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Old Apr 15, 2010, 04:22 AM   #1
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Default How The Beatles Made the Epiphone Casino Famous

How John Lennon and The Beatles Made the Epiphone Casino Famous

The Casino was unveiled by the Epiphone Company in 1958, just a year after the operation was acquired by the Chicago Music Company – then the parent of Gibson. But 1964 was the year that the ringing, bell-toned thinline hollowbody guitar entered rock ‘n’ roll history.

It’s unclear whether Keith Richards, who played a ’61 or ’62 model on The Rolling Stones’ 1964 American tour, or Paul McCartney, who bought one in ’64 and took it into the studio for the Rubber Soul sessions the following year, was the first superstar to own a Casino. But the mega-band that will forever be associated with the effervescent, P-90 equipped, six-string is The Beatles. Forty years after their break-up, they are still the crown princes of the Casino sound. McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison all owned Casinos and played them in the studio. And Lennon, in particular, became a champion of the model, using his on every post-Rubber Soul Beatles album and his early solo recordings.

Both Lennon and Harrison were hooked on the Casino after getting an earful of the crisp tones and bristling sustain produced by McCartney’s Bigsby adorned instrument, which he played on “Drive My Car” and “Taxman.”

When the Revolver sessions began a year later, Lennon and Harrison purchased new 1965 models of their own, making the Beatles (at that time) an all-Casino band. Harrison’s guitar sported a Bigsby, like McCartney’s, but was a sunburst beauty with a stock trapeze tailpiece.

After those sessions, Lennon rarely put his Casino down. It became his main guitar for the rest of The Beatles’ musical career, accompanying him on the band’s third world tour, including their final public concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1966. Lennon’s Casino was his primary axe on 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, chopping out the chords of his compositions “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” and the sparking arpeggios of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Despite its extensive service on the era’s most cutting-edge album, the Casino was something of a calculated throwback at birth. In the late ’50s, the blossoming of the rock ‘n’ roll era required more powerful amplification, which made hollowbody guitars feed back. That’s why bluesmen like John Lee Hooker preferred Epiphone models like the semi-hollowbody Riveria and Sheraton. They could be turned up to cut through the noisiest juke joint audiences without howling through their amps. But the tonal qualities of the Casino’s classic hollow, two-f-hole construction and 16th-fret neck joint for additional string tension gave it a unique sound. And The Beatles and other rockers, like Richards, found feedback a desirable component of the era’s expanding sonic palette, and the Casino the perfect, highly reactive brush.

Lennon’s Casino got a prominent facelift during the making of the White Album. The pick guard was removed and the sunburst finish sanded down to bare wood before getting two thin coats of clear lacquer. The revamped guitar made its public debut in the Beatles’ live “Revolution” promotional video, producing an insanely raunchy tone — in contrast to George Harrison’s cherry red 1957 Les Paul, which was a gift from Eric Clapton. Lennon also played the now-natural-finish Casino in The Rolling Stones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus film, backed by Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell for a version of the White Album’s “Yer Blues.” Parenthetically, Harrison also had his own Casino sanded down and refinished clear, believing the strip-down had improved the sound of Lennon’s guitar.

Lennon’s Casino can also be heard on “Get Back,” “I Want You,” “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” the intro to “Across the Universe,” and other Beatles classics, and was in his arms when the group filmed their farewell Let It Be concert atop the roof of the Apple Corp. building on Saville Road. Lennon used his Casino on the Abbey Road sessions, too, and beyond The Beatles, taking the guitar to Canada for the Plastic Ono Band’s famed Live Peace in Toronto concert.

Reportedly, he was interested in having the Casino restored to its original sunburst finish toward the end of his life, but that never happened. Today the guitar is owned by his widow, Yoko Ono, and listed in the inventory of Lennon’s estate as the “Revolution” guitar.
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