Made Famous by The Beatles, these Guitars Remain very Popular Today

Rickenbacker 660/12- bodyCredit: photo by Kevin Collins on Flickr

Rickenbacker made the world’s first electric guitars in 1932, but for the next thirty years, they were just like every other guitar.  In 1964, however, that all changed when a young man called John Lennon was featured playing a 1958 Rickenbacker 325 on the Ed Sullivan Show.  The 325 is a relatively small guitar with a rather short scale neck, but Lennon had been playing the 1958 model since he had picked one up in Hamburg, Germany in 1960 while the Beatles were still largely unknown.  After seeing The Beatles on television, the head of Rickenbacker rushed to New York City to present Lennon with his new 12-string 360.  Reportedly, Lennon played it for a few minutes before deciding he didn’t like it but thought that his band mate George Harrison might.

Harrison played the guitar and quite liked it, even going so far as to use it in the band’s feature film, A Hard Day’s Night,which sparked an even bigger popularity of the Rickenbacker brand.  Roger McGuinn, of the Byrds, later saw Harrison playing the beautiful guitar and decided to purchase one for himself, and in doing so, completely changed the Byrds’ sound.  In fact, all of the groups popping up in response to the popularity of the Beatles began buying Rickenbackers, and the brand of guitar quickly became synonymous with the sound of the 1960s.

Rickenbacker guitarCredit: doryfour on Flickr

After the British Invasion ended in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Rickenbacker guitars fell out of fashion, and only their basses were being used regularly by bands of that era.  In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Rickenbacker guitars made a comeback with their “jangle” being a feature of many new-wave bands such as The Jam and the Bangles.  Today, Rickenbackers are still hugely popular with bands.  I, myself am very fond of their unique sound and they have that distinctive quality.  They also look very good with their cutaway bodies and stark white and black pick guard.  The knobs are a particular favorite, as fiddling around with them enough can add colour to any tone and riff that you play.  There are numerous models of Rickenbacker guitars, but my favourites are the 325, the 330 and the 360.  I’m also very partial to the 4003 bass, which is a very good rock and roll bass with a solid tone that just adds that little extra factor to every song you play on it.

Personally, the reason I like them so much is because of the wonderful music the Beatles produced using the guitars in the early days of their music.  The Beatles’ early sound is defined by the use of those guitars.  Lennon and Harrison eventually stopped using Rickenbackers for Beatle work when the band stopped touring in the mid 1960s, but McCartney took up his Rickenbacker 4001 bass and put it to good use throughout albums like: Rubber Soul, Revolver, and the much praised Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  The association with The Beatles, in addition to the simple fact that they are fantastic guitars, ensures Rickenbacker will remain popular amongst guitar players forever.