1969, the US War on Vietnam, Berkeley Student riots, The Black Panthers and
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I was 19, a photography student. And very fortunate to have the chance to be the main photographer at John and Yoko’s well known “Bed-In for Peace,” in Montreal.
I knew the radio announcer from CFOX Radio in Pointe Claire, Quebec, Roger Scott, who would be hosting a live broadcast from the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, on the first night of John Lennon’s visit in Montreal. Roger was a Brit, like me. He did the evening show and loved the same music I did. I got an assignment from the photography school I was attending, to photograph someone (anyone) at work. I called Roger and asked if it would be okay if I came and shot photos of him at his station. He agreed and I stayed all through his show talking and taking pictures. So when I asked him if I could shot the LRB (Live Remote Broadcast) he agreed that I could take photos for the station. But, unfortunately, he couldn’t get me in.
How was I to get in now that I was the “Official” CFOX photographer? Still, how to get in?
I had a mentor, Gerry ― Jerry was showing me what it was like to be a photographer. He was twice my age. I had met him through a ‘dealer’ I knew.
Gerry had left New York City with his 20-year-old girlfriend, his Malamute (with the freakiest eyes), and his camera equipment, and he moved to Montreal. I was never able to clearly understand why he came to Montreal.
I called Gerry, and he gave me the name of Richard Glanville-Brown, of Capital Records. I called him, and he agreed to give me 15 minutes with John and Yoko during the live broadcast. Can you imagine? I was absolutely ecstatic! I was going to meet John Lennon, and I was going to be part of the live radio broadcast event with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
I arrived at John Lennon’s suite at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel at 5:30 pm, having slipped my way through throngs of adoring fans who filled the corridors of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. A security guard sat at the entrance to the suite, so I announced that I was the photographer for CFOX Radio. I was then ushered into an outer room adjoining the “Bed-In” room, and was told that the Montreal press would be finishing up with John in a few minutes. Roger Scott (my radio friend), Charles P. Rodney Chandler (announcer, CFox Radio), and I would then be introduced to John Lennon and Yoko Ono before 6 p.m. I would be given 15 minutes to take my photographs; then I would have to leave.
Derek Taylor (John’s secretary), came to collect us and we were brought into the room! Derek introduced Roger and Charles to John and Yoko, and then me. John’s and my eyes met, and I felt I ‘knew’ him and that he ‘knew’ me, and we both sort of giggled as he said “howdy Roy, how you doin’?” I said, “it’s an honour to meet you!” John laughed, and replied, “no, the honour’s all mine,” and he shook my hand!
There I was, sitting in the room with John Lennon, Roger Scott, Charles P. Rodney Chandler, and Yoko Ono. Roger was on the air interviewing John, and I was seated in a corner of the room not more than ten feet away, shooting images. After about ten minutes of interviewing John, Roger had Charles P. Rodney Chandler play one of John’s songs. During the break, I couldn’t resist the temptation to sit right next to John and ask him a question: “John, tell me what the meaning was behind Strawberry Fields Forever”? “Well Roy, it was like this. We had eleven songs for the album and we needed one more song, so we wrote Strawberry Fields.” “You mean, there were no deep psychedelic messages about love, peace, eternity, and all that” I asked. “No, nothing like that, it was just a song, Roy, just one of many songs. Other people gave them special meaning, depth and intent; we just wrote songs. The record company just kept telling us to put out more records and write more songs. We were just a bloody machine.”
That was one illusion completely destroyed! I had believed every single word of every song that was on every album came from Valhalla directly to the Beatles, with no intermediary steps. Boy, was I wrong!
So between songs, Roger would interview John, and during the songs I would pepper John with questions. All the time snapping pictures with my beautiful Leicaflex 35mm camera. At one point, early in the evening, I ran out of film. I went over to ‘Chuckie’ Chandler, as he was affectionately known
CHANGE MY THINKING, CHANGE THE WORLD
Getting to the point, my life truly changed, requiring me to look at the harm I had done to myself and to make an amends to those I had harmed. I had to look at where I was angry and to see what my part in the anger was, then forgive the person I was angry at, and pray for them to have all the things I myself wanted. To look at people in a really different way. To stop thinking what I could get from people and start thinking what I could give to people. When a homeless person asks for money, I ask what do you want the money for? If they say “food” I take them to a restaurant, buy them lunch, and while they eat I tell them about my recovery from homelessness and addiction. If someone asks for help, I say “yes” as often as I can.