A previously unreleased recording of an interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono conducted by Danish schoolboys in which Lennon performs an unreleased Beatles track is currently being auctioned off in Copenhagen.
The track was recorded as part of a report for a school magazine by the group of teenage boys only months before the Beatles announced their breakup in 1970.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono recorded the interview and song at the same time as they were calling for an end to the war in Vietnam. The two were frequent visitors to Denmark at the time, having staged their famous ‘bed-ins for peace’ at the Hilton hotel in Amsterdam in 1969 in addition to traveling to Thy, a remote district of Jutland in north-west Denmark to make custody arrangements for Ono’s five-year-old daughter, Kyoko, who was living with her father (Tony Cox) in the area.
The couple’s visit unsurprisingly garnered attention from locals leading to an all out media frenzy. The couple staged an impromptu press conference to explain their presence in the country. Four Danish schoolboys managed to persuade their teacher to give them the day off to report on the event for the school magazine, armed with a tape recorder borrowed from a hi-fi shop.
One of the boys responsible for the recording, Karsten Hoejen, recalled the afternoon saying that by the time the boys arrived to the event the press conference had ended, but were nonetheless invited in. “We were a bunch of 16-year-old hippies,” he told the BBC. “As we arrived everyone was leaving … We went into the living room and saw John and Yoko sitting on the sofa, it was fantastic. We sat down with them and were quite close to each other.”
“We talked, we had a good time,” said Hoejen, 68. “John asked me, ‘where do you come from? A radio station?’ ‘No, from a school magazine,’ I said.”
John Lennon’s unmistakable voice can be heard on the recording asking the teens what they thought they could contribute to the peace movement. “If you can’t think of any ideas yourself, imitate what we do,” he says. “Sit down and think ‘what can we do locally’?”
Hone reported that Lennon and Ono were joined in attendance by Kyoko, Cox and his wife, Melinda. “[They] were sat with their feet on the table in their woollen socks.”
When prompted by Hoejen to perform a song for the boys, Lennon took up a guitar and played a rendition of ‘Give Peace A Chance’ followed by a tune called ‘Radio Peace’ which at the time was set to become the theme song for a radio station Lennon hoped to launch in Amsterdam.
“The radio station was never opened and the song was never released,” Hoejen said. “To our knowledge, the only place where this song exists is on our tape.”
Hoejen and his friends recently decided to liberate the tape from the bank vault where its been store to auction it off, only now realizing the tape’s potential worth.
The tape is being auctioned off at the Brunn Rasmussen auction house in Copenhagen on Tuesday alongside an original copy of the school newspaper and 23 photographs from the press conference. All together the items are projected to rake in between $32,000 and $50,000.
Because no digital copy of the recording exists and the tape’s current owners have maintained exclusive rights over the recording, media outlets have been unable to access the Beatles previously unreleased song. It is believed, however, that one of several museums vying for ownership of the recording at Tuesday’s auction will eventually make the track available to the public in the future, should they acquire it.
“A recording like this is indeed very rare,” said the auction house’s director Alexa Bruun Rasmussen. “We are not sure that there are any other recordings like this one, because it’s an unofficial recording.”