A never-before-seen video released today (13) reveals the first-ever performance of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s pacifist anthem “Give Peace A Chance.” It was captured by the couple’s film cameraman Nic Knowland and sound recordist Mike Lax on May 25, 1969, six days before John and Yoko recorded the famous version of the song at their Bed-In for Peace at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal on May 31.
The rehearsal was filmed at the Sheraton Oceanus Hotel in the Bahamas and is the earliest known recording of the song. The film, unseen until now, has been meticulously restored and is released today in 5K by the John Lennon Estate. It features John’s humorous ad libs of lyrics for the verses before he’s joined on the memorable chorus by Yoko.
“Give Peace A Chance” immediately became synonymous with the anti-war movement of the day and retains all of its power and relevance as an enduring protest song over half a century later. The unseen video previews the April 23 release of the eight-disc super deluxe box set John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – The Ultimate Collection by Capitol/UMe.
The second Bed-In had been planned for New York, but was moved to the Bahamas when John and Yoko were denied entrance to the US, because of John’s 1968 cannabis conviction. In the event, the layout of the Sheraton Oceanus Hotel and the sweltering heat of the Bahamas prompted the couple to move again the following day to Toronto. They then decided on Montreal for the event, chosen for its proximity to New York and the American press, which they were hoping to use to get President Nixon’s attention.
At the Montreal Bed-In For Peace, John and Yoko set up in a hotel suite for a week, giving media unfettered access and granting endless inteviews to make this extended honeymoon a “commercial for peace.” The culmination was the recording of “Give Peace A Chance” as John’s first solo single, credited to the Plastic Ono Band.
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – The Ultimate Collection is released on April 23. Pre-order it here.
The newly-weds sang the song in bed in their pyjamas surrounded by an aggregation that included fans, Hare Krishnas and some of the friends and celebrities with whom they had spent the week. These included LSD advocate Timothy Leary, singer Petula Clark, disc jockey Murray The K, comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, and comedian Tommy Smothers, who played acoustic guitar.
“Give Peace A Chance” was released in July 1969, backed with Yoko’s “Remember Love,” which was recorded that same night in Montreal after their guests had left. The single climbed to No.2 in the UK and No.14 in the US to give John his first hit outside The Beatles.
Lennon later revealed that Yoko should have been co-credited with him as its writer, and would say that one of his proudest moments was when revered folk activist Pete Seeger led a crowd of over half a million protesters in a ten-minute version of “Give Peace A Chance” at the Vietnam moratorium in Washington DC on November 15 that year.
On Saturday, April 24 at 10am PDT/1pm EDT/6pm BST, fans worldwide are invited to listen to John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – The Ultimate Mixes as part of Tim’s Twitter Listening Party, the popular interactive listening experience created and hosted by Tim Burgess of the Charlatans UK. The event will include participation from Yoko Ono Lennon, Sean Ono Lennon, original Plastic Ono Band bassist and artist Klaus Voormann, John and Yoko’s friend, personal assistant and album cover photographer, Dan Richter, mixer/engineer Paul Hicks and the entire audio team behind the new Ultimate Collection.
Immediately following the Listening Party, the newly launched Twitter Spaces will host an after-party featuring a discussion hosted by Chris Hawkins of BBC Radio 6 Music and featuring Sean Ono Lennon, Klaus Voormann, Dan Richter, Paul Hicks, Tim Burgess, Ultimate Collection compilation producer/ production manager Simon Hilton and a variety of special guests to talk about the making of the album, its legacy and the exciting new collection. Visit the Tim’s Twitter Listening Party website for details about how to join. More information will be revealed closer to the date at johnlennon.com.