Today marks the 41st anniversary of the marriage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. John and Yoko were married in Gibraltar on March 20th, 1969 dressed up in dazzling white. Just look at them! Yoko dons a white floppy hat and John sports a white corduroy jacket and white high-top tennis shoes. The Beatles’ governor, Peter Brown, along with David Nutter, a photographer, were the only witnesses at the registry office. Seventy-five minutes after arriving in Gibraltar, the couple flies back to Paris, with the knot tied neatly.
The newlyweds spent a couple of days in Paris, including a lunch with Salvador Dali, then drove up to Amsterdam and checked into the Hilton Hotel. Their honeymoon was spent by using a new form of publicity, the Bed-In. John and Yoko court press members who were crowded around their bed. Instead of making love publicly, they just sent out clever little sound bites urging people to embrace peace.
Photo: John Kays
This Amsterdam Bed-In last for one week, from March 25th through the 31st. Really what they are doing is refining a new way to get a message across. They are on the air from 10 AM to 10 PM, with time allowed for a Portuguese maid to change out the sheets. Every hour a new shift of reporters would come in and broadcast (on TV and radio) as the ‘love birds’ espouse their newly shaped philosophy of peace.
Here’s a quote from John that I found in the book, The Lives of John Lennon, by Albert Goldman. “What we’re really doing is sending out a message to the world, mainly to the youth, to anybody who is interested in protesting for peace or protesting any form of violence.” The media really goes ‘Gaga’ over these Bed-Ins. Formally Ugly Ducklings, now they are shiny swans gliding on tranquil pond waters!
This eccentric performance art comes at the height of the Vietnam War. The anti-war movement suddenly celebrates the leadership provided by John and Yoko, who were so willing to sacrifice their own privacy, and spend twelve hours a day under the heat of lamp lights and (likewise) the eye of the camera, pleading for world peace. John was a violent man, but he was fighting this impulse within.
“I’m as violent as the next man, and I’m sure Yoko is just as violent. We’re violent people, you know. I prefer myself when I’m non-violent. It is the most violent people who go in for love and peace…I am a violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence.”
Next stop for the Lennons was Vienna where they checked into the Sacher Hotel to see the premiere of their film Rape. It’s here that ate the famous chocolate cake in a bag. Chocolate cake was a main course for John. Another new form of a ‘media grabbing showstopper’ was invented for Vienna. This is Bagism! Bagism is an experimental contemporary art form, a…I think John explains what it is best.
Scene: John and Yoko are hidden underneath a draping white sheet. “This is another peace project, by the way. (A reporter: Why the bag?) Because we believe its total communication. That means if we have something to say or anybody has something to say, they can communicate and not confuse you with what color your skin is or how long your hair grows, (Reporter: How long is your hair?) Ah hah, you have to guess?”
“It’s not important, it’s only what I say that we’re here for. All we’re saying is ‘give peace a chance’. But it’s the least we can do is give people a laugh then. Because we’re willing to be the world’s clown. We think it’s a bit serious at the moment and a bit intellectual.”
John wrote The Ballad of John and Yoko to chronicle in song his marriage in Gibraltar, then the subsequent Bed-Ins at Amsterdam and he even reveals the Bagism groove-thing too. The lyrics read like a newspaper account of these tumultuous events. “Christ you know it aint easy, you know how hard it can be. The way things are going, they’re gonna crucify me.”
These lines are John’s way of describing the cruelty that was directed at he and Yoko by people and the press. The song was recorded on April 18th, 1969 at Abbey Road studios, and only features John and Paul on instruments. George was off on holiday and Ringo was filming The Magic Christian. That’s John on lead vocal, lead guitars, acoustic guitar and percussion. That’s Paul on harmonies, bass, drum, piano and maracas.
The second wave of Bed-Ins took place at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Canada, starting on May 26th. New York was their first pick. At this point the Lennons’ applications for visas to the United States had been rejected, because of a former conviction of John’s for hashish possession.
If you watch the DVD Imagine, you can see the cartoonist Al Capp harassing John and calling him a phony for his beliefs on peace. I like his cartoon strips, like Li’l Abner, but he’s making an absolute Ass of himself in this exchange with Lennon.
More important is the live recording of Give Peace a Chance, that features celebrities, such as Timothy Leary, Petula Clark, Allen Ginsberg, Murry the K, Tommy Smothers and Dick Gregory, all joining in with John and Yoko on this inspiring anthem.
This is an early line up of the Plastic Ono Band. It was John’s own take on the Civil Rights movement credo, We Shall Overcome. But rather, it was the anti-war movement that picked up on the song. God only knows how much effect the song had on stopping the war in Vietnam? I should think it was a great deal.
So the 20th of March, today my friend, was the start of something Big in the lives of John and Yoko. They got married in Gibraltar, then had the inspiration, creativity and energy to change the world for the better, to change a world of war to one of peace and hope. They were in for some rocky times, but overall, they had a quite idyllic marriage. In fact, ’twas one of the best marriages I’ve ever encountered in history!
John and Yoko are my favorite couple in history. Competitors for my affection include: Anthony and Cleopatra, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, don’t forget Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. These are earth-rattling couples too, but John and Yoko still crown the pinnacle of conjugal partners.
They utilized their love, mirth and marriage to change the world, to make it a better place and spread peace among men. The message of peace and love grows like wildfire from Bed-Ins; guns drop to the ground and spring flowers bloom in their place.