Two sets of John Lennon interviews up for auction this month

Beatles fans, there are TWO collectables coming up for auction this month that might be worth taking out a loan. 

New, recently unearthed, cassette taped interviews with John Lennon from 1970 are going up for auction at the end of September. 

First, the schoolboy interview. 

John and Yoko Ono were staying in Thy, Northern Jutland (an island in Denmark, for those who don’t know) and were interviewed by four 16-year-old students. The song also includes a recording of the never-released song “Radio Peace.” The 33-minute-long interview is expected to be sold for between $32,000 and $48,000 USD. The auction is being handled by Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers in Copenhagen

“This is the first time ever that an interview by John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono comes up for live auction and we expect a great interest in the collector’s item,” Alexandrea Nilsson, a valuation specialist with the auction house, says about the tape. “For me personally, it has been surprisingly moving to hear Lennon’s voice. It feels incredibly present and not as if it was recorded 50 years ago. Unfortunately, his message about world peace is still very necessary and one can only imagine that today he would be spreading the same message if he were alive.”  

The lucky bidder will also take home a series of photos from the interview session, snapped by Jesper Jungersen, one of the four students who did the interview. 

John and Yoko, and her young daughter, went to Northern Jutland in the middle of a family dispute with Yoko’s former husband, Anthony Cox, who had moved to Denmark with the girl — they were hoping to settle a custody arrangement. John and Yoko stayed for a month at a little farm in the village of Vust, but it only took people six days to find out they were there. The couple relented and agreed to do one press conference for all outlets; the boys, thinking quickly, not only convinced their principal to let them skip school to go to the event, but borrowed recording equipment from a radio store and paid a driver a few dollars to get into the village for the event. When they arrived, however, they learned that the event had been moved 70 km away, so they drove over in a blizzard, only to arrive after the event was done. They knocked on the door and were astonished to be let in, greeting Lennon and Yoko with a few other reporters who were delayed by the weather. 

Now 68 years old, one of the boys, Karsten Hojen recalls the interview as having a “great impact” on their lives. “Back then, we were not as preoccupied with fame and famous people as young people are today. Instead, we saw John Lennon and Yoko Ono as 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.” 

Since 2002, the tape was kept in a safe deposit box but now the friends are looking to let the tape go to someone who will appreciate it, and partly because “tapes and pictures do not have as great a value for our children and grandchildren,” he says. (Can you imagine?!?)

The auction is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 4 p.m. More information on what’s up for sale can be found here

Then, the Canadian interview. 

Omega Auctions is hosting this one, featuring 90 minutes of interviews Lennon recorded with Canadian journalist Ken Zeilig over the course of several conversations in 1969 and 1970, in the last days of the Beatles. The tapes were recently found by Zeilig’s family — he passed away in 1990 — and are expected to sell for between $28,000 to $41,000 USD.  

These candid conversations are rather revealing, including Lennon naming some of his favorite Beatles songs (Revolution #9, I Am the Walrus, Strawberry Fields Forever, A Day in the Life and Rain, if you’re wondering). He also talks about the influence composers Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage had on The Beatles’ music, adding that “People said the Beatles created a whole new way of life and thinking. Well, we didn’t, we were part of it. If there was a big wave in the ocean which was the movement, we were on the front of the wave. But we were not the movement itself.”

Lennon also talks about giving back his Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1969, saying he was a “hypocrite” to accept it in the first place. “If you get a medal for killing, you should certainly get a medal for singing and keeping Britain’s economics in good kick.” He gave it back as “A protest against Britain’s involvement in Biafra and Nigeria and about Britain’s backing of the United States morally and verbally in Vietnam. I had to write three letters: One to the Queen, one to Harold Wilson (the prime minister at the time) and one to the …something of the Chancellery.” 

Additionally, he has some disparaging words for music critics, saying they “can never be the artist and so never understand what is going on. He can only hope, he can only sort of judge it…people are wasting their time writing about music. I mean, who are they writing it for?” 

If you want to try your luck at this auction, it is scheduled to take place on September 28 as well. More information can be found here

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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