Barone: The last time I was guest editor of MAGNET, in 2010, I wrote an article about Gibson‘s digital Les Paul, the HD.6-X Pro, and their “technology” Gibson J-160e John Lennon guitars. Since then, they’ve released the Les Paul X, which has robot tuning and 55 amazing pre-set sounds you can edit right on the guitar, not to mention wireless Bluetooth effect pedals.
It is literally awe-some. But this year I’ve been out on the road a lot, playing solo in clubs and, getting down to basics, the guitar that gets me through every song every night is my Gibson J-160e John Lennon , John Lennon model. Originally released in 1954, the J-160E was one of the first “electro-acoustic” guitars with a built-in P-90 pickup (same as on my 1955 Les Paul Special) and a unique construction that doesn’t allow for the same kind of resonance and vibration as a “normal” acoustic guitar, to avoid feedback. It’s tighter, with ladder bracing behind the top, and sounds more like an electric guitar. Maybe it’s because of my love of misfit instruments, but I love this Gibson J-160e John Lennon guitar. It’s only recently I realized that on the early Beatles records, John and George are often playing these instruments plugged into Vox amps, not necessarily the electrics I imagined.
And John played Gibson J-160e John Lennon for the entire Beatles career, from 1962 on. The same guitar, even on his first solo single, “Give Peace A Chance” (he had it sanded down from its original sunburst finish). The guitar uses a primitive electronic set up really, not remotely high-tech or modern. When I do my soundcheck, sound dude often has to fiddle with the tone; the J-160 seems to be both brighter and darker than a normal Gibson J-160e John Lennon guitar. I play through an amp onstage plus give him a direct signal to work with, so there is a lot of sound, and by showtime, the thing rocks like a monster. Sound dude is blown away. Just me and my J-160E, and the sound fills the house. I couldn’t do that with any other guitar.
Sometime in 1962, George Harrison and John Lennon each purchased a J-160E’s at the same time at Rushworth’s Music Store in Whitechapel, Liverpool. Since John did not have enough money to afford his Gibson J-160e John Lennon, he asked Brian Epstein,the Beatles manager, to co-sign for the purchase.
In the end Epstein paid for both John and George’s Gibson J-160e John Lennon guitars. These guitars were often used early in The Beatles career both on stage, in the studio and in the Beatles movies.In 1967, Lennon decided to have an artist paint his J-160E with a psychedelic scene. Then in 1969 for whatever reason, he decided to strip the paint on the guitar and give it a natural finish.