John Lennon guitar played on Help! set to break auction records

Instrument played by both Lennon had sat forgotten in an attic in the English countryside for decades

Roisin O'Connor
Music Editor
Wednesday 24 April 2024 13:13 BST
The Beatles return to UK

An acoustic guitar played by John Lennon on The Beatles’ albums Help! and Rubber Soul could fetch millions at auction, after it spent 50 years sitting in an attic.

It is listed alongside a number of other pieces of music memorabilia, including a book on handwritten lyrics by Tupac Shakur, a handwritten setlist by Kurt Cobain, and a Fendi dress worn by Amy Winehouse.

The 12-string Hootenanny acoustic model, made by Bavarian firm Framus in the early Sixties, was primarily played by Lennon and also makes a cameo in The Beatles’ film Help! for the performance of “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”.

George Harrison also uses it for the rhythm part on “Norwegian Wood”, and was also played on the Rubber Soul track, “Girl”.

Darren Julien, co-founder and executive director of Julien’s Auctions, told The Independent that they received a call from the owners, who had been gifted the guitar “many years ago” by Scottish musician Gordon Waller, half of the famed duo Peter and Gordon.

The couple rediscovered the guitar decades later while in the middle of a move from their home in the English countryside.

After being told about the guitar, Julien’s sought the expertise of Andy Babiuk and Beatles historian Danny Bennett, both of whom were able to confirm that it was the same instrument used by Lennon.

John Lennon’s Framus acoustic guitar
John Lennon’s Framus acoustic guitar (Julien’s/press)

“The woodgrain of a guitar is like a fingerprint in that no two guitars are the same,” Julien explained. “Not only is the woodgrain a perfect match to the guitar that John and George are playing, but so is the pickguard which can be exactly photo matched.

“Because the guitar has been undisturbed for approximately five decades, it is in the exact condition in terms of aesthetics that it was when John and George played it.”

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The owners apparently had “absolutely no clue” as to the instrument’s historical significance or its value.

Experts at the auction house believe the guitar could set a new world record for the highest-selling Beatles guitar. Lennon’s long-lost acoustic Gibson J-160E, used in the recording of The Beatles’ Please Please Me and With the Beatles albums, fetched $2.4m (£1.93) during an auction by Julien’s in 2015.

Julien noted that the Framus guitar held additional importance due to the fact that it had been played by both Lennon and Harrison, calling it “the most significant Beatles guitar to ever come up for auction”.

George Harrison playing the guitar during a Beatles studio session
George Harrison playing the guitar during a Beatles studio session (Beatles Book Photo Library)

“Our expectation is that this guitar will be in the top five most expensive guitars ever sold at auction,” he said. “It’s likely the last chance for someone to buy and personally own an iconic John Lennon/George Harrison guitar.”

The discovery comes after another long-lost Beatles instrument, a Höfner bass owned by Paul McCartney that he played on hits including “Love Me Do” and “Twist and Shout”, was returned to him in February. The guitar was stolen from the back of a crew member’s van in 1972.

“Following the launch of last year’s Lost Bass project, Paul’s 1961 Hofner 500/1 bass guitar, which was stolen in 1972, has been returned,” a statement posted to McCartney’s website said.

“The guitar has been authenticated by Hofner and Paul is incredibly grateful to all those involved.”

The Julien’s auction will take place on 29 and 30 May, while highlights will be on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Piccadilly Circus between 23 to 29 April.

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