You might not be able to afford to stay in bed for a full week like John and Yoko did, but perhaps you can pack up your pajamas and spend one night in the suite where they staged the famous “bed in” for peace. On a recent trip to Montreal I gave my husband an incredible birthday surprise. We booked the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel for our stay in the city. Many of you might not be aware, (I wasn’t myself) that this is the hotel where the bed in event took place. John Lennon and Yoko Ono stayed in a suite in the hotel from May 26 to June 2, 1969. It was also this very suite where the recording of Give Peace A Chance occurred.
My husband Jack is a not only a major Beatles fan, but in particular a John Lennon fanatic. What better way to surprise him than having a night in the John Lennon suite. Luckily we work for another Fairmont property so I was able to get a substantial discount, but believe me it still wasn’t cheap. The normal going rate on the room starts from $600 CDN and up. I couldn’t afford for us to stay in the room for more than one night, so I pretended that the hotel had messed up our reservation and we were going to have to switch rooms for our last evening. The look on my husbands face when I brought him up to the door of the suite was priceless. There he stood looking at the brass plate that read John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
The suite is very spacious and offers spectacular views over Montreal, but I have to say that for the price the decor and furnishings are not what you would expect. Apparently the carpeting and wallpaper replicate what was in the room at the time, but none of the furniture is original to when John was there. Personally I think they should just do an upgrade to match the rest of the suites in the hotel. The king size bed however is very comfortable and is supplied with a fluffy down duvet. None of that mattered to my husband though. The fact that John Lennon had taken breaths, slept and conducted a world-renowned event in this very suite was what it was all about.
Throughout the rooms there are many photographs that show the press and various media people who were there during the demonstration. A large frame hangs above the couch with several gold records that were awarded for the song Give Peace A Chance.
Why was the bed in done in Montreal? It wasn’t the first time John and Yoko had tried to do a bed in. They were turned away from the United States because of John’s prior drug conviction. They tried a similar event in Amsterdam, but it didn’t have much success. They moved onto the Bahama’s, but it was too hot to spend a week in bed. Toronto also turned them down, but Montreal seemed to welcome them with open arms.
During their stay, John had all the furnishings except the bed moved out of the suite. The bed was placed beneath the window of the sitting room. This allowed the media people and various celebrities that showed up to move freely throughout the space. They congregated around the bed where John and Yoko lay.
The hotel had its hands full trying to deal with all the chaos of gathering fans, media frenzy and catering to the multitude of requests made by John and his entourage to pull off the demonstration for peace.
The event peaked worldwide media interest. John and Yoko spoke to as many as 150 journalists a day and over 350 radio stations reported about it in the United States alone.
The Recording Of Give Peace A Chance
Near the end of the bed in the spontaneous recording of Give Peace a Chance took place. John wrote the song in a matter of minutes. It was recorded in a bizarre manner, but what can you expect for a hotel room being made into a make-shift recording studio.
At first there was desperation to get a band, John suggested someone contact the Salvation Army band. It was thought they would sound too milatry like, so the idea was dismissed. Members of a Montreal chapter of the Hare Krishna Temple were brought in to take part instead.
Instruments were brought in and up to sixty people crammed into the room. Recording equipment was supposed to arrive by plane from Toronto, but wasn’t going to show up in time. Someone managed to get some from a rental company. The background noise came from tambourines, people clapping and even someone kicking a door. Some of the co-singing celebrity friends that took part were Petula Clark, Tommy Smothers and Dr. Timothy and Rosemary Leary. The lyrics were written in giant letters on poster size paper and put up on the walls. Somehow it all came together to create a song that was immediately played around the world. It became a billboard hit and still influences people with the hope for peace today.