When Canadian Gail Renard was sixteen she had a life-changing experience. She lived in Montreal and in 1969 John Lennon and Yoko Ono came to town to stage their “Bed-In” protest for peace.
“Give Me A Chance” is a new book out now and in it Gail Renard tells her story of meeting John and Yoko and spending eight amazing days with them as their guest and helper in room 1742 of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal.
She babysits Yoko’s five-year-old daughter Kyoko, and she sits in on John and Yoko holding court as the press and the rich and famous make a beeline to their bedside to interview them, to argue, to pay homage, and to hear about spreading the word of peace throughout the world. I really liked the book. While not full of revealing facts, its easy to read and has a genuine sense of fun and adventure. Gail writes in an endearing naive style and we get to experience the “Bed-In” for peace up close but very much through the eyes of a sixteen year-old girl. How did she get to spend eight days with the Lennon’s? We learn that when she called her mother to get permission there was a very awkward moment:
“Put John on the phone,” she demanded. I recognized her inquisitor’s voice and was mortified. “Oh Mum, you can’t!” I knew she could and she would, and that I didn’t have a choice….so I reluctantly handed the phone over to John. I tried not to cringe as Mum carefully spelt out her conditions to him. There was to be no funny business – no sex or drugs around her innocent daughter. As if that wasn’t enough, Mum also said that I could help at the Bed-In during the day but I’d have to be back at home by my bedtime every night. To my amazement, John agreed…
With permission from her mother out of the way Gail gets to sit in and sing as part of the rowdy chorus in the now historic recording of “Give Peace A Chance”. Every label for the song has the words “Recorded in Room 1742 Hotel La Reine Elizabeth, Montreal…”:
Afterwards, John gave her his hand-written lyrics for the song . These were written out with a black magic-marker pen on a big white cardboard square. These became the cue sheet for the crowd in the bedroom during the recording of the song in Suite 1742.
In 2008, Gail sold the “Give Peace A Chance” lyrics at a Christies auction for £350,000. She says “Thank you, John. And thanks for not throwing them out, Mother!” She’s since been back to the room where it all happened over eight days in 1969 and writes about that visit here.
In many ways the book “Give Me A Chance” is very like an earlier book about a similar transformational experience with the Lennon’s – this time for a fourteen year-old boy named Jerry Levitan – who snuck into their Toronto hotel room and attended the Toronto version of the “Bed-In” for peace. He wrote a book about his experiences called “I Met the Walrus“.
Thank you to Beatles collector Bruce Hamlin for sending me a copy of this book. It’s richly illustrated with photographs and memorabilia and is a great little read!