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John Lennon

AUDIO: Unpublished Lennon/Ono interview, song with Danish schoolboys to be auctioned

John Lennon
Image courtesy of Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Copenhagen. Creative Commons Attribution

COPENHAGEN – A never-before-published cassette tape of an interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono from their famous winter stay in Thy, Northern Jutland, Denmark in 1970 is going to be auctioned on September 28 by Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers in Copenhagen. The 33-minute-long recording includes a conversation between the famous couple and the four 16-year-old schoolboys, who were allowed to interview Lennon and Ono. At one point the never-published song “Radio Peace” is also played. The cassette tape has an estimated price of DKK 200,000-300,000 (US$32,000-$47,000).

In late December 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono suddenly appeared in snow-covered Thy in Northern Jutland. Four 16-year-old Danish schoolboys were allowed to interview the couple for the local school magazine, and now more than 50 years later, they have chosen to put the cassette tape with the conversation and the never-released song “Radio Peace” up for auction at Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers in Copenhagen

“This is the first time ever that an interview by John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono has come up for live auction, and we expect a great interest in the collector’s item,” said Alexandra Nilsson, valuation specialist at Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers. “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.”

John Lennon
Yoko Ono and John Lennon. Image courtesy of Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Copenhagen. Creative Commons Attribution

The cassette tape is accompanied by a series of photographs from the interview, which were taken by one of the four boys present, Jesper Jungersen. In those images, John Lennon and Yoko Ono are seen sitting and relaxing on a sofa, wearing wool socks and with their feet on the coffee table, together with Yoko Ono’s five-year-old daughter Kyoko.

Listen to a small audio clip from the cassette tape HERE.

Lennon’s Visit to Northern Jutland

The reason for the famous couple’s visit to Denmark was a family dispute over Yoko Ono’s five-year-old daughter Kyoko, whom she had with filmmaker Anthony Cox. He had moved to Denmark with Kyoko, and now the hope was that Ono and Lennon would be able to reach a settlement with him concerning custody.

Lennon and Ono stayed for more than a month on an isolated farm in the village of Vust and were affiliated with the experimental “Æ Verdensuniversitet” in Skyum Bjerge. They managed to stay under the radar and away from the media’s watchful eye for six days, but eventually rumors began to spread and they were outed by the local newspaper. Journalists from all over the world traveled to Thy in hopes of getting close to the two world-famous peace activists. The couple agreed to hold one official press conference for all of the journalists.

What would come as a result of this media event was an experience the four 16-year-old classmates would remember for the rest of their lives. They managed to persuade the principal at Skovgårdsskolen near the town of Brovst to let them skip their schoolwork to interview Lennon. When they read in the newspaper that Lennon and Ono were in Northern Jutland, they devised a plan. The boys borrowed recording equipment from the local radio dealer, and paid a local truck driver DKK30 (US$4.75 at today’s rate of exchange) to drive them to the vicarage in Kettrup, where the couple were set to hold a press conference on January 5, 1970.

When the boys arrived at vicarage, they were greeted by a small note on the door saying the press conference had been moved to “Æ Verdensuniversitetet” (New Experimental College) in the hilly terrain of Skyum Bjerge, 70 kilometers (43 miles) away. In a raging blizzard, the four boys drove toward the new location. Upon arriving, they found that the press conference was already over. With nothing to lose, they knocked on the door. Luckily, they managed to get inside and meet their idols along with a handful of journalists who, due to the rough weather, had also arrived too late.

Recording Was Placed in a Bank Vault

The unique recording on the tape makes it clear that there was a good chemistry from the start between the schoolboys and the famous couple. The conversation is surprisingly informal and relaxed, and everything from hair length and friendships to visions of peace and generational divides are discussed. At one point, one of the schoolboys, Karsten Højen, asks how a Danish school student can support the peace campaign. The answer was simple – they should work locally for peace with posters and happenings promoting their message.

John Lennon
Yoko Ono and John Lennon. Image courtesy of Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Copenhagen. Creative Commons Attribution

During the interview session, the small, exclusive party even dances around a Christmas tree, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono can be heard humming along to Danish Christmas songs. At one point, John Lennon plays the guitar and sings “Give Peace a Chance” and the unreleased song “Radio Peace.”

“The experience had a great impact on our 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 counterculture movement,” said the now 68-year-old Karsten Højen. Since 2002, the tape has been secured in a safe deposit box. Now Højen and his friends are selling the cassette tape and photographs at auction.

John Lennon
Passionate about world peace, John Lennon advised the schoolboys to work at a grassroots level, and if they couldn’t come up with any ideas on how to achieve it, they should “imitate” what he and Yoko were doing. Image courtesy of Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Copenhagen. Creative Commons Attribution

“The whole session on January 5, 1970 was a great experience for all four of us and became a fond memory. But at that age, a lot happens in one’s life – all four of us split up after completing our education at Skovsgårdskolen, and our shared experience slipped a little into the background of our memories. Now we are all quite a bit older – and tapes and pictures do not have as great a value for our children and grandchildren. Therefore, we decided that it should be sold at auction to someone else who will appreciate it,” said Karsten Højen.

Meet Karsten Højen in Copenhagen and Listen to Him Talk About His Experiences

In connection with the auction’s preview, Karsten Højen will talk about his experience when he visits and delivers a talk at Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers in Copenhagen on Monday, September 20 at 4 pm.. Parts of the taped interview will also be played. The cassette tape, the accompanying photographs, and a copy of the school magazine where Karsten Højen wrote about his experience will be displayed at the preview. The actual auction will take place on Tuesday, September 28 at 4 pm at the gallery.

Find more information about the tape HERE. Visit Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers online.

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John Lennon