Photography by Gerry Deiter
Compiled by Joan Athey
Edited by Paul McGrath
Review by Tony Copple
Ottawa Beatles Site
Maybe you didn't think of the Montreal Bed-in for Peace as art. Think again!
Forty years on we can re-examine what happened in Room 1742 of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal between May 26 and June 1, 1969, thanks to Joan Athey and her collaborator Paul McGrath, in their new book Give Peace a Chance, featuring the lost photographs of Gerry Deiter. My first impression was of the sheer artistry represented in the photos of an event which we have seen represented before, but only in tabloid and TV movie form.
The story of how Joan Athey came to write the book is providential. Life Magazine photographer Gerry Dieter had taken hundreds of images during the week of the Bed-in, but they had never been published. He died suddenly in 2005 and his trusted friend Joan was able to obtain the rights. Her book is a worthy repository for her selection of the very best of those photographs.
Joan has tracked down a number of participants: Alison Gordon of the CBC, concert promoter Donald Tarlton, Richard Glanville-Brown of Capitol Records, DJ Chuck Chander, Paul Williams, author and funder of Crawdaddy! and Music producer André Perry. Yoko Ono has also blessed the book with a personal message. It is in all their words that the book comes alive with a second series of revelations. Did you know, for example, that there are backing vocals on Give Peace a Chance added the day after the recording in the hotel room, which Lennon immediately approved when he heard André Perry's mix? Consistently these journalists witness to the huge impression made by this event in their lives, like no other before or since. What the world saw at the time as a publicity stunt, they lived through for what it sought to be - two sincere spirits engaged in opening up a new way for us to bring peace to the world, one heart at a time.
One of the photos shows John in his white suit as he headed out for a peace conference in Ottawa, which is documented on the Ottawa Beatles Site.
We still have war; does that mean this was a failure? Terry Fox ran across half of Canada and we still have cancer. That a man who had found his way into countless hearts through music considered it worthwhile to make a bold statement with his new wife by his side certainly told us that it was important to them. If a few more will stand up (instead of throwing rocks) for what is important to them with honest statements calling for peace and justice, that can hardly fail to impress, and we are the better for it. They did what they could, and Gerry Deiter, in doing what he could to record the moment, forever changed his life. Joan Athey has now done her best to add to the monument of which John and Yoko laid a cornerstone in 1969.
Give Peace a Chance - John & Yoko's Bed-in for Peace, is published by Wiley. $CAN 29.95.
Available in bookstores everywhere December 1, 2009. Makes a fine Christmas present.
Joan Athey writes:
Are You In the Photos?
I have had many adventures in putting this book together. Following the publication, rock journalist and author Ritchie Yorke helped guide me to some additional connections. But out of the blue other things popped up to help me connect the dots.
On page 18 I have identified and spoken to the boy in the striped shirt, Tony Hall. On page 92 the man getting presented with the poster is none other than Yoko’s first manager, Norman Seaman who died in September 2009. And on page 76 the cluster of beautiful young women includes his daughters Merry, Gaye and Joy, to whom the poster is dedicated. I am sure that Gerry Deiter, with his roots in the counter-culture of Greenwich Village, took those wonderful images because he must have known them.
I have many other faces in the 80 images in the book I would love to identify for a second edition. Any help I get would be appreciated. Who are the people in this photo, for example?
And who is that boy front and centre on page 25 who was in the Love-in March on May 31 that nearly ruined the last day of the bed-in when the recording was being planned?
Everyone has a story to tell and it all helps to enrich the fabric of history.