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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Canadian journalist’s interview recordings with John Lennon and Yoko Ono sell at auction

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TORONTO — Twice a year, a Beatles memoriabilia auction is held near Liverpool — and this year, the star item was a set of recordings with a Canadian connection.

Lot 385 was the last and most expensive to go up this year, containing tapes with 91 minutes of lost interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

They were recorded around 1970, all by one man.

Thirty-year-old Canadian Ken Zeilig was the tenacious freelance journalist who made a living out of interviewing celebrities. He landed not one, not two, but three interviews with Lennon and Ono.

The questions range, from asking Lennon which Beatles music he prefers the most to what the plan was for the 1970s.

In one of the recordings, Lennon says that he is a “prejudiced” when it comes to Beatles songs: “I like my own.”

When asked to name favourites from the 60s, Lennon rattles off names including “I Am The Walrus,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and “A Day in the Life.”

Zeilig’s children were the ones to discover the recordings.

“It was fairly extraordinary, and quite moving because of course we hear our father, in some cases, for the first time in 30 years,” Leo Zeilig told CTV News.

When the interviews occurred, Lennon and Ono had recently made global headlines for staging a peace protest in the bed of a Montreal hotel. It was part of a non-violent protest against the Vietnam War.

“These were intentionally chosen sites for their peace protests in countries they thought were progressive and anti-war, so that, that connection with my father as a Canadian journalist was very present in the interviews and it was nice to hear that,” Leo said.

The interview recordings are now in the hands of a mystery bidder, who purchased them for more than $50,000. 

The family hopes that they’ll be shared widely.

And with the recordings occurring in 1970 — the year that the band officially announced that they were breaking up — some of the questions hold more meaning now.

In response to Zeilig asking what plans the Beatles have for the 70s, Lennon says, “They don’t.

“The Beatles never made plans after they stopped touring. Plans were always made for them. And once there was nobody making plans for us, we didn’t want any plans.”

 With files from Alexandra Mae Jones

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