Sunday, February 8, 2009

John Lennon's Guitars

In 1957, John purchased an acoustic Gallotone Champion, which he used in his early days with the Quarrymen. It is this guitar that is seen in the famous photo of him playing in a checkered shirt at the parish fair where he met Paul McCartney.

By 1959, John was moving from the Liverpool skiffle craze to mainstream rock and roll. With the help of his Aunt Mimi, he bought a Hofner Club 40 electric guitar, which he used at Liverpool’s Casbah Club and in the clubs he first played in Hamburg. He later gave the instrument to Paul, who restrung it in order to play left-handed.

The guitar most associated with John is the iconic Rickenbacker 323 Capri electric. The body was originally honey-colored, although it was painted black in 1962. The tremelo bar, bridge, and knobs were swapped. The wiring was redone in 1963, and the instrument was used in virtually every performance until 1964. It is now owned by Lennon’s son Sean.

In 1962, John and George both purchased the acoustic/electric Gibson J-160E, which can be seen in the black and white video of “Love Me Do” and in A Hard Day’s Night. John and George used their two guitars interchangeably, and George’s was stolen sometime in late 1963. John replaced the stolen guitar in 1964 and moved the pick-up from the neck to the bottom of the sound hole. He commissioned an artist to paint the body in psychedelic fashion in 1967 but later had it stripped to a natural wood finish, on which he doodled pictures of himself and Yoko.

In 1964, John bought a Rickenbacker 323 Jetglo, which is what he used on The Ed Sullivan Show. Later he also purchased a Rickenbacker 325-12, a 12 string electric, which was similar to the Jetgo except that the tailpiece and headstock were naturally manufactured for twelve strings. John used this guitar primarily for studio sessions (mainly for Beatles for Sale).

John’s Epiphone Casino (ES-335) has an interesting history. John got the Epiphone while recording Revolver. (George purchased one as well, and film footage of the Beatles’ Japanese concert at the Budokan shows both John and George playing this model, each with a sunburst finish.) John used the Epiphone for most concerts, occasionally swapping it for his Gibson J-160E (naturally in its electric mode). The Casino was also his guitar of choice for most Sgt. Pepper sessions. With the pick guard already removed, the guitar was sanded down to its bare wood finish in 1968, and a thin coat of lacquer was applied to the body. John can be seen playing the altered instrument in tapes of the Let It Be sessions, the “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” videos, and the rooftop concert.

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