The Beatles’ association with Rickenbacker is one of the most important team-ups between musicians and manufacturers in the history of popular music. All three guitarists in the band used Rickenbackers at different points, with John Lennon’s iconic short scale 325, George Harrison’s legendary 360-12 string, and Paul McCartney’s famous 4001S bass all becoming indelible parts of The Beatles’ sound and image.
Lennon was the first one to get his hands on the brand. American guitars were rare in Britain, but when Lennon and the band were in Hamburg, Germany, they were able to come across the 325 hanging in a shop window in 1960. The guitar came complete with a Kaufmann vibrato arm, which Lennon rarely used. Rarely, but not never, as the effect can be heard on The Beatles’ instrumental ‘Cry for a Shadow’.
“In Hamburg we had to play so long, we actually used to play ‘Apache’,” Harrison told Guitar Player magazine in 1987. “But John and I were just bullshitting one day, and he had this new little Rickenbacker with a funny kind of wobble bar on it. And he started playing that off, and I just came in, and we made it up right on the spot.” Harrison also told NME in 1963 that, “The result wasn’t a bit like ‘Apache’, but we liked it and we used it in the act for a while.”
‘Cry for a Shadow’ was recorded while The Beatles were doing their first professional recording session. However, the band weren’t recording as themselves – they were backing up singer Tony Sheridan as The Beat Brothers. Towards the end of the sessions, The Beatles were allowed to record some of their own material. Lennon took the lead vocal for a cover of ‘Ain’t She Sweet’, while the band also recorded ‘Cry for a Shadow’ during the same recording.
“It was a bit disappointing because we’d been hoping to get a record deal for ourselves,” Harrison recalled in Anthology. “Although we did ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ and the instrumental ‘Cry For A Shadow’ without Sheridan, they didn’t even put our name on the record.” It would take another full year before The Beatles would record professionally under their own name, this time with George Martin back in England.
Check out ‘Cry for a Shadow’ down below.