Toronto ’69

I actually thought that starting with the Plastic Ono Band was the craziest and most exciting experience within my musicians life and that there is no increase possible. That changed after I saw Ron Chapman’s film with all the emotional, passionate, bizarre facets that took place before- and during the festival.

In October 2021, Ron and his film team visited me in my studio to interview me. It was about the Toronto Festival in 1969 and John Lennon’s appearance, which was not originally planned, but whose acceptance ended up saving the festival.

A few days ago, Ron’s wonderful film was broadcasted on Arte Germany. I recognized the announcement in the newspaper that morning and was irritated by the headline. Instead of the original English title “REVIVAL 69: The Concert that Rocked the World”, the German version of the documentary was called “The Concert that Destroyed the Beatles: Toronto 1969”.

I watched the film and I was thrilled. The red thread of the film is John’s disengagement from the Beatles and his immersion in a new identity. This step was initiated months earlier with the release of Give Peace a Chance. Ron has managed to package the well-researched, turbulent background stories well into a 90 minutes documentary with authentic contemporary witnesses, music legends as interviewees and previously unpublished archive material. A story of passion and perseverance.

The debut of the Plastic Ono Band was the most important event at the Toronto festival. In Ron’s film it is embedded between rock ‘n’ roll veterans, narcissistic rock divas, escort from an 80-strong biker gang and wonderfully crazy misadventures.

My personal highlight is still Yoko’s performance, supported by John and accompanied by film sequences from the Vietnam War. It got under my skin then and now! At this point the film catapults the year 1969 into the present and the Vietnam horror of that time points to the horror of global war events today. Our exit from the stage to the sound of our not turned off guitars, leaning against the amplifiers, reinforces it in a strongly manner.

John and Yoko’s performance with the Plastic Ono Band, that wasn’t just a gig, it was an art happening, an amazing event that not only saved the festival, but made music history. And I was allowed to be there.

I will watch this documentary again. You should do that too.

Love and Peace,