John Lennon All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance

John Lennon CB December 6.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham


If nothing else, John Lennon was a passionate man. Everything he did, he did fully and totally committed. From his drive to get the Beatles to the top, his ardent and honest plea to “Give Peace a Chance” and his unfailing devotion to Yoko Ono, Lennon had it cranked to eleven.


During his “bed-in” in Montreal Quebec, Lennon was asked “Why are you doing this, staying in bed?” to which he replied “just trying to give peace a chance!”  He repeated that sentence several times in the next little while and decided to make it song and on June 1st, 1969 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel  Suite 1742, in downtown Montreal a remote recording was arranged and history was made. John played his guitar in bed and Tommy Smothers joined in.  And guarding the microphone (" Don't let that thing jiggle") while Lennon sang was Montreal Gazette reporter Dave Bist.


Dave Bist and I went to Kensington Elementary School together and when I contacted him he generously agreed to let me use parts of his published story of the historic event! This is history folks, from a man who was there!


“This is how it started, according to the Queen Elizabeth Hotel's security log book for Monday, May 26, 1969, as recorded by a Mr. David: At approximately 10:45 p.m. Mr. Lennon phoned to let me know he would be arriving by 11:15 p.m. At this time, I told him that some protection could be given but he would have to come by the garage entrance number 4 so we could escort him. The Murray Hill limousine service was to drive Mr. Lennon by the garage entrance as instructed .At the last moment, Dorval police drove Mr. Lennon to the outskirts of the city and placed him in a taxi. When he finally arrived at midnight, where some 50 to 75 teenagers were waiting for him. Seeing that he was being mobbed by the crowd, I went over to help him out while some bellmen tried to push the crowd aside. We finally got him out and I took him to his suite. He was satisfied with the accommodation and apologized for not coming by the garage entrance as instructed.


Montreal 1969Montreal 1969For me, this strange trip started a few days before the evening Give Peace a Chance was recorded on the 17th floor of the Queen E. I'd been writing a rock-music column for The Gazette and had met many of the bright lights of the Montreal pop scene. But then came word that John Lennon, the sarcastic, witty, somewhat twisted genius of the Beatles was coming to town.“


The day of June 1 was more manic than usual. "Did you hear that John's going to record a song tonight?" was the buzz. Ummm ... OK. But where? Can't be here. There's only John's guitar and no sign of any recording equipment ...It seems that John had been working on a song and his talk with Rabbi Feinberg had included the phrase "Give peace a chance." So, around 4 p.m., things started to come together. Tommy Smothers and Pet Clark were enlisted and the call went out for portable recording equipment. Richard Glanville-Brown, Capitol Records' public-relations man, was tapped to find equipment and got on the phone to his HQ in Toronto. They have it. Get it on a plane - it should be in Montreal by 9 p.m. Problem No. 2: no guitar for Smothers. This one should be easy, right? Stores are closed and this being a Saturday, most musicians are already on their way to weekend gigs. So, into the breach sails Dave Patrick of CJAD, a benevolent bear of a broadcaster, who heads off to the Back Door Coffee House and miraculously returns with the same model guitar Smothers uses. It has since been decided that the equipment from Toronto wouldn't be here in time, so Capitol Records' A&R man Pierre Dubord calls RCA to rent a Scully four-track recorder and Andre Perry, who at the time had a basement studio in Brossard (and later went on to found Son-Quebec and Le Studio in Morin Heights).


Derek Taylor has been conferring with Lennon and they decide a Salvation Army band would be just the thing. "Call room service and have them send one up," Taylor declares, and he is only half-kidding. That idea withers. It is pointed out that the Sally Ann band might sound a tad militaristic, and anyhow nobody can contact them. Another idea. Some representatives of the local Krishna Consciousness Temple have been regular visitors and have brought along their instruments - drums, cymbals and tambourines - to accompany their Hare Krishna chants. Taylor thinks they'd be perfect, if they'd sing different words. They refuse, saying that would commercialize their beliefs and, robes rustling, they scamper out. At this point there are about 40 people in the room, radio station CFOX is set up in the corner of the room and, frankly, it's hotter'n hell. The tension, as they say, is mounting ...The lyrics are pasted on the wall, Smothers perches on the edge of John and Yoko's bed and Timothy Leary and his wife, Rosemary, take up positions at its foot. The rest of us stand or sit on the floor and Lennon gives us his marching orders: he'll sing the lead and the rest of us can join in the chorus. Tony Hall, a Queen E bellboy who'd been assigned to the room, is handed a tambourine and Leary a pair of sticks to whack together. I'm ordered to guard a microphone stand. Hand-clapping is encouraged. John counts, then launches into the song: (Two one two three four)


“Ev'rybody's talking about
Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism
This-ism, that-ism, is-m, is-m, is-m.
Then the chorus is almost deafening:
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance”


This goes on for seven or eight minutes and everybody's having a great time, rocking back and forth, clapping and goggle-eyed (hey, is this happening?). Then it's time for a second take. Mikes are moved around and CJAD's Patrick is assigned the tambourine. If he didn't believe it before, he's almost delirious now - you can almost see it running around in his head: "Now, here's John Lennon, accompanied vocally and instrumentally by me ..."Lennon then instructs everyone how to keep hand-clapping off-beat and we're off again. Hey, if you didn't believe in Peace before, you sure did now! Glanville-Brown has been assigned to keep a bottom beat by kicking a half-open door, which he does with great vigour. Others are hitting anything that goes thump. It was, frankly, wonderful. Once the mob had been ushered out of the room, Perry and Dubord stayed while John and Yoko recorded the flip side (trivia question answer: Remember Love) and Lennon tells Perry to take the tape back to his studio to see how it sounds. For years, there have been rumours that Perry found it so bad that he in fact recorded the whole thing again. Not so. "It wasn't perfect," Dubord recalled recently. "I mean, it was like recording at a noisy party of 60 people. But John's voice was clear ... it just needed a touch-up ."So, the next day Perry (who has reportedly retired to the Bahamas and couldn't be reached) called some friends and did a little over-dubbing."Andre put a little 'character' in the attack," Dubord recalled. "The beginning of the chorus, 'All we are saying ...' was a little ragged, so he dubbed his friends' voices in a bit there to tighten it up."And, he added with a laugh, "if you listen really closely, you can hear some French accents!"But, he added, the great majority of the sounds on the record did come from that incredible night at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.”


The song became an anthem, sung all over the world.’


So there it is, the story of that legendary night told by one of the participants and putting to rest some of the rumours and false stories that surround the event.


Isn’t it a sad commentary that 44 years later and 33 years after the tragic assassination of one of the most peace loving men of a generation in one of the most violent of ways possible, that we somehow have not gotten the message.


War still runs rampant, hate, violence and senseless deaths are still daily occurrences!


If John were still walking this earth he would still be singing “ Give Peace a Chance” !


Editor’s Note:
At around 10:50 pm on December 8, 1980, as John Lennon and Ono returned to their New York apartment in the Dakota, Mark David Chapman shot Lennon in the back four times at the entrance to the building. Lennon was taken to the emergency room of nearby Roosevelt Hospital and was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:07 pm. Earlier that evening, Lennon had autographed a copy of Double Fantasy for Chapman. Ono issued a statement the next day, saying "There is no funeral for John", ending it with the words, "John loved and prayed for the human race. Please pray the same for him." His body was cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Ono scattered his ashes in New York's Central Park, where the Strawberry Fields memorial was later created. Chapman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years to life. As of 2013, he remains in prison, having been denied parole seven times.