As the world gets ready to celebrate John Lennon’s 80th birthday this October, this year also marks the 51st anniversary of the John and Yoko bed-in staged in Montreal from 26 May to 2 June 1969 at the luxury Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel. The Hotel staff and guests at the time were less than impressed with the arrival of these famous guests.
They were accompanied by a huge entourage of reporters, fans and, as one hotel guest exclaimed, “long-haired hippies”. According to the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel’s housekeeping records, furniture was found in the corridor, pictures were taken off the walls, and all that remained was a double bed placed in the sitting room. Complaints were also made from the housekeeping team who had to vacuum the corridors three to four times a day as Lennon was prone to repeatedly scattering flower petals.
Seizing worldwide media interest without even having to get out of bed, John and Yoko spoke to more than 150 journalists each day. In the US alone, 350 stations broadcast their promotion for peace and helped to flash their message around the globe to support those already protesting against the continuing war in Vietnam.
The highlight of the John and Yoko bed-in event was Lennon’s composition of Give Peace a Chance on 1 June. He wrote the song on the spur of the moment and under the direction of renowned music producer Andre Perry, converted the suite into a makeshift recording studio. Around 50 people contributed to the recording of the song, including icon of 1960s counterculture, psychologist Dr Timothy Leary, and singer Petula Clark, after which it was immediately broadcast around the world.
Although Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel John and Yoko bed-in suite 1742 has been refurbished several times since 1969, as you step across the threshold, the special history remains palpable. The most recent renovation was in 2017 when the bed was moved back under the window where the iconic ‘Hair Peace’ and ‘Bed Peace’ hand-drawn posters are recreated on the windows above the bed.
Artwork and furniture has been curated to represent John & Yoko. There’s a British Chesterfield, a Japanese vase and the blue and white colours are for Yoko Ono, whose name means ‘daughter of the ocean’. The refurbishment has created one suite from what was originally four rooms. In 1969, all the furniture was removed so that it could be used as a holding room for the journalists and Hare Krishnas that followed Lennon, in between the 150 interviews he granted during that week.
The room is still instantly recognisable from the black and white film footage of the sixties, which show John and Yoko, in respective white pyjamas and nightdress, holding court from their simple mattress placed under square windows whilst journalists practically kneel at their bare feet. Walking around the suite, flashbacks to the memorable peace campaign flood the senses and we could almost hear echoes of the unifying hand clapping which prevailed throughout the recording of Give Peace a Chance.
Compared to previous incarnations of the John and Yoko bed-in room there is now a comprehensive reference to the couple’s infamous stay. On a side table sit Lennon’s favourite books, Alice in Wonderland and the complete stories of Edgar Allen Poe. Virtual reality goggles are provided that blend modern film with footage from 1969 tell the story of the bed-in.
The dial up telephone has recordings of Lennon interviews. There is even a guitar on which to attempt your own Lennon tunes. An archive room with drawers and boxes features stories, interviews, photographs and multimedia art related to John & Yoko’s anti-war campaign.
The windows with Hair & Bed Peace signs now afford wonderful views over the Montreal skyline and the small marbled bathroom (which John and Yoko reserved for themselves, whilst guests were invited to use the one next door), remains intimate. Yes you can use the same loo as John Lennon! Fascinating memorabilia decorates the walls, including a Give Peace a Chance gold disc plus a rare collection of music, lyrics, photographs and press articles reminding you at every turn, that this is no ordinary hotel room.
Upon waking, you can authenticate your stay by ordering the same breakfast as John and Yoko. How about scrambled eggs with crispy bacon and grilled tomatoes, vegetable salad or maybe fillet of sole? Or you may like to try one of John’s favourites – Spanish Smiles: orange juice with honey and of course, staying true to his Northern roots, lots and lots of black tea.
For those looking for something a little stronger for their bed-in toast, the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel. has created a special Give Peace a Chance martini. The British gin is for John, the Japanese sake for Yoko, the grenadine signifies love whilst the lemon symbolizes that sometimes love is bitter.
Several guests have reported experiencing a mystical aura when staying overnight in the suite. Mystical or not, there’s no doubt that some powerfully charged historical and musical residue remains but sadly, the carpet of flower petals has long since gone.
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For further information please visit: www.fairmont.com
For more information on this and other John and Yoko Bed-in’s visit Wikipedia
Images by CELLOPHANELAND* and Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel.
CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel.
Recommended reading: Being John Lennon. To purchase visit our bookstore.