Wednesday 10 June 2015

Sacred And Most Holy Relics

John Lennon's acoustic guitar, used on early recordings and missing for more than fifty years, has been located and is being offered for auction. The Gibson, purchased in 1962 at Brian Epstein's insistence after the boys were mocked at their Decca audition for having substandard equipment, was used on recordings such as Love Me Do and P.S. I Love You. The guitar mysteriously disappeared during The Beatles 1963 Christmas Show at Finsbury Park before surfacing in San Diego where it was bought by an American in the early 70s for a few hundred dollars. Apparently it's only recently he has realised what he has, and is now expected to earn around $800,000 from its sale.

So if it was stolen, why isn't it being returned to its rightful owner? Surely Yoko, or Sean, or Julian should have it.

Of course, that's not to say I'd love to own this guitar.

Memorabilia fascinates me. The extent to which fans will go to possess artifacts, souvenirs, and other items with some connection to their idols. It's as if they're holy relics, as though ownership will endow enlightenment, a kind of Beatles nirvana. For me, mortgages and grown-up priorities (food, insurance, car, etc.) limit my abilities to collect. I have some inexpensive items; mostly recent merchandise and a few old Beatles Monthly magazines. But there are some collectors who will go to great expense to possess rarities. And the closer to the boys, and the rarer it is, the better.

Studio tapes are missing from the archives. There are rumours of collectors holding these for themselves in private collections, not willing to return them, not willing to share them. Instruments, gold records and awards, clothes, notes and song lyrics; all stolen at opportune moments and secreted away. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.

And from there we cross to the completely sick and twisted side of collecting. A copy of The White Album, signed by Charles Manson and members of his family, is currently offered for sale at $50,000. There's definitely something wrong with that.

McCartney had some fun at the expense of memorabilia collectors in his 1989 video for My Brave Face in which a Japanese collector goes to extraordinary lengths to steal items such as a Sgt. Pepper suit. But for my money one of the funniest moments was a Saturday Night Live skit from the 80s where Ringo Starr (playing himself) is offered up for auction as a piece of memorabilia.

I love reading about this stuff. Books with information and images on collectibles, instruments, and every variation in record releases from a round the world fascinate me no end.

Now, if I ever won the lottery I'd be in serious trouble. My wife would kill me. The money wouldn't last. I understand collectors. I understand their passion. And I'd love to possess my own pieces of Beatles history.

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