Recording of ‘unheard’ John Lennon song up for auction

Amid more than 100 paintings and sculptures up for sale at an auction in Copenhagen, Denmark, there lies an unlikely item of pop memorabilia: a long-lost tape containing an unreleased John Lennon song.

Expected to fetch up to 300,000 Danish krone ($47,000) at Tuesday’s sale, the white cassette tape also features interviews with the Beatles singer and his wife Yoko Ono, and is accompanied by a series photographs dating back to 1970.

The four interviewers, then 16-year-old schoolboys, have put the tape up for sale over 50 years after it was recorded, according to auction house Bruun Rasmussen. At the time, Lennon and Ono were visiting Thy in Jutland, Denmark, in order to resolve a custody dispute between Ono and her ex-husband over their daughter Kyoko, who is also featured in the photographs.

The four boys, who used to help produce their school magazine, were granted permission to skip class in the hope of securing an interview with Lennon and Ono, the auction house said. On January 5, 1970, they were granted access to a small press conference, alongside a small group of journalists, where they asked about the peace movement and Lennon’s music career. (At the time, Lennon was pursuing a solo career following the release of The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” the year before.)

The 33-minute recording also includes an impromptu performance, after one of the boys asked Lennon if he could play something for them. The Beatle sang “Give Peace a Chance,” first performed at the pair’s famous “Bed-in” protest in Montreal in 1969, before playing an unreleased song, “Radio Peace.”

Written to accompany a proposed Amsterdam radio station of the same name, “Radio Peace” can be “considered a kind of younger sibling” to “Give Peace a Chance,” the auction house said. But the radio station never made it to air and the song was never released.

Elsewhere in the recording, one of the four young interviewers, Karsten Højen, can be heard asking about what young people can do to champion the anti-war movement, to which Lennon and Ono suggested using posters and happenings promoting messages of peace. At one point, Lennon and Ono were also convinced to dance around the Christmas tree while everyone sang a Danish carol.

In photographs taken by Højen’s schoolmate, Jesper Jungersen, Lennon is seen wearing his iconic round glasses and long tresses alongside Ono, who is dressed in all black. In another, the pair are crammed onto a red sofa alongside Kyoko in front of Christmas decorations.

“The experience had a great impact on our lives,” Højen is quoted as saying in the auction catalog: “Back then, we were not as preoccupied with famous people as young people are today. Instead, we saw John Lennon and Yoko Ono as some kind of political prophets and symbols of peace.

“We shared a common destiny with them in relation to music and the progressive ideology of peace. The two celebrities shaped our generation and the entire counter-culture movement.”

In an apparent coincidence, another series of rare interview tapes featuring Lennon and Ono are also up for auction on Tuesday. Recorded in 1969 and 1970, the interviews — conducted by Canadian celebrity interviewer Ken Zeilig rather than bright-eyed Danish teenagers — could fetch to £30,000 ($41,000) when they go on sale in the UK.

Spanning 12 tapes and over 90 minutes, the recordings delve into behind-the-scenes details of “Abbey Road,” the War is Over movement and Lennon’s protests against the execution of convicted murderer James Hanratty.

Most of the interviews are “previously unheard,” according to auction house Omega Auctions, which described the collection as a “truly unique and inspiring archive of interviews (that) deserve to be heard by all who love The Beatles and John Lennon.”

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