Amsterdam Bed-In 40 Years On: Memories and Reflections

They say that Twitter helps you find ideas. With regards to this post, Twitter helped me find the most of it… starting with a reminder about the famous Amsterdam bed-in at the Hilton Hotel staged by John Lennon and Yoko Ono between 25 and 31 of March, 1969. Although a seasoned Beatlomaniac myself, I have forgotten about the 40th anniversary. But then someone reminded me of it.

It was Joel Warady from Chicago with whom I share both professional activity (marketing, see Joel Warady Group website) and the passion for the Grand Four from Liverpool. His first tweet was a mere mention of the 40th anniversary, but he also mentioned that at The Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam there was a plaque on the room’s door. I was curious, so I asked if one could actually see the room. Joel’s answer was positive… and next I was asking him if he would be willing to answer a few questions. The Q&A exchange happened at Facebook, so in a nutshell here is an example of harnessing the potential of some Social Networks to do the work.

So, off to Joel 🙂 And many thanks to him for agreeing to answer the questions.


Joel Warady: This was the room where John asked for peace…

JD: Let’s start with your visit to Amsterdam. Did you deliberately choose to stay at The Hilton?

JW: I tend to go to Amsterdam for work purposes, and in 2007 I decided to stay at The Hilton. I didn’t actually think that it was there that John and Yoko had staged their bed-in. But once I arrived, I recognised it straight away and asked some questions. The front desk person was the one who confirmed it, and told me that if I wanted to see the room, the General Manager would be happy to show it to me.

JD: You mentioned there was a plaque at the room commemorating the bed-in. So, you got to see it – what was the impression?

JW: I did have a chance to see the room. I saw it many times before in the clips, but it was still very inspiring to physically be there. It was very cool, it felt historical, but also a bit sad. I was thinking that this was the room where John asked for peace, but then remembering that he was shot in an act of violence… it really got to me.

JD: Do you remember your reaction to the news on December 8, 1980?

JW: When I first heard that John was killed, I was in my car, driving in the suburbs of Chicago. Ironically, I was selling life insurance at the time, and when I heard he had been killed, I pulled off the road, and cried.

JD: John seems to be an important figure for you… am I right?

JW: John’s humour was always what made me smile the most. While I enjoyed his singing, his personality was what made it for me.

JS: And what about the Beatles, then? I notice on Facebook you list them among your favourite artists.

JW: Beatles did mean a lot for me. I’m old enough to remember their US introduction, but still young enough to introduce their music to younger coworkers. Even today when I hear certain Beatles songs, I tear up thinking of when I first heard the song. It also saddens me to hear John’s and George’s voices on certain songs, knowing that they both are gone.

JS: Do you have a favourite song?

JW: This would be a tough one! Obviously, there are so many… but if I have to choose one, it is ‘If I Fell‘ from A Hard Day’s Night album.

JS: As everyone knows, we the fans love going to our stars’ concerts, visiting the places where they lived or worked, collect memorabilia. What about yourself – have you seen the Beatles perform? Or went to Penny Lane, perhaps?

JW: Well, here is what really sad: although I’ve been to the UK over 70 times, I still didn’t get to visit Liverpool or Abbey Road. I do keep promising myself to do so, of course. At the same time, I have visited the site in Soho where they had their store. The same goes for those sites in London where I know they used to be in their early days, I love going there. I’ve never seen them live, but a few years ago I went to see Paul in concert, and that was awe-inspiring. Seriously, it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended.

The Significance of the Amsterdam Bed-In

The 40th anniversary of the Bed-In (commemorated in The Ballad of John and Yoko) was highlighted in the media, as well as marked by a special exhibition organised by Yoko Ono and The John Lennon Estate. The exhibition at The Hilton this year showcased John’s art work, posthumously fulfilling his dream to achieve recognition as a visual artist. On a personal note, I own what must be one of those collections of coloured prints that Yoko produced to popularise John’s work. To quote John Lennon Arts Projects,

Lennon’s style as an artist has been written about extensively, and consisted of two main techniques: quick sketching and the art of sumi ink drawing, which involves the use of a fine sable brush with very black ink and water. This Oriental art technique leaves very little room for error; the consistency of the water and ink has to be carefully controlled, and the brushstrokes must suit the consistency of the ink. Quick sketching was also well suited to Lennon, as he could draw extremely fast; many of his quick sketches were made in one continuous movement in which he did not lift his pencil from the paper, thereby creating an entire complex image with a single line.

Of course, for all of us who in one way or another were influenced by Lennon’s work, and by The Beatles in general, there will be those who are more or less immune to their charms. Michael Archer of The Guardian, for instance, attempts to explain the significance of the bed-in, but ends up speculating more about the phonetic similarity between Lennon’s “peace” and Ono’s “piece”, as she called her own artwork (now, of course, “piece” as a term has been so much appropriated by artists and art critics alike, it is probably impossible to appreciate the 1969 pun in its own terms). He also puts the bed-in in the context of the Vietnam war and compares it to the Grosvenor Square demonstration of 1968. What he forgets to mention, however, that 1968 was generally the year of protests (May’68 in Paris was fittingly commemorated in Bertolucci’s Dreamers); these happened in many countries, and the Vietnam war wasn’t the only cause. Lennon wasn’t too idealistic, after all, and certainly didn’t expect the world leaders to stop fighting to watch him and Yoko possibly having sex. The bed-in was an attempt to seize the moment, to get the world come to the Amsterdam Hilton and to “give peace a chance”. To quote one of the commentators on Archer’s article:

I was in NYC the night John Lennon was shot. Driving by the Dakota the next day on the way out of town was one of the saddest experiences in my life. In some ways, it has seemed to me that that day was a turning point in our civilisation and that everything went downhill since then… I still miss John Lennon for his music also, of course, but the world today could certainly use more of his wit, wisdom, and sarcasm. A special thanks to Yoko for keeping John’s memory alive…

P.S. I was hoping to add more “value” to Joel’s interview, as I found a video on YouTube (a Social Media channel, by the way) of Hans Schiffers, a Dutch journalist, interviewing Hans Boskamp at The Hilton Hotel. The video went online in February 2009. I tried to connect with Hans via YouTube mail, but was far less successful. My attempts at securing help of other Dutch speakers I knew, sadly, failed, but the readers of this post who know Dutch are very welcome to participate. You can leave comments or email me with the transcript. Either way, it will be quoted, and a full credit will be given to you.

You can also view a series of bed-in clips at Mojo4Music.

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2 thoughts on “Amsterdam Bed-In 40 Years On: Memories and Reflections”

  1. “Michael Archer of The Guardian, for instance, attempts to explain the significance of the bed-in”

    and succeeds to do that better then your piece.

    Like

  2. Hello! You are Michael Archer, right? 🙂 Apologies, if not.

    I notice that you only quoted the part of my article that helped to make your comment “valid” – but it goes against the grain of my piece. I explained what my problems with Archer's article were – that he placed the bed-in in the context that was too narrow. I have no doubt that he did a great job for people who are critical about John Lennon, but not for me. On the scale on subjectivity, I think he was more subjective than I will ever be, despite being Lennon's fan.

    Like

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