The Beatles introduced generations of teenagers and young adults to rock music in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Before the band were a worldwide phenomenon, however, they spent three years in a residency slot in Hamburg. The band first ventured to Germany in 1960 where John Lennon happened upon a guitar that changed his life.
Most young musicians at the time wanted to play the guitars used by the American superstars – such as Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry – but this was almost impossible for English musicians.
While Buddy and Chuck played a Fender Stratocaster and a Gibson respectively, 1950s Britain had an embargo on American instruments, preventing Liverpool-born Lennon from buying an axe made popular by his heroes.
Everything changed for Lennon when he touched down in Hamburg in 1960. He stumbled upon a shop selling a California-made Rickenbacker guitar.
Lennon didn’t waste any time in buying his now-iconic Rickenbacker 325 guitar, which was very unique in an unusual way.
The Rickenbacker 325 guitar was special because it had a very short neck, giving the instrument a unique sound when played alongside standard-sized instruments – such as George Harrison‘s Gretsch Duo.
Lennon’s 325 was a modest guitar in terms of popularity, but the legendary musician soon changed how it was perceived.
After The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, the Rickenbacker became a big hit for budding guitarists around the world.
And the company knew it. Rickenbacker quickly built a strong relationship with The Beatles by providing them with as many guitars and bass guitars as they might need.
Although Lennon loved his Rickenbacker, Harrison was later quoted saying he wished he had another guitar to begin with.
In 1965 Harrison bought himself and Lennon the guitars they had always wanted: Fender Stratocasters.
He recalled: “We sent out our roadie, Mal Evans, and said: ‘Go and get us two Strats.’ And he came back with two of them, pale blue ones.
“We used them on the album we were making at the time, which was Rubber Soul. I played it a lot on that album, most notably on the solo on Nowhere Man, which John and I both played in unison.”
Harrison added: “If I’d had my way the Strat would have been my first guitar.
“I’d seen Buddy Holly’s Strat and tried to find one. But in Liverpool in those days, the only thing I could find resembling a Strat was a Futurama that had strings about a half an inch off the fingerboard.”
Once Harrison had found a love for an American guitar, he rarely looked back.
After that, he bought a Gibson, another Stratocaster, and a Fender Telecaster.