The Guitars



 

The instruments the Beatles played (particularly the guitars) are another point of fascination for rock musical artists who've ever been inspired by the Beatles (which is almost every musician who lived after them). Let's go through the guitar line-up for each of them during their career with the Beatles. Afterall, the music that they created, and that changed the world, came from these guitars.


**********************************************************************


Guitar: RICKENBACKER 325c58 
Played By: JOHN LENNON

Years Active: 1960 -1964

This is how the guitar would have appeared when John first bought it in 1960.
John with his Rickenbacker in Hamburg.
 

In 1960 when The Beatles were playing in Hamburg, Germany John decided he wanted a really good guitar and chose the Rickenbacker 325. Lennon used this Rickenbacker from 1960 to '64 (It's last TV appearance occurring on the Beatles US TV Debut on The Ed Sullivan Show) Over the course of those four years John changed the knobs and had it painted (perhaps he'd done it himself?) black. This is thought to be The Beatles manager Brian Epstein's idea to give the band a better look.
 

John with the refinished guitar. This guitar now belongs to his son Sean Lennon.


**********************************************************************


Guitar: RICKENBACKER 325c64
Played By: JOHN LENNON

Years Active: 1964 - 1966


This is the Guitar most associated with Lennon's Early Beatles Rhythm sound.
John Rehearsing for British TV show Ready Steady Go with the Rickenbacker
 

After The Beatles took the USA by storm in early 1964, during their first visit, Rickenbacker, realising The Beatles' incredible marketing potential of their guitars, visited John in The Beatles suite in the Plaza Hotel in New York City to offer him their newest model. The 12-string Rickenbacker 360 *record abruptly stops* Wait... what?! I hear all you Beatle guitar aficionados crying out. Well, let me tell you... John tried out the Rickenbacker 360 and apparently wasn't that into it and suggested FC Hall (the head of Rickenbacker) show it to George. (Which we'll get to in a second.) Hall then brought out the jetglo (black) 325, which looked shiny and new and perfect. Lennon said yes to this one and it was shipped to the Deauville Hotel in Miami in time for the second Ed Sullivan Show appearance, that was being broadcast from there. From then on it was Lennon's working guitar right up until the late '65 tours where it was retired. Eventually, this beauty ended up on display at The John Lennon Museum in Japan. (Yes, there's a John Lennon Museum in Japan.)
 

**********************************************************************
 

Guitar: GIBSON J-160E
Played By: JOHN LENNON & GEORGE HARRISON

Years Active: 
1962 - 1970 (John)
1962 - c.1968 (George)

John later stripped the finish off this guitar and used it during his Bed-In for Peace in 1969.
But before it went to bed it was heavily used in Beatles concerts and recordings from 1962 to '65


Many of the guitars used by the Beatles were played by more than one member, and in 1962, Brian Epstein bought John & George matching acoustic Gibson J-160E guitars from a Liverpool music shop. They got mixed up many times, and the guitar thought to be Lennon's, but was actually Harrison's, was stolen during their 1963 Finsbury Park Christmas Show. However, they both used the guitar until John finally bought another one in 1964 and had it re-finished by artists, 'The Fool', in 1967 and planned to use it during the first satellite broadcast where The Beatles performed 'All You Need Is Love'. For whatever reason John decided to just sing and not play the guitar. Later on, John stripped this finish off and had it sanded back to it's natural colour and used it (perhaps for the last time) during his & Yoko's famous "Bed-In For Peace" and on 'Give Peace A Chance.'

How it would have looked had John used it during the 'Our World' broadcast.

Gibson are offering a faithful re-creation of the "Bed In" J-160E


Now, George's guitar (which was actually Lennon's 'Jumbo'.....still with me here?) is believed by many to be "lost" as he gave it away sometime after the Sgt Pepper sessions. But the new smartphone app that Dhani Harrison put together showcasing George's guitar collection that is still part of the Harrison estate seems to showcase a certain 1962 Gibson J160e.......Maybe Harrison (who was an avid sharer of his instruments) didn't give this guitar away afterall?

The J-160e as it appears in the App.  
  
  
**********************************************************************


Guitar: EPIPHONE CASINO
Played By: PAUL, JOHN & GEORGE
 
Years Active: 
1964 - Present (Paul)
1965 - 1971 (John)
1965 - 1967 (George)
 
How the guitar appeared when Lennon first acquired it in 1965.
Although he never used it live while with the Beatles, Paul put the Casino to work a lot in the Studio.
John & George rehearse for The Beatles one and only live appearance on British TV's 'Top of the Pops' with their Casino's. Loving John's outfit here too!
They were also the main guitars for their final world tour in 1966.
Lennon during shooting of the 'Paperback Writer'/'Rain' promo 1966

The Epiphone Casino actually came into The Beatles' stable through their bass player Paul acquiring one in late 1964 (on the advice of John Mayall) so he could keep his hand in on the guitar work in the studio. Before Paul had it restrung left handed John played it and obviously liked it as a couple of months later he and George got one each (John's was the only one not to have a Bigsby tremelo arm. Presumably because he didn't use or like them) and used them on their last ever tour in 1966. Paul used his for his lead guitar work with the Beatles and continues to use his on tour to this day stating that if he could only have one Electric guitar it would be the Casino. John and George had theirs sanded down and Lennon used his until 1971 when he complained during sessions for his Imagine album that it was getting harder to hold down a chord on it. George seemed to have stopped using his in 1967 Although he may have used it in his solo career but since he enjoyed using Fender guitars for their easy slide guitar capabilities.
 
Paul gets his new Casino and George thinks "I have to get me one of these!"
....and John nabs it for a quick strum!

Paul still uses his Casino today for recording and touring.
Lennon with his sanded down Casino during their 1969 Rooftop Gig.
The "Revolution" Casino is offered by Epiphone for Lennon purists out there.  
  
  
**********************************************************************


Guitar: HOFNER 500/1 1959 
The "Cavern Bass"
Played By: PAUL McCARTNEY

Years Active: 1961 - 1964
  
The Cavern Bass was Paul's first Hofner until they gave him a newer model.
Macca with his original Hofner Bass in 1961. This was stolen during the 'Get Back' sessions in 1969 and has never been recovered. Whoever has this Bass. Give it back.


In 1961 Stuart Sutcliffe was leaving the Beatles. He couldn't really play music and wasn't particularly interested in learning. Since Stuart had been the band's bass player, Paul was tasked by John and George with the responsibility of taking it up and being the Beatles' official bass player. So, with a pocket full of Deutsch Marks and dreams of being the next Paul McCartney (Wait a moment!), he went to a music shop in Hamburg where he saw a bass hanging up. Though it wasn't what other rock musical artists were playing, it was just what McCartney wanted since he was left-handed. Right-handed guitars and basses were awkward to play due to the cut-away and knobs being on the top instead of the bottom. Macca plonked down the dosh (about 30 quid back then) and walked out of that music house holding the bass that he would make history with. Macca used the Bass until late 1963 when Hofner gave him their updated model (see below) and relegated it to Back up duty before having it re-finished and new pick-ups installed. It is last seen during the Let It Be film and it was during this time it was stolen.

Paul rocking his original Hofner during the Revolution video in 1968.


**********************************************************************


Guitar: HOFNER 500/1v64
Played By: PAUL McCARTNEY

Years Active: 1963 - Present
  
The iconic Hofner 500/1v63
Paul with his new Bass, perhaps it's first outing?
Paul shows Ed Sullivan the Hofner before the Beatles debut appearance on his show.

Just after The Beatles had recorded their second album With The Beatles in 1963, Hofner gave Paul their new model of bass, possibly the most famous of all the guitars used by the Beatles. Macca started using it straight away, relegating his first one to back-up duty. He stopped using it in the studio when Rickenbacker gave him their 4001 model in 1965, but continued to use it on tour until they stopped touring in 1966. Then, it was left alone for a couple of years, until he started using it again during the Let It Be sessions. After the Beatles split, he stopped using it during Wings and his 80's solo output, until Elvis Costello made him get it out for Flowers In The Dirt in 1989. Since then, Paul has used his Hofner on tour and in the studio to the point that is has become something you expect to see when you see Paul McCartney perform.

Paul with the Hofner on it's last tour for 23 years.
The 1969 Rooftop Gig would be the last time the Hofner would be played live for 20 years. That gig was also the last time The Beatles played together live.  


**********************************************************************

Guitar: RICKENBACKER 4001
Played By: PAUL McCARTNEY

Years Active: 1965 - c.1984

The Rickenbacker 4001 was given to Paul when he was at actor Burt Lancaster's house in California in 1965  


Paul began using this Bass on 'Rubber Soul'

When FC Hall of Rickenbacker gave John & George new Rickenbacker's in 1964 he also offered a right-handed model of the 4001 to Paul. Paul didn't like it for a few reasons: for one, it was heavier than the Hofner; not to mention, it was right-handed; and whereas Hall was prepared to gift John & George their guitars, he wanted money for the bass, because he thought Paul was carrying all the money. That was the last straw for Macca, who punched Hall in the face and walked out of the room screaming "I'm not paying for ANYTHING!"......

....Just kidding. Although I have read that Hall DID want a small fee for Paul's bass.....

It wasn't until The Beatles were touring the USA in the summer of 1965 that Hall had built a left-handed Model of the Rickenbacker 4001. And after rock musical artists like The Byrds had started using Rickenbacker guitars because of The Beatles, Hall decided to give Paul this bass completely free of charge in Burt Lancaster's house. (Poor old Burt didn't get one though!) So, Paul set out to make his new bass famous and used it on studio albums, as well as on tour with Wings in the 70's, before retiring it in the mid 80's in favour of his Hofner. Will Macca ever play the Rickenbacker on tour again? My guess is probably not, since it's a heavy piece of equipment and Paul's getting older now. Besides, the Hofner serves all his needs stage wise. But still, it would be nice to see it on just a couple of songs; how about it, Macca?




**********************************************************************
 

Guitar: GRETSCH COUNTRY GENT
Played By: GEORGE HARRISON
Years Active: 1963 - 1965
This Guitar was used on Beatles tours and records until Harrison got his Casino in 1965
  
George had two of these guitars. The first one got smashed on the motorway, but George was using it as a backup by then. He acquired them in 1963 as George's guitar hero Chet Atkins was using one on his records when The Beatles were hitting it big in the UK. He used it until he started getting inundated with Guitars as The Beatles achieved worldwide fame and finally stopped using Gretsch guitars altogether in 1965. This is a classic guitar and has been used by many artists including Elvis.....

Even the King of Rock & Roll liked the Country Gent.
Harrison with his Country Gent in 1963  


**********************************************************************

 
Guitar: RICKENBACKER 360/12
Played By: GEORGE HARRISON

Years Active: 1964 - 1966, 1987

Jangle Pop was born when George started using this guitar in 1964.


 
As stated above this was originally offered to John who passed on it. George started using this guitar immediately after returning from The Beatles first US visit, and it is seen in their first feature film A Hard Day's Night, and heard on the soundtrack album. Like John's Rickenbacker 325 and Paul's Hofner this guitar is one of the most famous instruments the Beatles played. George stopped using it when he got another 360 from a Minneapolis Radion Station in 1965 and used this on tour but both guitars were retired after The Beatles touring life came to an end in 1966. In 1987 George dusted it off and used it on his album Cloud Nine and it is still part of his estate today and featured prominently (but was never played) during his memorial Concert For George in 2002. The second 360 was stolen in 1969 along with Paul's first Hofner.  

Anyone who thinks they may have this guitar, please don't put it up for auction. Instead, contact Olivia or Dhani Harrison and return this piece of history to where it belongs: The George Harrison Estate. It never hurts to do the right thing.
 
Lennon with the 360/12. This guitar was originally offered to him but he didn't like it. He looks to be having second thoughts about it here though....


**********************************************************************



The Beatles gear in 1966. Who owned the Fender? Eternal Questions....
  




Ringo also played guitar. But you didn't hear it from me. Right?!
 
 
  
John, Paul & George liked to have a go on the drums too. They were what Ringo liked to call "closet drummers"


**********************************************************************

 
I realise that I haven't covered all of the guitars used by the Beatles while on tour, or in the studio, so if you want to find a comprehensive list of the Beatles guitars, I suggest you check out John Crowley's excellent Fab Guitars of the Beatles page. It details every guitar the Beatles played in the studio and on stage.