They took corner suite rooms 1738, 1740 and 1742 at the hotel. Montreal wasn’t their first choice; initially they had planned to hold it in New York, but Lennon wasn’t allowed into the country due to his conviction for cannabis possession the previous year.
They flew instead to the Bahamas, but found it was further from the United States than they had realised, and so the world press were less likely to cover the event.
Lennon and Ono flew instead to Toronto, where they spent the night in a motel. In the morning of 26 May 1969 they checked in to the stately hotel and began their second bed-in for peace.
The first destination for the bed-in had been Freeport in the Bahamas, where Allen Klein’s nephew had spent his honeymoon in a horrible hotel with twin beds cemented to the floor with a big block of concrete between them painted white. John looked around and said, ‘We can’t do a bloody bed-in here. Let’s go to Canada. That’s the nearest place to America apart from the Bahamas.’
They had the bed-in for eight days. Hundreds of people came to the bedside. The questions were dealt with by John and Yoko in the full spirit of Apple, because they made themselves completely available to anybody on earth who wanted to come into the bedroom – provided they were not obviously carrying a blood-stained axe. People could come in and ask them questions. Maybe they came in thousands, it felt like it.
I was sort of controlling a big People Theatre. There is some footage of that time in which you see quite a packed room. Over a period of ten days you could process a great many people through a hotel suite, and they were doing broadcasts to the world on speaker-phones and hook-ups. It was before satellites.
My job was to be around day and night while they were in bed. They were able to rest between visits. They were able to lie down and get new pyjamas etc. A lot of us have had dreams about running our whole life from bed, and for ten days that was what they did.
They were having also to report – I think every few days – to the consul in Montreal, because they were only there on sufferance, and were in fact deported from Canada at the end of the bed-in because their appeal against not being allowed in had failed. They’d done the whole bed-in during an appeal period. As soon as the ten days were up, they were told to clear off. In fact they were put on the first plane out to Frankfurt – which is not where we were going, we were going to London. So that, again, is something people forget! Doing a bed-in and being deported when it was over.
During their stay at the Queen Elizabeth they gave a series of interviews, invited guests to join them and, on 1 June, recorded Give Peace A Chance. The couple, along with Ono’s five-year-old daughter Kyoko, were joined by various guests including US black civil rights advocate Dick Gregory, Quebec separatist Jacques Larue-Langlois, Timothy Leary, Toronto Rabbi Abraham Feinberg, musician Petula Clark, members of the Canadian Radha Krishna Temple, and American cartoonist Al Capp.
The bed-in caused instant worldwide media coverage, and Lennon and Ono spoke to up to 150 journalists each day. In the United States around 350 radio stations reported the event, carrying the couple’s message of peace and protests against the Vietnam war.
Also on this day...
- 2013: Paul McCartney live at FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee
- 1969: US album release: Unfinished Music No.2: Life With The Lions by John Lennon and Yoko Ono
- 1969: US album release: Electronic Sound by George Harrison
- 1966: Recording: Yellow Submarine
- 1965: The Beatles (Invite You To Take A Ticket To Ride) – the final BBC radio session
- 1964: John and Cynthia Lennon, George Harrison and Pattie Boyd fly to London from Tahiti
- 1963: Live: Empire Theatre, Liverpool
- 1962: Live: Star-Club, Hamburg
- 1961: Live: Top Ten Club, Hamburg
- 1960: Live: Town Hall, Forres, Scotland
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.