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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Ben Beaumont-Thomas

Guitar played by John Lennon on Help!, lost for 50 years, going up for auction

George Harrison and John Lennon. Harrison is playing Lennon’s Framus 12-string Hootenanny acoustic guitar.
George Harrison plays John Lennon’s Framus 12-string Hootenanny acoustic guitar. Photograph: Julien's Auctions/ Beatles Photo Library

A guitar played by John Lennon and George Harrison in sessions for the albums Help! and Rubber Soul, which has spent the last 50 years lying in an attic, is to go up for auction alongside other memorabilia items such as a handwritten concert setlist by Kurt Cobain, a book of handwritten lyrics by Tupac Shakur and a Fendi dress worn by Amy Winehouse.

The 12-string acoustic guitar, a Hootenanny model made by Bavarian firm Framus in the early 1960s, was primarily played by Lennon and also appears in the movie Help!, used to perform You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away. The studio version of that song also features the guitar, as well as Help!’s title track, It’s Only Love and I’ve Just Seen a Face. Harrison, meanwhile, used it to play the rhythm guitar part on Norwegian Wood, and it appears on another Rubber Soul song, Girl.

Darren Julien, co-founder and executive director of Julien’s Auctions who are offering the item, said: “Finding this remarkable instrument is like finding a lost Rembrandt or Picasso, and it still looks and plays like a dream.”

He said the current owners – who had forgotten they owned it – had originally been gifted the guitar by Gordon Waller, from 1960s pop stars Peter and Gordon. That duo had hits with Lennon-McCartney songs such as A World Without Love, which topped the US and UK charts.

Julien travelled to the UK to verify the guitar at the house it was being stored in, and also rescued the guitar’s original case which had been thrown in a bin. Aided by Beatles historians Andy Babiuk and Danny Bennett, Julien said he had confirmed the instrument’s provenance. “The woodgrain of a guitar is like a fingerprint in that no two guitars are the same,” he said. “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.”

In 2015, Julien’s Auctions sold another Lennon guitar: a J-160E Gibson acoustic guitar stolen from him and unwittingly bought by a musician in the late 1960s. It fetched a price of $2.41m (£1.6m at the time). The newly discovered Framus guitar has a sales estimate of $600,000-$800,000 (£485,000-£647,000) but Julien argues it could sell for more than the Gibson, as it is “historically more significant”. The company has also previously sold a drum kit used by Ringo Starr for $2.2m, as well as a copy of the White Album owned by him.

Also going up for auction on 29 and 30 May, online and at New York’s Hard Rock Cafe, is another piece of Lennon history: the telephone he used during the Bed-Ins for Peace, protests against the Vietnam war made by him and wife Yoko Ono.

As well as Beatles memorabilia and aforementioned other items, fans can bid on a guitar played by Adam Clayton at U2’s recent concert residency at Las Vegas’s Sphere, plus his stage outfit; Onitsuka Tiger trainers worn by Freddie Mercury; a Versace ensemble worn by Tina Turner on her Wildest Dreams tour; a jacket worn by Michael Jackson in 1984 during the Victory tour with the Jackson brothers; a cap worn by Angus Young of AC/DC on stage; a jacket worn by Joan Jett in the Dirty Deeds music video; and a guitar played by Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, emblazoned with “Girls Girls Girls” on the reverse.

Highlights from the auction will be on display from 23-29 April in London, at the Hard Rock Cafe in Piccadilly Circus.

The Lennon/Harrison guitar discovery comes after another long-lost Beatles instrument, a Höfner bass owned by Paul McCartney, was returned to him in February after it had been stolen in 1972.

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