I had never really thought of the Beatles as being an "equipment band". They didn't brandish their guitars around their waists as Freudian phallic symbols the way Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin did. They didn't become associated with individual instruments the way that B.B. King and Chuck Berry did with the Gibson ES-335, or Hendrix did with the Fender Stratocaster, or Clapton and Page did with the Les Paul in the late 1960s. They didn't invent new technologies, the way that The Who did with the Marshall amplifier stack.
But I was wrong.
Reading Andy Babiuk's Beatles Gear: All the Fab Four's Instruments, from Stage to Studio, it's obvious the impact the Beatles made on musical equipment in the 1960s. Indeed, the fact that the guitar is still the dominant instrument in rock, forty years after the A&R man for Decca fatefully rejected the Beatles' demos and told their manager, "Groups with guitars are on the way out, Mr. Epstein", is a statement in and of itself. And the fact that Rickenbacker sells 12-string electrics to this day, and that Vox still sells the same AC-30 tube amplifiers the Beatles used is a testament to the Beatles' pioneering efforts.
How a Beatles Book is Born
As Mark Lewisohn states in his introduction, the origin of Beatles Gear came out of Lewisohn's groundbreaking The Beatles Recording Sessions. Published in 1988, it exhaustively examines every day the Beatles spent in Abbey Road. But Lewisohn kept getting questions from readers about what instruments the Beatles played on those sessions.
Not being a musician himself, Lewisohn handed the ball over to Babiuk, an American guitarist and journalist, who's a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The result is a treasure trove of information and photos for everyone from a budding pop or rock musician to a seasoned collector of arcane music trivia. And even a casual fan of the Beatles with an interest in the group's history will have a flood of memories unleashed by the book. Among other anecdotes, the origin of Ringo Starr's classic "Beatles" drop-T drum logo is revealed, as is the story behind Paul McCartney's violin-shaped Hofner bass, and John Lennon's acquisition of a 1965 Mellotron, a primitive Jurassic sampler that used tape-recorded sounds of instruments played by an organ-style keyboard, from which came the haunting opening of "Strawberry Fields Forever", arguably the Beatles' best song (and certainly the summation of their recording efforts).