Ins, you can vis­it the 70-minute doc­u­men­tary Bed Peace (below), pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured on Open Cul­ture and still freely view­able on YouTube:

Relat­ed con­tent:

Tim­o­thy Leary’s Wild Ride and the Fol­som Prison Inter­view

Beyond Tim­o­thy Leary: 2002 Film Revis­its His­to­ry of LSD

Bed Peace Star­ring John Lennon & Yoko Ono (Free for Lim­it­ed Time)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.


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