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Unreleased Lennon tape sells at auction

September 28, 2021

The ex-Beatle and his wife Yoko Ono were interviewed by four Danish schoolboys more than 50 years ago. The recording also includes an unreleased song.

White cassette tape with the word John Lenon on it
The old fashioned white cassette labeled with Lennon's misspelled nameImage: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix/picture alliance

More than 50 years ago, John Lennon and Yoko Ono granted four Danish students an interview for their local school magazine.

Now, the four Danes are auctioning off the old-fashioned white cassette tape with "Lenon" misspelled on it, 23 photographs of that meeting and a copy of the school magazine in which their interview was eventually published.

Estimated to command between €27,000 and 43,000 ($32,000-$50,000), the lot fetched the sum of nearly €50.000 on Tuesday at the Copenhagen-based auction house Bruun Rasmussen.

An unreleased song for peace

In the 33-minute recording, Lennon touches on everything from the couple's peace campaign to his frustration with The Beatles' image to the length of his hair.

Lennon and Ono can also be heard humming along to Danish Christmas songs while dancing around a Christmas tree, and Lennon plays the guitar and sings "Give Peace a Chance" as well as an unreleased song, "Radio Peace."

He had written "Radio Peace" as part of the couple's peace campaign. Lennon and Ono wanted to open a radio station in Amsterdam under the same name, but those plans fell through.

Skipping class for an unofficial interview

Lennon and his wife had gone to Denmark to visit Ono's then five-year-old daughter Kyoko, who had moved there with her father Anthony Cox, Ono's ex-husband.

This was at the height of the Vietnam War and the Cold War, both of which the couple famously opposed.

Word eventually spread about their presence, and so they held an impromptu press conference in Thy, Northwest Jutland in January 1970.

Ardent fans of the couple, the four teenagers convinced their headteacher to let them skip class to attend the event, and write about it in the school paper. A local record store loaned them the recording equipment. 

John Lennon and Yoko Ono sit up in a bed surrounded by photographers
The couple famously protested the Vietnam War with their week-long bed-ins for Peace, this one in Amsterdam in 1969 Image: Getty Images/Central Press

Karsten Hoejen, who made the recording, told press agency AP that Lennon and Ono had "a message of peace, and that was what was important to us."

In fact, the schoolmates ended up being late and missing the entire press conference but tried their luck by knocking on the door anyway. And the rest has now become history.

'Sitting on a treasure'

While Hoejen conducted the interview, his friend Jesper Jungersen snapped the pictures. Months after this encounter, The Beatles split up. Lennon was shot and killed in New York a decade later in 1980 at the age of 40. 

Over time, the schoolmates realized that they "were sitting on a treasure," Hoejen told AP. After some discussion, they had everything stored in a safe deposit box in 2002. 

"A collector or a museum would likely get more of it than us having it in a bank, so we decided to sell it," Hoejen said. 

Brenda Haas | Porträt
Brenda Haas Writer and editor for DW Culture