Lennon cassette and photos
A cassette with a Lennon press conference from Denmark in January 1970 is to be auctioned off. The lot also consists of a school paper and a number of black and white and colour photos from the occasion. On the cassette, John sings two songs accompanied by himself on acoustic guitar and participates in a Danish Christmas song.
The cassette was recorded on the 5th of January 1970 at the New Experimental College, Skyom Bjerge, Denmark. A 16 year old student. Karsten Højen, representing his school’s newspaper brought along a cassette recorder and a camera, capturing the press conference. Having kept all this for 50 plus years, he is now prepared to make some money off it. The auction lot consists of the cassette, the school paper, 19 colour and 5 black and white photos. John is in all the photos, save for one of Yoko’s daughter, Kyoko.
The recording primarily consists of John Lennon speaking. Journalists ask questions and Lennon answers these at length occasionally joined by Ono. He speaks of the reason for being in Skyom Bjerge, how their art and music champions world peace and how everybody can contribute to world peace. There is talk about the length of his hair, and their macrobiotic diet, what it was like to perform with the Beatles and the importance of getting rid of the Beatle image. A student asks if they would consider recording blues music to which Lennon replies that all they play is blues. At one point someone suggests a dance around the Christmas tree whilst singing a Danish Christmas carol (Lennon partly participates, although he is not familiar with the lyrics). A student asks if Lennon could play the guitar, and he plays “This is radio Peace” (composed as a jingle for the Amsterdam radio station Radio Peace, which never got off the ground), followed by “Give Peace a Chance”.
In the 33-minute recording, several important topics that defined Lennon in that period are touched upon: The couple’s peace campaign, The Beatles and Lennon’s hair. As the Vietnam war raged, Lennon and Ono were fervent spokespeople for peace, raising awareness with so-called bed-ins and peace songs. The interview in Denmark was no exception to this message, where they performed “Radio Peace” (never recorded, but performed at bed-ins) and “Give Peace a Chance” which allegedly is presented in a slightly different version in this interview.
By December 1969 the Beatles had recorded their last album, Abbey Road, and even though it was not official, the group had by then parted ways. In the present recording, Lennon airs his frustration about the Beatle image. Also, the length and purpose of Lennon’s hair is explained revealing no plans of cutting it. But two weeks later a hairdresser was called upon to cut Lennon, Ono and Kyoko’s hair. According to the hairdresser, Lennon wanted a Beatle haircut, but when he saw the result, he asked it to be cut shorter, something which caused quite a stir internationally once pictures emerged.
What was John and Yoko doing in Denmark?
Although the Beatles had not officially broken up at the time of the interview, the various members had each embarked on their solo careers after the “Abbey Road” album in 1969. The two long-haired peace apostles were in full swing with their peace campaign in response to the horrors of the Vietnam war, including the highly publicized “Bed-In for Peace” happenings, where the couple promoted a message of universal peace by staying in double beds at hotels in Amsterdam and Montreal while surrounded by the world press. They arrived in Denmark at Aalborg Airport on December 27, 1969, and the reason for their visit to Denmark was a family dispute over Yoko Ono’s five-year-old daughter Kyoko, whom she had with filmmaker Anthony Cox. He had moved to Denmark with his daughter without the consent of his ex-wife, and the hope was to reach a settlement with him concerning custody. John Lennon and Yoko Ono stayed for more than a month on an isolated farm in Vust and were affiliated with the experimental “Æ Verdensuniversitet” in Skyum Bjerge, which during the period served as a Grundtvigian, humanistic and socially critical gathering place for performing artists and left-wing thinkers from around the world.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono managed to stay under the radar of the press for six days, but the rumours began to spread, and the local Fjerritslev newspaper outed them before too long. Journalists from all over the world travelled to Thy in the hope of getting close to the two world-famous people. The couple agreed to hold one official press conference for all the journalists. When, a few days before they left Thy and Denmark again, they had their hair cut short by a local hairdresser from Aalborg, the eyes of the world once again turned to Thy.
The cassette is from the same period as the so-called “Denmark” tapes or “Cox tapes” given by Lennon to Anthony Cox.
An excerpt of the interview from the cassette tape, the accompanying photographs and a copy of the school magazine where Karsten Højen wrote about his experience can be heard and seen at Bruun Rasmussen’s preview at Bredgade 33 in Copenhagen. At the preview on Monday 20 September at 4 pm, Karsten Højen will talk about his experiences and play parts of the taped interview. The auction will take place on Tuesday 28 September at 4 pm at the same address.