Date: 02/17/2010 Print This Post

Director Paul McGrath and producer Alan Lysaght chronicle
the famous couple’s historic Bed-In and peace campaign
through rare archive footage and candid commentary from Yoko Ono

“Go back to bed,” John Lennon advised the Canadian public and much of the rest of the world, from between the sheets and amid the pillows where he and his new bride, Yoko Ono, were ensconced. The gentle edict, which was broadcast from a suite in Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel, wasn’t exactly a snow day notification. Rather, the Beatle known as “The Dangerous One” was calling for unity in the Peace Bed-In that he and Ono were having for seven consecutive days as a protest against violence. It was a honeymoon of historic import, as relevant and necessary at this moment as it was in March, 1969, when Lennon and Ono’s controversial statement inadvertently got them out of bed and on the road for a year-long peace campaign, which eventually resulted in a meeting of the minds with people such as the respected Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

In what could be considered a triumph of miracles over seemingly insurmountable odds, director Paul McGrath and producer Alan Lysaght have chronicled this quest for the ideological holy grail in the compelling documentary John & Yoko’s Year of Peace. The national newspaper The Globe and Mail, regarded as Canada’s most important publication, calls it “a brilliant documentary,” and it won a finalist certificate at the New York Festivals.

Worldwide company Image Entertainment, long recognized as the market leader in licensing, distribution and production of music video long forms and DVDs, is proud to give peace another chance with the release of John & Yoko’s Year of Peace on DVD and VHS, available Sept. 17.

The brainchild of radio producer Doug Thompson to commemorate Lennon’s 60th birthday, the film contains a wealth of rare archive footage, discovered as a happy accident in the basement of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC TV) 30 years later. Culled from many sources, McGrath, Lysaght and their team seamlessly fused together the various pieces for an intimate and insightful presentation of one of the most private public couples in popular culture. In fact, it was one of the rare times that Lennon was accessible to the media during this time, and marked his return to North America after a year-and-half absence. The often-reserved Ono provides candid commentary, further endorsing the magnitude of John & Yoko’s Year of Peace while giving it immediacy.

Working through the insulating maze surrounding Ono to request her participation tested to the limit Lysaght’s skills as a multi award-winning producer. But once he made the 11th hour connection with her, this essential element was easily incorporated.

“Yoko was wonderful,” Lysaght says. “As an interview she was insightful and inspirational. She was also invaluable in terms of helping to secure the necessary music rights, and even donated some personal photographs and film footage to the project.”

Lysaght and McGrath had to track down others for additional perspectives, including broadcast journalists who had provided live coverage of the Bed-In from the hotel suite, as well as a college student, now a federal cabinet minister, who convinced Lennon and Ono to go to Ottawa for a hastily prepared peace conference and with the hope of meeting Trudeau.

At the time of the Montreal Bed-In, CBC had not only been on hand to shoot one of the hundreds of interviews that took place, but actually paid to fly several cultural icons of the day to the bedside. Tommy Smothers, Timothy Leary, Dick Gregory and, most famously, right wing hawk Al Capp came to discuss peace with Lennon and Ono. The confrontation between Lennon and Capp provided the counterpoint between the peaceful intentions of the ’60s generation and the established order.

McGrath, former arts reporter for CBC TV’s The Journal, the most respected and influential newsmagazine in the history of Canadian television, points out, “The fact that the public broadcaster had the imagination and budget to bring these people to the bedside ‘just to see if anything interesting would happen’ highlights an admirable period in CBC’s history.”

Lysaght adds, “I doubt those circumstances could repeat themselves today, partly because of budgetary concerns but also because of the difficulty in finding an entertainer who could command such interest.”

VHS Screener Copies for Review are Now Available Upon Request