Rickenbacker guitars and 1960s rock and roll
In the 1960s, Rickenbacker benefited tremendously when a couple of Rickenbacker guitar models became permanently intertwined with the sound and look of The Beatles.
In Hamburg in 1960, Beatles guitarist John Lennon bought a Rickenbacker 325, which he used throughout the early days of The Beatles. He eventually had the guitar's natural alder body refinished in black, and made other modifications, including adding a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece and regularly changing the control knobs. Lennon played this guitar for the Beatles' famous 1964 debut on The Ed Sullivan Show (as well as for their third Sullivan appearance, pre-taped the same day but broadcast two weeks later). During Lennon's post-Beatles years in New York, he had this guitar restored to its original natural wood finish and the cracked gold pickguard replaced with a white one.
Rickenbacker made two new 325s for Lennon and shipped them to him while the Beatles were in Miami Beach, Florida, on the same 1964 visit to the United States: a one-off custom 12-string 325 model and an updated six-string model with modified electronics and vibrato. He used this newer six-string model on the Beatles' sequentially "second" appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Lennon accidentally dropped the second 325 model during a 1964 Christmas show, breaking the headstock. While it was being repaired, Rickenbacker's UK distributor Rose Morris gave Lennon a model 1996 (the export version of a 325, available exclusively in a red finish and with an F-hole). Lennon later gave the 1996 to fellow Beatle Ringo Starr.
Beatles guitarist George Harrison bought a 425 during a brief visit to the United States in 1963. In February 1964, while in New York City, F.C. Hall of Rickenbacker met with the band and their manager, and gave Harrison a model 360/12 (the second electric twelve-string built by Rickenbacker). This instrument became a key part of the Beatles' sound on their LP A Hard Day's Night and other Beatles songs through late 1964. Harrison played this guitar sporadically throughout the remainder of his life.
On August 21, 1965, during a Beatles concert tour, Randy Resnick of B-Sharp, a Minnesota music store, presented Harrison with a second model 360/12 FG "New Style" 12-string electric guitar, distinguishable from Harrison's first 12-string by its rounded cutaways and edges. A television documentary produced by KSTP-TV in Minneapolis documents the event. Harrison used this guitar on the song "If I Needed Someone" and during the Beatles' 1966 tours. This 12-string's whereabouts are unknown, as it was stolen at some point after the band ceased touring.
After the Beatles 1965 summer tour, Paul McCartney frequently used a left-handed 1964 4001S FG Rickenbacker bass rather than the lightweight Höfner basses he had used previously. The instrument became popular with other bassists influenced by McCartney's highly melodic style.
In 1967, McCartney gave his 4001 a psychedelic paint job, as seen in the promo film for Hello Goodbye, and in the Magical Mystery Tour film. A year or so later, someone sanded off the finish. A second, over-zealous sanding in the early 1970s removed the "points" of the bass' cutaways. McCartney used the Rickenbacker bass during his time with Wings, until the late 1970s.
Partly because of the Beatles' popularity and their consistent use of the Rickenbacker brand, many sixties guitarists adopted them, including John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival), Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane), and John Entwistle and Pete Townshend of The Who. As both the British Invasion and the 1960s wound down, Rickenbacker guitars fell out of fashion for a time. Rickenbacker basses, however, remained popular through the 1970s and beyond. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Rickenbacker guitars experienced a renaissance as new wave and jangle pop groups turned to them for their distinctive chime. Demand is particularly high among retro groups influenced by the sound and look of the 1960s.