John Lennon Makes Gibson Guitar History

Interested in a bit of John and George guitar trivia? Well then, read on about how John made guitar history with his Gibson J-160E. Early pictures of the Beatles in their infamous Cavern Club days portray a rather and rough band of Teddy Boys, sporting leather motor cycle jackets, tight jeans, and fifties style pompadour hair styles – not the iconic, clean cut mop-tops created by their manager, the late Brian Epstein. When Epstein, then a young music store retailer first heard the Beatles in 1962, their sound was as rough and unpolished as their instruments. With great vision, and as a condition to manage the group, the young Epstein made the brilliant decision to have the group replace their leather jackets and jeans with the now iconoclastic Beatle suits and neo-Arthurian hairstyle. Along with the wardrobe makeover, came a musical makeover, which meant not only a modified sound, but also new instruments.

In Lennon’s case, it was a new Gibson J-160E guitar – a Lennon legacy and a very special chapter of rock ‘n roll guitar history. Several colorful myths surround Lennon’s guitar; one is that it was purchased with the help of Epstein as co-signer. Another legend is that Epstein bought one each for John and George, as opposed to a tale that John nicked his from George!

Through whichever means John did get his guitar, having become so attached to it, rather than replace it, in 1967 Lennon had the veneer repainted in a colorful psychedelic design. However, within two years, around the time of his marriage to Yoko Ono, John had the guitar stripped down to its original finish, but then proceeded to decorate it with caricatures of himself and Ono on the guitar’s body during their 1969 “Bed-In for Peace.” Today, Gibson Guitars along with the endorsement of Lennon’s widow offers a replica of the Gibson J-160E, aptly named The Gibson John Lennon J-160E Peace guitar. The replica looks almost identical to the original guitar – featuring a rounded shoulder body design, a Sitka spruce plywood top; its back and sides are made of mahogany. Gibson proudly boasts that their instrument produces a full-sounding balanced tone with warm, rich lows tones, and crisp, presence-laden highs.

John recorded and performed some of my favorite Beatles songs with this model, including, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” from the film, “Help!” The song is played exclusively with acoustic instruments, with John strumming the G chord introduction, which carries into the beginning of the song. It ends with a melodic flute finale. The song was written in the key of G major, and built around four major chord progressions G, D, F, and C, and composed in three-quarter time.

Whether you are a collector shopping around for a Gibson J-160E, a musician, Lennon fan, or even all three, now you too can own a small part of the Lennon music history. If you are a musician, as well as a Beatles fan, playing any of his songs with this replica will probably bring you to musically inspired spiritual heights that you probably only dreamt of.