The guitars of 'A Day In The Life'
15 Oct 2009
Alan Rogan, a renowned guitar technician who over the years has worked with the likes of Keith Richards
, Ronnie Wood
, George Harrison
, Joe Walsh and Pete Townshend
was first introduced to Genesis books by George Harrison. Among his collection of Genesis titles is No. 11 of I ME MINE
. We asked Alan for his thoughts on our most recent publication on The Beatles, A DAY IN THE LIFE
, and also the guitars seen in the photographs.
‘Oh it’s brilliant. George is using a 1957 Gretsch 6128 DuoJet - the same one he has on the cover of 'Cloud Nine'. He told me he got it off a ‘sperm’, a Liverpudlian seaman! He got it second hand and paid 75 pounds for it, which was the going price at the time. He used that on the first two albums and that was his only guitar.
’ George speaks about this guitar in The Beatles Anthology: 'That was my first American guitar. It was advertised in the Liverpool Echo. God knows how I managed to get 75 quid together. It seemed like a fortune. I remember having it in my inside pocket, thinking, “I hope nobody mugs me.”’
John can be seen on this particular day in A DAY IN THE LIFE
using a Gibson J-160E. ‘Well George and John famously bought two of these together in a shop in Liverpool
’, remembers Alan, ‘and somewhere down the line they got swapped over, so Harrison’s is actually what started out as John’s. His main guitar would have normally been his Rickenbacker, but John must have been in love with this brand new guitar.’
The photographs for A DAY IN THE LIFE
were taken by photographer Michael Ward on February 19th 1963, the day that The Beatles had heard the news of their single ‘Please Please Me’ hitting Number One. It would be their second to last gig at The Cavern, ever. Alan reminisces about seeing them with his cousin that year, at the age of 12. ‘I remember John saying, “And here’s our new single, ‘Please Please Me’,” which was already huge on the radio. They must have just got the acoustic guitars then and were not rated at all for sound. They bought them from Gibson with a pickup on, and they had controls on the volume and tone, but no one ever uses them. On their own in front of a microphone they sounded awful, but of course no one knew anything back then and on their records they just sounded brilliant. John got a great sound out of the guitar, just 'cause of emotion.’
In those days there was no such thing as a guitar technician. ‘George would tell me, if they snapped a string they would just tie it back together if it wasn’t on the fingerboard. If it was up at the head they would tie a knot in it and put it on again. If you couldn’t tie a knot in it you would just play without it. Now you’ve got people like me to pamper them!’
Paul confirms their early resourcefulness in The Beatles Anthology, ‘We used to actually cut strings out of the piano for the bass (which I hear is impossible, but we managed to do it). If we needed an A string, say, we’d just get on the piano and go dink, dink, dink – A! And then it was out with the pliers, thinking, ‘They’ll never notice the odd string,’ and then fix it onto the bass. It worked occasionally but it’s hardly the thing to do and probably puts a huge strain on the guitar. But back then it was very different from today where you have a roadie with a trunk full of strings. One packet was as much as anyone ever had. It just wasn’t a priority to have strings. If a string went you just worked on the other three (or if it was a guitar, the other five). You would ignore the one that had gone and think, ‘One of these days I’ll get one.’
A DAY IN THE LIFE
is a limited edition of 750 numbered copies signed by photographer Michael Ward. Each copy contains a silk-bound book, plus 24 large-format lithograph prints, suitable for framing (430mm x 320mm). Available now.