Revisiting John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s iconic ‘bed-in for peace’ protest
51 years ago today, March 25th, 1969, just days after their wedding day, John Lennon and Yoko Ono famously invited the press into their suite at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel as they attempted to use their honeymoon in a bid raise awareness for world peace.
The first week-long ‘bed-in’ which took place in the presidential suite at the aforementioned Amsterdam Hilton Hotel which derived from the couple’s knowledge that, following their wedding in Gibraltar a few days previously, they would be stalked by the press on their honeymoon no matter where it was spent.
So instead of trying to shy away from the attention on the media—realising that it would be near impossible—the newlyweds came up with the idea to involve the media in their post-wedding celebrations and change the narrative on the story to something bigger than themselves.
From 9am to 9pm for every day from 25th-31st March, the world’s press would gather in a hotel suite to see Lennon and Ono dressed in pyjamas and talking about how we can achieve peace. The couple sent out a card that read: ‘Come to John and Yoko’s honeymoon: a bed-in, Amsterdam Hotel.’” Lennon was quoted as saying in The Beatles Anthology that the media thought they were going to “make love in public,” based on the fact that the art for their 1968 album Two Virgins featured the couple naked, but in fact, they wore pyjamas.
Lennon professed: “We knew whatever we did was going to be in the papers. We decided to utilise the space we would occupy anyway, by getting married, with a commercial for peace,” before adding: “We would sell our product, which we call ‘peace.’ And to sell a product you need a gimmick, and the gimmick we thought was ‘bed.’ And we thought ‘bed’ because bed was the easiest way of doing it, because we’re lazy.”
When the newlyweds made this controversial stance, headlines claimed it was a plot to attempt to put pressure on the ruling politicians of the era—especially given that US President Richard Nixon had just been inaugurated on the stance of ending the Vietnam War with the US. At the time of the protest, a number of Vietnamese officials had been locked in talks in Paris for months in a negotiating gridlock.
Those negotiations, which were often turbulent, would not reach a mutual agreement until 1975 when the war officially ended. Lennon was rightly critical of the peace talks and at the time, said: “In Paris, the Vietnam peace talks have got about as far as sorting out the shape of the table they are going to sit around. Those talks have been going on for months. In one week in bed, we achieved a lot more.”
The innocent and somewhat naive mindset that the couple triumphed is one that Ono would later reflect on years later for as part of a MoMO retrospective on her career. “John and I thought after Bed-In, ‘The war is going to end.’ How naïve we were, you know? But the thing is, things take time. I think it’s going to happen. I mean, that I think we’re going to have a peaceful world. But it’s just taking a little bit more time than we thought then,” Ono reflected.
Two months later, the couple were set to take part in their next ‘Bed-In’ which was being proposed for a New York venue. However, Lennon was refused into back into the US over a controversial cannabis conviction. Undeterred, the couple took the protest to Montreal and held their second edition of the plat at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. During this seven-day stay, the couple would record ‘Give Peace A Chance’ which was recorded by Andre Perry in their Hotel Room on June 1st, 1969.
Both weeks were captured by the couple and turned into a documentary titled ‘Bed Peace’ which Ono made free to air on YouTube in 2012, which you can watch below.