It is heartwarming to remember what guitar lovers the Beatles were, in spite of their careers being filled with unmeasurable amounts of recognition and fame. After all, they were rock and roll pioneers, and the instruments used to create the music they are known for mattered to them. When John Lennon and George Harrison received Fender Stratocasters in the early half of 1965, their enthusiasm was tangible. As discussed in the book “Beatles Gear,” published by Backbeat Books in 2001, Harrison had fun trying someone else’s Stratocaster five years prior to owning his own in Hamburg. He had edged out a competing guitarist in trying to buy a used model in the year 1961. The subsequent usage of Rickenbacker and Gretsch guitars during the band’s early years may have been somewhat of a rebellion at his inability to get his object of affection, which admittedly frustrated him.
When a representative of Don Randall was sent to New York City in the summer of 1964, he endeavored to entice the Beatles into using a Fender during a tour the band was on in America. The attempt was unsuccessful. However, in early 1965, both Harrison and Lennon decided to give the instrument a try after hearing about the solid-body electric. Mal Evans, the band’s roadie, was sent out to buy a couple of Stratocasters.
Both guitars were examples of Sonic Blue that featured pre-CBS aspects. Harrison’s model was a 1961 version. Both guitars were used right away, and can be heard on the album recording of “Rubber Soul,” released in 1965. You can also hear the guitars being played on the album “Nowhere Man.” The Stratocaster played by Harrison would become a memorable aesthetic during the psychedelic phase of the band.
When the Beatles went on an unexpected hallucinogenic transition in the first half of 1967, the band gave some of their favorite guitars a fresh coat of paint to correspond with their overwhelming moods. Some of these colorful guitars would show up in the TV special” Magical Mystery Tour” that was broadcasted in the fall that same year. Lennon used spray paint to color his Epiphone Casino, though the Sonic Blue Stratocaster remains untouched. The Strat Harrison used probably went through the biggest transformation – the musician had the front body of the Strat painted with multiple rainbow stripes. The pickguard was decorated with eastern visuals, beautifully exemplified by his abiding passion of generative rock ‘n’ roll. He painted slogans on it like “Bebopalula” and “Go Cat Go.” Harrison even rechristened the headstock of the Stratocaster with the name “Rocky.” When played by anyone else, this paintwork would seem like a stain on a collectible Strat. But in Harrison’s hands, it went on to be a symbol of the band’s psychedelic phase. Harrison had the Stratocaster set up for a slide in 1970 on the advice of Ry Cooder. The instrument is currently owned by the estate of George Harrison.