A long-lost interview from the 1969 'Bed-In' in Montreal offers a candid glimpse of rock's most famous couple, writes Randy Boswell.
Ottawa Citizen, Friday Sept 2, 2005
A retired radio journalist, rummaging through a suitcase full of old possessions, has discovered a stunning piece of pop-culture memorabilia -- a reel-to-reel recording of a previously unheard and undocumented hour-long interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono at the beginning of their era-defining 1969 "Bed-In for Peace" at a Montreal hotel.
The interview, which was was intended for airing on a CBC program at the time, was instead packed away and forgotten about when the journalist rushed home to Britain for a family emergency.
Now, the 36-year-old tape is expected to fetch more than $40,000 at an auction this month in Britain, where artifacts linked to the Beatles routinely attract astronomical bids from professional collectors and diehard disciples of history's most famous musical act.
Ken Seymour was a 30-year-old freelance broadcaster from Britain working for the CBC in Montreal when word came in May 1969 that newlyweds Mr. Lennon and Ms. Ono were coming to Canada to continue a honeymoon campaign for world peace they had begun at the Amsterdam Hilton.
The pyjama-clad couple granted numerous interviews that week, during which they also recorded the song Give Peace a Chance in their three-room suite at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. But the first, and possibly the most personal of those interviews was with Mr. Seymour, who filed only a brief CBC Radio news story on May 26 about the couple's arrival in Montreal.
"I remember doing a one- or two-minute piece for the news, and I had planned to use the rest of this long interview to do a special for the CBC series Something to Say, which featured in-depth talks with famous people or people in the news," Mr. Seymour, 67, told CanWest News Service yesterday from his home in Cornwall, England.
But before he had the chance to do anything more with his tape, Mr. Seymour learned his father had been stricken with cancer. He left immediately for Britain. And as Mr. Lennon and Ms. Ono's anti-war campaign faded from the news, Mr. Seymour decided his interview had lost its cachet and gave it no more thought.
"It was only in the last year that I saw it again when I was sorting out some old stuff. It had remained in a suitcase for the last 36 years. And I thought I may as well dig it out and see what's on it."
He was amazed by the "remarkably frank" discussion he'd had with Mr. Lennon and Ms. Ono.
While most of their Bed-In interviews produced "pretty mundane" talk of the Vietnam War and the couple's push for peace, Mr. Seymour says his recording captured Mr. Lennon "in the raw, laying bare his feminine side and revealing a maturity I never expected. This is Lennon as you've never heard him before and never will again."
There were recollections of a favourite aunt to whom he'd once confessed his plan to become "an eccentric millionaire." He recalled getting kicked out of church as a child for laughing. He described himself and his bandmates as "middle-aged teenagers."
And Mr. Lennon -- having endured controversy in 1966 over his claim the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus Christ" -- told Mr. Seymour: "I'm one of Christ's biggest fans. If I can turn Beatles fans on to Christ's teachings, that's what I'm here to do."
He admitted, too, "Yoko and I have fights; we all have violence in us."
When Mr. Seymour asked Mr. Lennon whether he fell in love with Ms. Ono at first sight, he replied: "We are both very shy people, and timid really. It took a few meetings to break the ice."
Mr. Lennon then described himself as "addicted" to his new wife and said he felt symptoms of withdrawal "if she's out of the room for five minutes."
About his career as an artist, Mr. Lennon said: "The day you are satisfied is the day you are dead."
And when asked whether he believed in life after death, the singer, who would famously urge the world to "imagine there's no heaven," replied he didn't envision a physical afterworld with "chocolates and flowers," but concluded: "I believe in life hereafter. I believe in reincarnation."
"If I do say so myself, I'm really amazed at what I did get," says Mr. Seymour. "It's worth more now as a historical document than it was as an interview at the time."
The recording and its copyright are to be sold at a Christie's pop memorabilia auction on Sept. 28.
Other highlights of the sale include the only known recording of the Beatles' 1964 concert in Hong Kong and Mr. Lennon's handwritten draft of lyrics for the 1966 song I'm Only Sleeping, which is expected to draw bids of up to $500,000.
Christie's describes the Seymour interview with Mr. Lennon and Ms. Ono as "unusual for its time, for both its depth and wide-range of topics.
The interviewer's quickfire questioning and rapid response to Mr. Lennon's comments ensured that John and Yoko spoke to him in more detail and more openly than to the many other journalists they subsequently met during the Bed-In.
"The interview is a vivid portrayal of the couple's relationship and preoccupations during one of the most optimistic and productive periods of their marriage."
Earlier this summer, the handwritten manuscript for the Beatles song All You Need Is Love sold at a London auction for a record-setting $1.5 million.