Before famously recording their legendary pacifist anthem “Give Peace A Chance” at their Bed-In for Peace at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal on May 31st, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono rehearsed an early version of the song while at the Sheraton Oceanus Hotel in the Bahamas just days before, on May 25th. The performance, which was captured by Lennon's film cameraman Nic Knowland and sound recordist Mike Lax, has never been released until now and is the earliest known recording of the song.
The film, meticulously restored and released today in incredible 5K by the John Lennon Estate, features John humorously ad-libbing lyrics for the verses before being joined by Yoko for the memorable chorus that became an anti-war anthem for a generation and which remains an enduring protest song more than 50 years later.
Originally set for New York, the second Bed-In was relocated to the Bahamas after John and Yoko were denied entrance into the U.S. because of John's 1968 cannabis conviction. However, due to the layout of the hotel and the sweltering Bahamian heat, the couple flew to Toronto the following day and eventually settled in Montreal, chosen for its close proximity to New York and the American press, which they were hoping to use to get the attention of President Nixon.
The couple set themselves up in a hotel suite for a week, where they allowed unlimited access and gave endless interviews, in order that their extended honeymoon serve as a “commercial for peace.” The event culminated with the recording of John’s first solo single and the first to be credited to the Plastic Ono Band, “Give Peace A Chance.”
Surrounded by fans, Hare Krishnas and having spent the week with a host of notable friends and celebrities like LSD advocate Timothy Leary, singer Petula Clark, disc jockey Murray The K, comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory and comedian Tommy Smothers, who accompanied on acoustic guitar, John and Yoko performed the song in bed dressed in their pyjamas and helped provide the soundtrack to a revolution.
Released just a month later in July 1969, backed with Yoko’s “Remember Love,” recorded that same night after their guests had left, the single reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 14 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100, giving John his first hit outside of The Beatles. Although credited to Lennon-McCartney, John later revealed the song was written by him and Yoko and she should have received the co-writing credit.
John said one of his proudest moments was when Peter Seeger led a crowd of over half a million protesters in singing a ten-minute version of “Give Peace A Chance” at the Vietnam moratorium in Washington DC on November 15, 1969.
Watch 'Give Peace A Chance' (Demo) - BELOW:
This unearthed video comes in advance of the forthcoming box set, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – The Ultimate Collection, due April 23 via Capitol/UMC, of which the track is included alongside demos for every song on the album as well as John’s non-album singles. The eight-disc super deluxe box set, celebrating 50 years of John’s transformational and influential masterpiece, is an immersive, deep listening experience and in-depth exploration of the record John described as “the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Fully authorised by Yoko Ono Lennon, who oversaw the production and creative direction, and from the same audio team that worked on 2018’s critically acclaimed Imagine – The Ultimate Collection, including triple GRAMMY®-Award winning engineer Paul Hicks and mixers/engineers Rob Stevens and Sam Gannon, the Ultimate Collection puts listeners in the centre of the studio and explores the album’s 1970 recording sessions at EMI Studios 2 & 3, Abbey Road along with John’s post-Beatles singles, “Give Peace A Chance,” “Cold Turkey” and “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On).”
Watch the unboxing trailer - BELOW:
From inception to the final master, the sessions are explored through scores of unreleased and rare demos, rehearsals, outtakes, jams and studio conversations, revealing how these beloved songs came to be. Everything in this expansive box set has been newly mixed from scratch from brand new 192kHz/24bit hi-res transfers. In addition to the various new mixes, the set boasts 87 never-before-heard recordings.