Limited-Edition Lennon Guitars on Offer
Fri May 21, 2004
By Christopher Walsh
NEW YORK (Billboard) - When Epiphone created the limited-edition John Lennon "1965" and "Revolution" Casino guitars in 1999, the manufacturer announced that 1,965 of the instruments would be built.
What Epiphone, a division of Gibson Musical Instruments, didn't reveal was that a small quantity of low-serial-number pairs would remain at its Nashville factory.
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' arrival in the United States, Epiphone plans to make available approximately 15 of each model.
The John Lennon Epiphone Casinos carry a $2,995 list price. While distribution of the low-serial-number guitars has not been determined, their limited production and significance to collectors will likely push prices higher.
"We want to make sure that those guitars are represented worldwide," Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz says. "One dealer could easily buy them. We're going to have to allocate them so that a lot of people have access."
A portion of proceeds from the sale of John Lennon Casinos is donated to the BMI Foundation for the John Lennon Scholarship Fund, which supports music education. Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, and BMI president emeritus Thea Zavin established the fund in 1997.
Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney purchased sunburst-finish Casinos in the mid-1960s; the instruments are prominent on many Beatles recordings.
Like Harrison and McCartney, Lennon painted several of his guitars, including his Casino, in 1967. In 1968, however, he stripped the finish from it.
While Harrison used several guitars during the latter years of the Beatles' existence, the Casino remained Lennon's primary instrument: He is pictured playing it in the 1968 "Revolution" promotional video and in the "Let It Be" documentary filmed in 1969.
Almost 30 years later, Epiphone executives Jim Rosenberg, Dave Berryman, Joe Borghi and Kent Allen visited Lennon and Ono's New York home at the Dakota apartment building, where Lennon's Casino is in storage.
The team photographed and measured the guitar to create exact replicas. The "1965" Casino reproduces the guitar in its original form, while the "Revolution" model conforms to the modifications Lennon made in 1968.
"When he stripped it down, he left off the pick guard and changed the machine heads, so we do that," Rosenberg says. "It came with original Kluson machine heads. He took them off and put on Grover machine heads. There are holes and outlines of the original Klusons in the wood in the back, and we actually put on the Klusons, take them off and then put the Grovers on. So the actual marks and holes are exactly the same."
The two models parallel the Beatles' music. As their music reflected the psychedelic era, their instruments were decorated accordingly. When they returned to their rock 'n' roll and R&B roots in 1968, the instruments also reverted to a natural state.
"I remember dearly the love John had for his Epiphone and Gibson guitars," Ono says.
"When we stripped naked for 'Two Virgins' album, I feel he also wanted these guitars to match us and be stripped down to the bare wood. John's reasoning was that it sounded better without the additional paint job, but it was really wanting the guitars to start a new life with him."
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