The Holy Grail of Guitars?
September 24, 2014 5:52 AM   Subscribe

John Lennon's second Rickenbacker 325 has been put on display (complete with 1964 set list taped to it!) at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.

Only 28 of these tiny, 5/6 scale hollow alder guitars (weighing less than five pounds) were made in 1958.

Lennon owned two Rickenbacker 325s, and perhaps in keeping with the instruments becoming quasi-religious relics, some claim that the first one, owned by Yoko Ono and sometimes put on display (with photography strictly banned), is a fake.

What seems more possible, and poignant, is that his Hamburg-purchased 325 may have been the last guitar John ever played in a recording studio, as well as the first.
posted by colie (58 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
from the Rickenbacker forum link:

the first and last guitar he stepped into the studio with from Abbey Road in '62, to the evening he died in New York eighteen years later.

That 18 year career seemed so long to me in 1980 (I was born in 1967), and it seems so short now.

I really need to get busy restoring my 4001 bass....
posted by thelonius at 5:59 AM on September 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


I'm not a guitar fetishist by any stretch (gear geeks weird me out, really), but Ricks are just such beautiful guitars. Such a distinct, pretty sound, too.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:09 AM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


I love the Beatles as much as anyone, but I wonder...

After all the baby boomers are dead, what will become of all these rock artifacts? The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

Will they slowly evaporate from the collective consciousness like Big Band and Vaudeville, or will they stick around, preserved in amber by the media that recorded them?

The 1960s started over 50 years ago; imagine how long ago 1910 must have seemed to folks in 1964. That's the time period we're talking about.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:26 AM on September 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


Jeez, I'd like to buy it but it's such an unusual piece. Not a lot of buyers out there for something like this. Plus the cost of handling and displaying it? I could do like $400.
posted by mullacc at 6:27 AM on September 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


Religious relics transcend generations. I don't know of any extant instruments actually played by Bacj (except for the odd organ, in which there is no practicable market), but I would imagine that any such would command a substantial premium over others of similar vintage.

It's unlikely that the Beatles will fade from consciousness in the foreseeable future - and, I doubt, before Bach.
posted by Devonian at 6:43 AM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


The 1960s started over 50 years ago; imagine how long ago 1910 must have seemed to folks in 1964. That's the time period we're talking about.

I think you have to take into account the fact that things don't fall out of the culture with the same permanence that they did 50 years ago. A kid in 1964 couldn't listen to a recording from 1910 without dragging out a hand-cranked Victrola and getting their hands on some extremely old and fragile records. All a kid in 2014 has to do to listen to a Beatles song (or basically any other popular artist of the last 50 years) is fire up iTunes or Pandora or Youtube. A 2014 kid can even summon up those dusty old 1910 recordings online, with a fraction of the effort required by their 1964 counterpart.

The notion of things going out of style and subsequently disappearing from memory is rapidly becoming obsolete. We are approaching a time when more or less everything that has ever existed in recorded form will exist simultaneously.

At the very least, the Beatles will turn into future folk music before they're completely forgotten as a band.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:55 AM on September 24, 2014 [16 favorites]


I like the rick, but if I could have any John guitar it would probably be the epiphone casino. There's a great coffee-table book by Andy Babiuk called Beatles Gear, and he covers everything pretty well. Andy lives here and has a guitar shop just up the street from me. He was on the case when they were trying to verify that Bob Dylan guitar a while back. Anyway, it's a good book.
posted by valkane at 6:57 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


To me, it's mostly just a vintage guitar, but this is what makes it especially valuable and compelling - here is the text:

"The hand written set list on the 1964 Rickenbacker guitar played by John Lennon Friday, February 7, 2014. This is the same guitar Lennon played on the Ed Sullivan show during the Beatles first visit to the U.S. Behind Francisco is Matt Seaman, collections and exhibitions coordinator."

Neat-o.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:08 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well..it's alright for a hobby, I suppose.
posted by yoink at 7:16 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes, I was going to say the same thing as joseph conrad is fully awesome did in his comment above: it's that hand written set list taped to the guitar that really puts it over the top in terms of it being a collector's item.

Sure is a handsome guitar, though, too. Love the Rick's design, the lightness of it, the balance. It's exquisite.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:17 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Rock Hall does some amazing work. I know a lot of folks were dubious about it at first, but they do such a fantastic job of making connections between music and culture, of telling the story of the cultural changes in the middle of the 20th century and how music was part of that, and also of tying modern artists in as part of the larger picture, the scope of modern musical history.

And they have cool stuff, too.

John would have turned 74 this October. He was 23 when they played Ed Sullivan.
posted by anastasiav at 7:19 AM on September 24, 2014


Doesn't the Hall have Leadbelly's baritone 12 string now, too?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:25 AM on September 24, 2014


Some nice old pics of the first one, I think, here
posted by thelonius at 7:37 AM on September 24, 2014


I riff in your general direction!
posted by fairmettle at 7:45 AM on September 24, 2014


(complete with 1964 set list taped to it!)

It's not a '64 set, it says "Yesterday" and "Tripper"!

Which is weird because I don't think Lennon was still playing the Rick onstage by the time those songs made it to the set.
posted by anazgnos at 8:10 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think I've even once been able to see the name The Beatles written down without thinking what a dodgy pun that is. Nice tunes, mind.
posted by sobarel at 8:27 AM on September 24, 2014


I don't think I've even once been able to see the name The Beatles written down without thinking what a dodgy pun that is. Nice tunes, mind.

I am 32 and until now have never considered that it wasn't just a simple misspelling of 'beetle'. Thanks for that.
posted by cellphone at 8:33 AM on September 24, 2014


I don't think I've even once been able to see the name The Beatles written down without thinking what a dodgy pun that is

Men on flaming pies have notoriously poor senses of humor.
posted by yoink at 8:46 AM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


At the very least, the Beatles will turn into future folk music before they're completely forgotten as a band.
One of my favorite details in Stephen King's The Gunslinger is a bit where people in a dusty desert saloon in some strange, distant post-apocalyptic future are singing Hey Jude.
posted by usonian at 8:49 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's not a '64 set

Yes, actually it seems the set list would appear to come from their final UK mini-tour of 3rd Dec - 12th Dec 1965. They performed:

I Feel Fine
She's a Woman
If I Needed Someone
Act Naturally
Nowhere Man
Baby's in Black
Help!
We Can Work it Out
Yesterday
Day Tripper
I'm Down.

Footage of these dates seems to be very rare on YouTube. Presumably John is using his second 325 on these dates, before it was finally retired in favour of the Casino for all live work.
posted by colie at 8:55 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Will they slowly evaporate from the collective consciousness like Big Band and Vaudeville, or will they stick around, preserved in amber by the media that recorded them?

Big Band is not so Big anymore, but I still imagine Glenn Miller's trombone might make it into a museum someplace, and he is seventy years gone this December.

And as I have said before, the Beatles had a way with a melody, and melody endures. There are twenty or thirty classical motifs that everyone over the age of twelve or so is likely to know, even if many of us have no idea where they originated. I have little doubt that -- assuming we last another five centuries -- people in the 26th century will be able to hum the tune of "Yesterday."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:58 AM on September 24, 2014


After all the baby boomers are dead, what will become of all these rock artifacts?

Michelangelo Antonioni has already answered that question.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:00 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ricks are just such beautiful guitars. Such a distinct, pretty sound, too

Well, those modern ones are OK, but for me the best of the lot is a pre-war B6 lap steel…
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 9:13 AM on September 24, 2014


the Casino and Ricks are cool, but if I was going to luck into a Beatles guitar, I want one of George's Country Gents or Tennesseans from the early 60s.

Sadly, they won't turn up any time soon.

Gretsch Destroyed

Harrisson's Guitars, part 4
posted by C.A.S. at 9:16 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have little doubt that -- assuming we last another five centuries -- people in the 26th century will be able to hum the tune of "Yesterday."

If you'd asked Samuel Pepys which playwright of his time would still be regularly performed four centuries hence he'd have said Ben Jonson. Who knows how people in the future will react to our pop culture?

That said, I'm going to put my money on the denizens of the 26th century being really into Can. Let's check back here then to see if I was right.
posted by sobarel at 9:20 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


In the far future this very guitar, now fully restored after the Great Conflagration, will be played by a brilliant guitar virtuoso. Everyone in the audience will be wearing their best Ramones, Beach Boys and A-HA! labelled cloth outers. A neural hush will fall over the crowd as the first chords of "I Feel Fine" make their way out of the antique electric amplifiers, through the air, and into the audience's physical ears regrown for just this occasion. The Rock music experts of the day dictate that experiencing the music via sound vibrations that travel trough the air is really the best way to experience the classics.
posted by Poldo at 9:22 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Epiphone Casinos that are being built in Japan now have a great reputation. Having any Casino is perfect for doodling around the house because it's completely hollow and therefore makes a decent noise when unplugged, and is easy to play.

The Rick 325 not only feels like it's the size of a toy, but has to be strung with very heavy flatwound strings (12s) for authenticity and can be a struggle for playing lead (hear Lennon basically having a fight with his on the solo in 'You Can't Do That').
posted by colie at 9:26 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


5/8 SCALE.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:45 AM on September 24, 2014


I don't know maths, but 5/8 scale or 3/4 scale can't be right for this guitar can it? The scale length of the fretboard for the 325 is 20.75 inches, rather than the usual 24-25 inches for a typical full-size guitar. So it's described as 5/6 scale, i.e. it is approximately 5 sixths as long as a full-size?
posted by colie at 9:56 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


20.75 / 24.75 = .8383 (24.75" is Les Paul scale)
5 / 6 = .8333

Close enough for rock n roll
posted by InfidelZombie at 10:35 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Museum guy: "So, uh Bob... it's late, and everyone's gone.... you know we really ought to make sure this thing works. You know, so we can say so on the display. Why don't I just plug 'er in for a quick jam, eh? You go grab that Hendrix Strat and I'll get an amp."

Pretty sure that must have happened.
posted by ecorrocio at 10:35 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


The notion of things going out of style and subsequently disappearing from memory is rapidly becoming obsolete. We are approaching a time when more or less everything that has ever existed in recorded form will exist simultaneously.

And if you ever doubt that, just take a look at the income and attendance for Graceland.
posted by Melismata at 10:38 AM on September 24, 2014


"3/4 scale" is a terms of art. It's not a technical specification based on a literal fraction.

20.75 = .838 of the standard Gibson scale (24.75). That is roughly 5/6, but that's not a term you see used much.

20.75 = .814 of the standard Fender scale (25.5); pretty close to 13/16, but it's not a socket wrench -- the term is not used.

The Gibson Byrdland consists of a 23.5 inch scale neck -- which is already pretty short -- grafted onto a full size hollow-body jazz guitar. It's considered full-scale.

Likewise my 23.5 in scale Epiphone EA250. A full two inches shorter than a Strat, but full scale.

Some Fender models were / are? available in an optional 22.5 scale, and sometimes referred to as 3/4 scale.

More often "3/4 scale" is used to describe instruments that are short enough to benefit from being tuned higher (eg, G-C-F-Bb-D-C or A-D-G-C-E-A).

But basically, any guitar tuned conventionally and using conventional strings is considered full scale if not full sized.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:40 AM on September 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


Beatles = pun?!?!

*head explodes*
posted by craven_morhead at 10:52 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I always thought Jimmy Page's missing Telecaster was the Holy Grail because hey, we always knew where John's guitar was. Nonetheless I'd love to see this exhibit.
posted by Ber at 10:54 AM on September 24, 2014


Puns: I must have heard All You Need is Love a billion times before I realised that Lennon is probably making a joke about using 'love' as a casual term of endearment when addressing someone. 'All you need is love, love', as in 'see you tomorrow, love.'
posted by colie at 10:59 AM on September 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Scousers would probably spell it "luv" when used in that way, so all you need is love, luv.

The equivalent term of endearment just up the road here in Manchester around that time (it's sadly died out now) was "cock", which would have given that song a whole different tone...
posted by sobarel at 11:15 AM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the explanation Herodios
posted by InfidelZombie at 11:25 AM on September 24, 2014


the Casino and Ricks are cool, but if I was going to luck into a Beatles guitar, I want one of George's Country Gents or Tennesseans from the early 60s.

I'd take George's 1963 Rickenbacker 360/12, only the second one ever built, the sound on that opening chord/shot heard 'round the world of "A Hard Day's Night." The angles, the Fireglo finish - the sound.
posted by kgasmart at 12:54 PM on September 24, 2014


Further Lennon punnery: "she's not a girl who misses much" - "misses" in the sense of "doesn't understand" and/or in the sense of missing what she's aiming at - happiness being, after all, a warm gun.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 12:59 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


*head explodes*


"I was looking for a name like the Crickets that meant two things, and from Crickets I got to Beatles. I changed the B-e-a because it didn't mean two things on its own -- B, double-e-t-l-e-s didn't mean two things. So, I changed the 'a,' added the 'e' to the 'a', and it meant two things, then.
JS: What two things, specifically?
John: I mean, it didn't have to mean two things, but it said... It was beat and beetles, and when you said it people thought of crawly things, and when you read it, it was beat music."


- John Lennon, August 25, 1964


(Of course, in the US, the Crickets just meant bugs, but in the UK it had a double meaning.)
posted by anastasiav at 1:07 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


5/6 scale? I thought there was a standard length for a fretboard with optimally tempered tuning on all frets. Or you had to use a harmonic like 3/4 scale. But now thanks to Herodios I have spent way too much time researching scales and measuring my own LG-2 3/4 acoustic. It is 23in scale, the full size LG-2 is standard Gibson 24.75in. So the little "3/4" that should be .75 scale is more like .93 scale.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:13 PM on September 24, 2014


Lennon called his 325 a 'short-arm' guitar. It is a very small fretboard, and this contributed to their early sound because he was able to play barre chord boogie-style shapes with his little pinkie finger doing loads of work, very fast and aggressively all over the neck.

For example, check out this 100% accurate rendition of 'Hold Me Tight' played on a 325 to see how you would really struggle to get your pinkie working like this with a first fret barre shape (F) and elsewhere on the fretboard if you were playing a Strat:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIROxDQtv5w

That pinkie is working like RSI-inducing crazy, the sound is absolutely Cavern Club, and the player is still nowhere near as commanding and relaxed as Lennon was on the instrument.

Paul also played a 3/4 size hollow instrument that weighed almost nothing compared to the Fender Precision bass.
posted by colie at 1:34 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


in the UK it had a double meaning

Please share, I never knew that
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:36 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm don't know what anastasiav meant, but cricket is a sport in the UK (and a lot of other places)
posted by mmrtnt at 2:05 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Paul also played a 3/4 size hollow instrument that weighed almost nothing compared to the Fender Precision bass.

Hmm, well a bass viol is around 42-in, I believe, from nut to bridge.

Fender P-bass, J-bass, Rickenbacker 4001, etc. are 34-in.

Gibson EB-0, EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 were all available in both 30.5 and 34, though they made many many more of the shorter scale versions of all models.

There are some 32-in basses around, too, and more recently, some that are even longer than 34 inches.

Bass viols are available in a range of shorter scales that are designated with fractions like "3/4", "7/8" or even "1/16". (!) But these fractions do not correspond to actual proportional measurements, nor are they standardized.

For bass guitars, it's either "full-scale" or "short-scale": never fractional. (Maybe "mid" for the odd 32-in). I think I 've heard the 35-in and longer instruments referred to as "extended".

The Hofner 'violin' bass that McCartney made famous is a 30-in (or maybe 30.5-in) scale bass, and yes, it's feather-light. But no true scotsman calls it a "3/4 scale" bass. It's a "short scale". At the time, the scale length was not particularly unusual. It was sort of the trend in the 1960s, a trend that reversed in the 1970s.
 
posted by Herodios at 2:10 PM on September 24, 2014



Museum guy: "So, uh Bob... it's late, and everyone's gone.... you know we really ought to make sure this thing works. You know, so we can say so on the display. Why don't I just plug 'er in for a quick jam, eh? You go grab that Hendrix Strat and I'll get an amp."


Yeah, it happened. Gruhn's Guitars in Nashville was offering Buddy Holly's home amp for sale a couple of years back, for about 500k. (I think at one point Emmylou Harris had bought it for a (now ex) husband in the 80s.)

They let this Ginger Nut play with it.

checking out Buddy's amp
posted by C.A.S. at 2:12 PM on September 24, 2014


kgasmart, George Harrison himself moved on from that 12 string Rick fairly quickly, for some reason, and didn't use it very much again. t agree its a great guitar and also what comes to mind for me when I think Rick.
posted by C.A.S. at 2:14 PM on September 24, 2014


Oh man I should have known that, talk about obvious. Though I am disappointed it didn't turn out to be dirty.
posted by InfidelZombie at 2:19 PM on September 24, 2014


InfidelZombie, don't lose heart. It could still be something dirty.

"Crickets" were also the name of Buddy Holly's band...
posted by mmrtnt at 2:25 PM on September 24, 2014


For bass guitars, it's either "full-scale" or "short-scale": never fractional. (Maybe "mid" for the odd 32-in). I think I 've heard the 35-in and longer instruments referred to as "extended".

"Extended" is short for "extended range", and doesn't specifically refer to scale length.
posted by Wolof at 4:30 PM on September 24, 2014


No, I think they call the 5-string or 6-string basses that are like 35", for the low B string's sake, extended scale too, which is a little confusing since they are also extended range basses.
posted by thelonius at 4:33 PM on September 24, 2014


Hmm, so they do. Live and learn!
posted by Wolof at 4:44 PM on September 24, 2014


Will they slowly evaporate from the collective consciousness like Big Band and Vaudeville, or will they stick around, preserved in amber by the media that recorded them?

We still listen to jazz from almost a hundred years ago. For that matter, we still listen to classical music from hundreds of years ago, and we appreciate visual art from just about every time period as far as I know.

So I think the Beatles will endure, for a couple reasons even aside from sheer greatness:

• how profoundly they've influenced so much music in the last 50 years ("I'm So Tired" could have been an indie rock song that came out any year in the past couple decades; "Helter Skelter" spawned decades worth of hard rock even if the mix is a little dated, etc.), and

• their extreme variety makes it easy for almost anyone to find at least part of their oeuvre to love, whether they like rock, folk, Motown, blues, jazz, avant garde, circus, classical, Indian ragas, ballads, children's music, or whatever.
posted by John Cohen at 5:45 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Rick 325 not only feels like it's the size of a toy, but has to be strung with very heavy flatwound strings (12s) for authenticity and can be a struggle for playing lead (hear Lennon basically having a fight with his on the solo in 'You Can't Do That').
posted by colie at 12:26 PM on September 24


Holy crap, you aren't kidding (and thanks for the link to that guy's yt page!) I remember doing the heavy flats thing on an old Teisco Del Ray solid body and it was great for getting a really rough sound, I had to drill out the holes for the neck/body join and put in brass inserts with machine screws just to keep the neck on it. I wish I still had those kind of chops.
posted by mcrandello at 12:01 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yep the 325 is actually hard to play well. On the other hand, a set of flatwound heavy strings lasts forever.

John also plays the first solo on Long Tall Sally with his 325, and it's a brutal blast of the Hamburg sound.
posted by colie at 10:08 AM on September 26, 2014


Speaking of drilling guitars, I've also read that John replaced the bridge of his 325 on the counter in a music shop.
He couldn't be bothered to remove the pick guard first though, which meant the new bridge was offset by 4mm to the left.
The low E could not be played above the 12th fret because it was off the fretboard.
Many devoted 325 fans modify their guitars in this way now. It's a religious relic.
posted by colie at 10:18 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Regarding the set list: I've checked and it seems there are absolutely zero recordings circulating of the Beatles' final UK tour of December 1965 (ten days). This is the set list taped to the 325 on show in the original link.

I'm surprised to find such a gap - hopefully something will show up one day. Apparently Paul played electric piano on We Can Work it Out and Yesterday at these gigs (!) - something they never did again and unseen anywhere else.
posted by colie at 11:22 AM on September 29, 2014


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