March 20, 2010
By John Kays
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.
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.