When John Lennon Went to Thy – Original Cassette Tape with Interview

In late December 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono suddenly appeared in the snow-covered Thy in Northern Jutland. Four 16-year-old Danish schoolboys were allowed to interview the couple for the local school magazine, and now more than 50 years later, they have chosen to put the cassette tape with the conversation and the never-released Lennon song "Radio Peace" up for auction in Copenhagen. The tape is sold alongside a series of photographs from the meeting.

Historic Interview from Northern Jutland

It is the first time that an interview with John Lennon and his Japanese wife Yoko Ono is up for auction at Bruun Rasmussen in Copenhagen. What makes the sale even more unusual is that there is a Danish teenager named Karsten Højen behind the microphone. The 33-minute recording is surprisingly informal and relaxed, and everything from hair length and friendships to visions of peace and generational divides is discussed. The small exclusive party also dances around a Christmas tree during the interview session, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono hum along to Danish Christmas songs. At one point, John Lennon plays the guitar and sings "Give Peace a Chance" as well as the unknown and unreleased song "Radio Peace".

The cassette tape is accompanied by a series of photographs from the interview, which were taken by one of the four boys present, Jesper Jungersen. Here you can see John Lennon and Yoko Ono sitting and relaxing on a sofa wearing wool socks and with their feet on the coffee table together with Yoko Ono's five-year-old daughter Kyoko.

The experience had a great impact on our lives. Back then, we were not as preoccupied with famous people as young people are today. Instead, we saw John Lennon and Yoko Ono as some kind of political prophets and symbols of peace. We shared a common destiny with them in relation to music and the progressive ideology of peace. The two celebrities shaped our generation and the entire counter-culture movement”.

Karsten Højen, who at the age of 16 was allowed to interview John Lennon during the musician's visit to Thy.

An Experience of a Lifetime

At 16 years of age, the four boys had an experience of a lifetime when they, as editors of a local school magazine, persuaded their principal at Skovgårdsskolen in Brovst to allow them to take a break from their normal schoolwork to interview John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The world-famous couple's fight for world peace appealed to the young schoolboys with their long hair and heads full of visions of peace. When they read in the newspaper that Lennon and Ono were in Northern Jutland, they devised a plan. The boys borrowed recording equipment from the local radio dealer, and a local driver drove them for the price of DKK 30 to the vicarage in Kettrup, where the two world stars held a press conference on Monday 5 January 1970. When the boys arrived at the place of the event, they were greeted by a small note on the door with the message that the press conference had been moved to "Æ Verdensuniversitetet" (New Experimental College) in the hilly terrain of Skyum Bjerge 70 km away. In a blizzard, the four boys drove towards the place, but upon arrival, the press conference was already over. They tried their luck and knocked on the door, and luckily, they managed to get in and meet their idols together with a handful of journalists who, due to the rough weather, had also arrived too late. The unique recording on the tape makes it clear that there was a good chemistry from the start between the schoolboys and the famous couple – probably because they did not challenge the philosophy of peace with critical questions. At one point, one of the schoolboys, Karsten Højen, asked how a Danish school student could support the peace campaign. The answer was simple – they had to work locally for peace with posters and happenings promoting the peace message.

A John Lennon cassette recording. Recorded 5 January 1970 + 29 photos + School magazine. Estimate: DKK 200,000-300,000.

What Were John and Yoko Doing in Thy?

Although the Beatles had not officially broken up at the time of the interview, the various members had each embarked on their solo careers after the "Abbey Road" album in 1969. The two long-haired peace apostles were in full swing with their peace campaign in response to the horrors of the Vietnam War including the highly publicized "Bed-Ins for Peace" happenings, where the couple promoted a message of universal peace by staying in double beds at hotels in Amsterdam and Montreal while surrounded by the world press. They arrived at Aalborg Airport on 27 December 1969, and the reason for their visit to Denmark was a family dispute over Yoko Ono's five-year-old daughter Kyoko, whom she had with filmmaker Anthony Cox. He had moved to Denmark with his daughter without the consent of his ex-wife, and the hope was to reach a settlement with him concerning custody. John Lennon and Yoko Ono stayed for more than a month on an isolated farm in Vust and were affiliated with the experimental "Æ Verdensuniversitet" in Skyum Bjerge, which during the period served as a Grundtvigian, humanistic and socially critical gathering place for performing artists and left-wing thinkers from around the world.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono managed to stay under the radar of the press for six days, but the rumours began to spread, and the local Fjerritslev newspaper outed them before too long. Journalists from all over the world travelled to Thy in the hope of getting close to the two world-famous people. The couple agreed to hold one official press conference for all the journalists. When, a few days before they left Thy and Denmark again, they had their hair cut short by a local hairdresser from Aalborg, the eyes of the world once again turned to Thy.

We have enjoyed the past week in peace and quiet, and we’ve got no plans for the nearby future. But we hope that we’ll be able to continue our undisturbed life before we again leave Denmark”. 

John Lennon

The Sound of Peace Songs

On the offered cassette tape, one of the schoolboys, Karsten Højen, at one point cautiously asks John Lennon if he would like to play some music for the group. The ex-Beatle willingly finds his guitar and first sings the well-known and at that time newly written peace anthem "Give Peace a Chance". The song was first performed as part of the couple's "Bed-In" happening in July 1969 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. Afterwards, the couple together sings the song "Radio Peace", which John Lennon wrote as part of their peace campaign because they wanted to open a radio station in Amsterdam under the same name. The track is considered a kind of younger sibling to "Give Peace a Chance" and was never released as an official record.

Preview and Auction

An excerpt of the interview from the cassette tape, the accompanying photographs and a copy of the school magazine where Karsten Højen wrote about his experience can be heard and seen at Bruun Rasmussen's preview at Bredgade 33 in Copenhagen. We invite you to come by the preview on Monday 20 September at 4 pm, when Karsten Højen will talk about his experiences and play parts of the taped interview (NB: the talk will be held in Danish). The auction will take place on Tuesday 28 September at 4 pm at the same address.

Live Auction

John Lennon memorabilia

Tuesday 28 September at 4 pm

For further information, please contact:

Alexandra Nilsson: +45 8818 1166 · ani@bruun-rasmussen.dk