My original plan was just to cover John's instruments and amps, but I ended up deciding to cover all the instruments/amps I could identify. If I know or believe that the item was not owned by John or the studio, I put the owners name in parenthesis after the name of the item.
Ace Guitar Strap
During the Imagine sessions John had a plain black ace guitar strap on his Casino. Ace straps were very popular in the '60s and '70s, they were worn by the likes of Clapton, Hendrix, Richards, Page, Elvis and many others... John famously used a yellow and white flower design Ace strap on the Rooftop Concert.
Ampeg B-15N (Klaus Voormann)
Klaus played bass through an Ampeg BN-15N on the Imagine sessions. The B-15 is a tube bass amp first released by Ampeg in 1960 that has since become a revered classic. The B15N was a slightly updated version of the amp released in 1962.
Videos/photos from Ascot show the cabinet turned around facing the wall as were the guitar amps. In the Imagine John and Yoko book, Klaus says "On the Imagine album, I played an old Fender Precision electric bass and an Ampeg B-15N valve amplifier with a 15-inch speaker. It was one of the suitcase ones; when you travel, you take the whole top off, turn it around 180 degrees and put it in the box."
Congas (unknown make/model)
Listed in the Imagine John and Yoko book amongst the available equipment at Ascot. I can't find any pictures of them in the live room during the sessions, but you do get a quick glance at them in the dark room in the Above Us Only Sky documentary. I believe these belonged to the studio.
Dobro D-50S "The Uncle Josh"
One of several Dobros we can see at Ascot Sound Studios during the Imagine sessions. The D-50S is a square neck resonator guitar, John's had a Ribbon Grained African Mahogany body. There is no photographic evidence that I've seen of John playing the D-50S on a session, but obviously that doesn't mean that he didn't.
A Dobro brochure described the D-50S as such: "Deluxe 6·string steel guitar. The traditional Dobro famous for its unique blue grass sound. The Uncle Josh is the steel guitar model of The Richmond. The body construction is identical with the Model D·50 only it is fitted with the square neck, inlaid fret positions, high bone nut and top adjusting machine gears."
Dobro D-50E "The Richmond Electric"
Another of the several Dobros we can see hanging on the wall at Ascot. The D-50E is a round neck resonator guitar with a curly maple body and a pickup. Though I can't find any pictures or video of him playing the D-50E at Ascot, I believe its possible that John played it at least on "Crippled Inside" (I'm speaking of the electric guitar part which can be heard clearly in the into, not the acoustic dobro part played by George).
Documentation, including a Klaus Voormann drawing and an illustration, suggests that The D-50E was likely also used on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band which was recorded at EMI (Abbey Road) Studios in 1970, less than a year before Imagine which suggests to me that John was using this guitar around that time period. The below right photos shows John playing the D-50E in 1970 (not at Ascot).
Dobro Model 32 Resonator Guitar (George Harrison)
Both John and George can be seen playing the metal-bodied round neck Model 32 at Ascot. I believe that this guitar belonged to George and I'm fairly certain it is the guitar he played on "Crippled Inside". It can be seen at the bottom right of the below photo of George and some of his guitars at his home in 1979.
The Model 32 is the descendent of Dobro's Model 27 and was made from the late 1930s to 1941 when Dobro ceased operations due to material shortages/restrictions brought on by the United States entering WWII.
Epiphone Casino E230TD
Serial Number 328393. John's Casino was used on ever Beatles album from Revolver onward, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, on The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus, The Rooftop Concert, Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival, and many other live performances.
John and George both bought sunburst Casinos with gold hardware in 1966 after seeing the Casino Paul had bought in 1964 and started using with The Beatles in 1965. While George's had a Bigsby vibrato similar to Paul's, John's had a standard trapeze tailpiece and the somewhat unique feature of black ring around the pickup selector switch.
In the psychedelic experimentation of 1967, John spray-painted the back and neck of the Casino white/grey, though this paint job was short lived. During their trip to India in early 1968 the singer/songwriter Donovan mentioned that he thought guitars sounded better without a heavy finish. So when he returned to England, John had the Casino (and his Gibson J-160E) professionally sanded down to the natural wood and sprayed with a very thin unpolished layer of varnish according to Andy Babiuk in Beatles Gear. The pickguard was also removed at the time of the sanding, though the mounting hardware remained. It was also around this time that the Casino started sporting one black volume knob. In the summer of 1969 John had the stock Kluson tuners replaced with gold Grovers. The mounting holes for original tuners were never filled and can still be seen on the back of the headstock.
Interestingly, the Casino was still his electric guitar of choice at Ascot on Imagine even though it was apparently difficult to play by that point. Between takes of "How Do You Sleep" on 26 May 1971, John can be heard exclaiming "This guitar is just crippling beyond belief, I can't play it."
Rod Lynton confirms the guitar's less than ideal state during the Imagine sessions in a Guitar World interview: “John was a really great rhythm guitar player,” Lynton narrates, “but he wasn’t actually bothered about the state of his guitars — their condition. When I got in the studio it was just me, John and maybe a few technicians twiddling around. I said to John, ‘Do you mind if I have a look at some of the your guitars on the wall?’ he said, ‘Go ahead.’ I took down the [Epiphone] and the strings were crusty. At least they weren’t rusty, but definitely crusty. Later on, John took it off the wall and played it. He didn’t clean the strings or anything, and it sounded great. This was a guy who was brought up on guitar in the Fifties. ‘It’s a piece of wood with strings on it. You just play it, OK?’ I find that really kind of charming. He didn’t have guitar techs around or anything. He did it himself. George, on the other hand, was a perfectionist. He was far more on the ball in that way.”
The Casino is still owned by Yoko and is frequently publicly exhibited.
Fender Precision Bass (Klaus Voormann)
Klaus's P-Bass looks to have the serial number L21654 which would make it from 1964. We can see a foam mute under the strings in photos from Ascot which was a common technique in the '60s and '70s for achieving a more "thumpy" tone. Klaus's website suggests he acquired the bass in 1966 and has the following description: "Fender Precision Bass (Modell 1962) [sic], painted by Klaus in flower-power stile [sic]. He used the bass on countless historic recordings and didn’t change the old strings until today."
Klaus apparently used this P-Bass on all of his '70s session work which would have included recordings with John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, Billy Preston, Harry Nilsson, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Lou Reed, Randy Newman, Art Garfunkel, Leon Russell, and many others.
Fender Bassman 6G6-B
John can be seen playing through a Blonde Fender Bassman head and matching 2x12 cabinet at various points during the Imagine sessions. The book Imagine John and Yoko misidentifies this amp as being a Showman, but in videos the Bassman name can be seen pretty clearly.
In all of the photos and videos from the Imagine sessions we see the cab was facing towards the wall as was Klaus's bass cabinet. I believe that it was John that mostly played through the Bassman during the sessions. Though it can be seen next to George in some photos and videos, it doesn't have an input plugged in in those images leading me to believe he was mostly playing though the Vibro Champ.
This is likely the Bassman that looms large in Beatles lore amongst many gear heads. The Beatles Bassman was a "brownface" G6G-B with blonde tolex likely manufactured in late 1963 or early 1964. It first saw use with The Beatles as Paul McCartney's primary bass amp on Rubber Soul and Revolver. In 1967 and 1968 it was used regularly by Paul, John, and George mostly as a guitar amp. Some say it was George's primary amp during that period. It can also be seen briefly at Twickenham Film Studios during the Let It Be sessions in 1969.
Fender Stratocaster (George Harrison)
George played a Sonic Blue Stratocaster during the Imagine sessions which has generated a fair amount of discussion amongst guitar aficionados over the years. In 1965, John and George both received 1961 Sonic Blue Stratocasters. George's Strat famously got a psychedelic paint job around 1967 and has come to be known as "Rocky", but the whereabouts of John's have become somewhat of a mystery. There is some good evidence that the Imagine Strat is actually John's 1961 Sonic Blue Strat (which originally had a rosewood fretboard) with a replacement neck with maple fretboard from the late '50s.
From what I can tell, the combination of a maple neck and mint 3-ply pickguard with 11 screw holes make it unlikely (impossible?) that this was a stock model made by Fender. The most likely explanation is that the neck was replaced (though its also possible that the guitar was re-drilled and the 8 hole pickguard was replaced with an 11 hole). John's Strat is rumored to have had neck problems which is possibly why John can be seen playing a black 1964 Strat towards the end of 1965 even though he had just got the Sonic Blue Strat month before. In any case, the most direct evidence I can find for this being John's 1961 Strat is the description on this video on the official John Lennon YouTube page which contains the line "A bearded George Harrison is in front of you, to the right, playing electric slide on John's pale blue Fender Strat."
There is also conjecture that the Strat that George played a few months later on the Concert For Bangladesh on 1 August 1971 was the Sonic Blue Strat from Imagine sanded down to the white undercoat/bare wood. Though many say the sanded Begledesh Strat was the (formerly) sunburst Strat given to George by Eric Clapton, there's some convincing evidence for the Imagine Strat theory. For starters, the Bangledesh Strat had the same maple fretboard/3-ply, 11 hole mint pickguard combo as the Imagine Strat. But the most convincing evidence I've seen offered is the distinctly darker screw visible between two silver screws on the pickguard, and a burn/dark spot on the 21st & 22nd frets by the high E string. Click on the below photos to enlarge.
A white Fender Telecaster with a Fender branded Bigsby vibrato/tailpiece can be seen hanging on the wall during the Imagine sessions. I can't find any photos/videos of John playing this Tele at Ascot. He can be heard on session tapes exclaiming that the Casino has become "crippling beyond belief" to play, but it didn't seem to prompt him to pick up the Tele.
Below left we can see the Tele hanging on the wall at Ascot. I did find a photo of John playing the Tele on 13 April 1972 at the Record Plant in New York City, which is below right.
Fender Twin Reverb
A silverface Fender Twin Reverb can be seen in the middle of the live room during the Imagine sessions. Its hard to be sure, but my guess is that due to its position in the room, the Twin was possibly being used as a keyboard amp with John and George playing their guitars though the Showman and Vibro Champ respectively.
Chances are good that this was the Twin Reverb John used with The Beatles. The Beatles had three Twins that were used throughout 1969. One used by John, one used by George, and a spare used for the Hohner Pianet during the Let It Be sessions. John half jokingly makes a reference to the twin during ttose sessions saying "With the twin-reverb amp, Paul, I find myself satisfied completely. And now your hosts for this evening, The Rolling Stones!". All three Twins can be seen together on the Rooftop Concert on 30 January (though the Pianet was never played). Later that year John and George both used their Twins for the Abbey Road sessions. It seems likely that John, George, and Paul each took a twin following the breakup of the Beatles.
Fender Vibro Champ
A Vibro Champ is listed amongst the amps at Ascot in the Imagine John and Yoko book. I believe that George mainly played through the Vibro Champ on the Imagine sessions. It took me awhile, but I finally was able to spot it next to George in some grainy video footage.
On 24 April 2021, John Lennon's official Twitter account tweeted out this photo of what I assume is this same Vibro Champ with the caption "1970 Fender Vibro Champ".
We can see a Gibson B-25N acoustic guitar in photos from Ascot. Though I can't find any photos of John playing it during the Imagine sessions, I did find one from 1970 which you can see below. I had originally thought this was a J-50, so thanks to those on Instagram that pointed out my mistake.
The B series of Gibson guitars was an affordable line of small-bodied acoustics introduced in the early 1960s. The "N" stands for natural, while the standard B-25 had a cherry sunburst finish. The B-25N was manufactured from 1962 to 1977. John's B-25 had a "belly down" bridge which was introduced in 1968 and looks to have an adjustable saddle which was discontinued in 1970, meaning his B-25N would be from between 1968 and 1970.
In the book Imagine John and Yoko, Joey Molland says that the guitar he brought with him to Ascot on 24 May 1970 was a Gibson J-50. Molland played acoustic guitar on "Jealous Guy" and "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama" along with his Badfinger bandmate Tom Evans.
Serial Number 64309. Though most photos/videos from the Imagine sessions show John playing his Martin D28, his 1964 J-160E is around and we do see George pick it up a times. This was John's main acoustic guitar with the Beatles from 1964-1967.
John's 1964 J-160E was purchased to replace his 1962 J-160E which was stolen in December 1963 at a Beatles Christmas show at Finsbury Park Astoria Theater in London. The '64 J-160E was originally sunburst and virtually identical to his '62 save for two rosettes around the sound hole instead of one, and a visible orange label in the sound hole. For the 1967 broadcast of "All You Need Is Love", John had it painted in a blue and purple psychedelic design (and had the pickguard removed) by the Dutch artist collective "The Fool", though he ended up not playing guitar at all on the broadcast. The pickup was also moved at this time from just below the neck to the bottom of the sound hole.
In 1968 after Donovan mentioned to John and George in India that he thought guitars sounded better without a heavy finish John had the J-160E professionally sanded down to the bare wood and also had a pickguard placed back on. Like his Epiphone Casino, the J160E was sprayed with a very thin unpolished layer of varnish after having been sanded according to Andy Babiuk in Beatles Gear. The pickup was moved back to its original position just under the neck at this time as well.
At John and Yoko's Montreal Bed-in for Peace in May-June of 1969 John famously drew caricatures of himself and Yoko on the guitar's body. On 1 June 1969 during the Bed-in, John recorded "Give Peace A Chance" with the J-160E and it's new art, making it arguably the guitar most identified with John by many. Its in this state that we see the guitar in at Ascot Sound Studios in 1971.
Yoko still owns the J-160E and it is frequently publicly exhibited.
Gibson Les Paul Standard "Lucy" (George Harrison)
Serial number 7-8789. One guitar George brought with him to Ascot was his 1957 Les Paul Standard which was dubbed "Lucy" by George. Video footage shows George recorded the beautiful guitar part on "Oh My Love" on Lucy.
Lucy originally a Goldtop that shipped from the Gibson factory on 19 December 1957. By the 60s the guitar was owned by John Sebastian of The Lovin' Spoonful who traded it to Rick Derringer of The McCoys to replay him for an amplifier Sebastian had blown. By '66 the guitar was already road worn so Derringer had the guitar refurbished and refinished in SG red at the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo Michigan. Apparently he still wasn't thrilled with the guitar and sold it to Dan Armstrong's guitar shop in New York City where it was purchased just days later by Eric Clapton.
Clapton apparently didn't play the guitar much and gave it to George in 1968. George dubbed it "Lucy" as a reference to famous redhead Lucille Ball. Lucy would see use on The Beatle's The White Album (including Clapton's solo on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"), Let It Be, Abbey Road, and into George's solo career. Lucy was stolen from George's home in a robbery in 1973, but he was eventually able to get it back by trading a sunburst 1958 Les Paul and a Fender Precision bass to the man who bought it at a used guitar store, a fact that George was none to happy about.
George kept Lucy for the rest of his life and it is now in the possession of his family.
Hagström H33 / BJ12 12-String
A Hagström H33 / BJ12 12-String guitar can be seen in photos and videos during the Imagine sessions. John, George, and Ted Turner can all be seen playing the H33 /BJ12 in photos and videos.
I've read that the Hagström belonged to Lynton, but this except from a Guitar World interview suggests that it was John's: "'Crippled Inside' is one of several songs on Imagine where a pair of acoustic guitarists were employed to add weight to the track. In this case, Rod Lynton and Ted Turner joined Lennon in strumming on acoustics. Lynton recalls playing a Gibson J-45 on the track, with Turner on an acoustic 12-string that Lynton thinks might have been a Hagström. Both guitars came from Lennon’s own collection of instruments." (Just to be clear, Lynton was probably speaking of the Gibson J50 when he said J45. They were essentially the same guitar save for the finish.)
Alan White is seen playing a silver sparkle Ludwig drum set during the Imagine sessions. They have the blue & olive badges which Ludwig started using in 1969. I believe these drums likely belonged to Ascot Sound Studios as they can be seen in the pre-Imagine photos of the studios taken by Eddie Veale. It's hard to tell for sure, but they likely consisted of a 22" kick drum, 13" rack tom, 16" floor tom, and a 14"x5" Supraphonic snare.
In April 2022, White posted to his website that the Ludwig drums used at Ascot to record Imagine were stolen from his storage unit. The post included several recent pictures of the drums. However, the Ludwig drum set in those pictures has keystone badges while the kit at Ascot had blue & olive badges. Although I suppose its possible the drums were re-wrapped and re-badged at some point, it seems more likely that these were not actually the Imagine Ludwig's at all.
I believe the acoustic guitar we see John playing most in the Imagine session photos and videos is his 1962 Martin D28. Interestingly, it is without a pickguard which makes me wonder if he had it stripped to bare wood as he did previously with the Casino and J-160E. It looks quite dull in the photos and videos.
John first acquired a D28 in 1967 (a 1965 model) that he used frequently with The Beatles through 1969. In December 1969 he gave the guitar to Ronnie Hawkins while in Toronto. To replace it, john acquired this 1962 Martin D28, a guitar which he used frequently throughout the '70s including his last public performance on 18 April 1975 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. It was used on recording all the way up to and including the Double Fantasy sessions in 1980.
In 2014, Mastery Bridge inspected John's 1962 D28 and posted several close up pictures of it on their Facebook page, photos by Zoran Orli. Inside the guitar is a stamp that reads "RESTORED BY VALDEZ WEST HOLLYWOOD". Valdez was Arturo Valdez a luthier in Los Angeles known as the "guitar repairman to the stars". The guitar clearly has a glossy finish in the photos (and a pickguard) which makes me wonder if part of the restoration was giving the guitar a new finish at some point following the Imagine sessions.
Martin D41 (Tom Evans)
In the book Imagine John and Yoko, Joey Molland says that the guitar that Tom Evans brought with him to Ascot for the Imagine sessions was a Martin D41. Evans played acoustic guitar on "Jealous Guy" and "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama" along with Molland, his Badfinger bandmate.
Mellotron Mark II
Though John's Mellotron was possibly never recorded at Ascot Sound Studios, it was there and I think it's story is interesting and worth telling here. There is a lot of misinformation out there surrounding the various Mellotrons associated with The Beatles, and this is one of them.
John likely saw a Mellotron for the first time on 9 August 1965 when he was producing a track at IBC Studios in London. John almost immediately purchased a Mellotron Mark II which was delivered to him at his home Kenwood on 16 August. It was a rare black model, one of only six made. Though he did use it for home recordings, John's Mellotron is often erroneously identified as the Mellotron used to record "Strawberry Fields Forever" and other Beatles songs through the Magical Mystery Tour album. In actuality, the Mellotron that was used for those sessions was a Mark II hired by EMI (Abbey Road) Studios from the Mellotron office in London according to Recording The Beatles. In 1968 EMI purchased their own Mellotron, a modified Sound Effects Console model, which the Beatles used on their sessions from then on. That Sound Effects Console is now owned by Paul McCartney.
Julian Lennon remembers John's Mark II working at Tittenhurst "I remember that Dad had a Mellotron in the main house, I'd try to play it on occasion. It was such an inspiring instrument, and to this day, still one of my favorites". But at some point between 1969 when they moved in and 1971, the Mellotron became unplayable.
Moody Blues keyboardist Mike Pinder was brought in to play it on an Imagine session, but when he arrived, it wasn't in working order. The tapes inside had become tangled after having been put on its back. On his website Pinder says "I was going to play mellotron on one of the sessions; however, the tapes in John’s ‘tron looked like a bowl of spaghetti. It was a hopeless mess. So, I grabbed a tambourine instead and played my socks off on “I Don’t Want to be a Soldier Momma,” the last track on the Imagine album."
We know from that book that it was in the hallway leading to the studio at the time of the Imagine sessions. The only view we get of it in any video or photo is covered up in the below screenshot.
According to Engineer Jack Douglas in this interview, John's Mellotron came with him when he moved to the United States and was stored in a vault in the basement of the Record Plant building along with other equipment and artifacts John owned. At some point, the Mellotron was apparently acquired by Jimmy Iovine and Ted Field of Interscope Records. In this gearspace.com thread, Nine Inch Nail's collaborator Brian Liesegang says that the band was lent the MKII by Ted Field and used it on their EP Broken in 1992. Numerous articles (like this one) since the '90s make reference to the Mellotron being displayed in Iovine's office at Interscope. In 2009, Streely Electronics posted on Facebook that they restored the MKII and gave the original damaged tapes to Paul McCartney.
Post Script: In recent years, the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio has a Mellotron on display that they claim to be Lennon's. That Mellotron however is a Mahogany Mark II. As previously stated, John's MKII was a rare black model which is corroborated by sources including the very trustworthy Recording The Beatles, the Imagine John and Yoko book (an official book compiled by Yoko) as well as this website, and this website. I can't find any information to verify that the MKII at the RRHOF truly had any association with John.
Plectrums (various makes/models)
Imagine - The Ultimate Collection includes a photo of various plectrums used by John during the Imagine sessions. We see heavy standard size, and thin, medium, and heavy teardrop plectrums of various brands. I've read that he mostly played the teardrops, but would change shape and thickness song and guitar dependent.
Pump Organ/Harmonium (unknown make/model)
A white Pump Organ was played by John Barham on the song "Jealous Guy" and can briefly seen in the John And Yoko: Above Us Only Sky documentary. On the make Barham says "I'm not sure of the make of the harmonium; it was a very old one." There were seemingly countless manufactures making countless models of harmoniums in the late 1800s and early 1900s, so without a good photo its nearly impossible to determine the make and model.
It's probably not surprising that John would have a pump organ at Ascot. The Beatles were fans of the instrument and used EMI (Abbey Road) Studio's Mannborg on several songs including "We Can Work It Out" which was played by John.
I think there is a good chance that this pump organ actually end up at George's studio F.P.S.H.O.T. following the Imagine sessions. The below left photo is a (reversed) image of the profile of the pump organ at Ascot in 1971 (sorry, its the best I could do). The below right photo is the pump organ at F.P.S.H.O.T. in 1973. The shape is pretty distinctive.
Resonator Guitar (unknown make/model)
A black/dark resonator guitar with white binding can be seen on the wall at Ascot during the Imagine sessions. It looks like it could possibly be a Dobro Model 27 or similar.
RMI 300B Electra Piano
Nicky Hopkins can be heard playing the RMI 300B on at least "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama" and "Oh My Love". Early takes of "Imagine" also featured Hopkins on the 300B, though it was abandoned by the final take.
The RMI (Rocky Mountain Instruments) 300B was a keyboard manufactured between 1969 and 1972. The 300B was a electrical keyboard, meaning that it had no physical sound generating system like the Rhodes or Wurlizer for example. Instead, it was completely electronic. It had five voices: Piano, Piano PP, Harpsi, Harpsi PP, and Lute ('PP' is the musical notation for pianissimo, denoting quieter versions of those sounds). It had two additional controls, one called "organ mode" that extended the decay time of the selected voice, and one called "accenter" that added a percussive attack to the selected sound.
Though the 300 series RMI keyboards might sound primitive by today's standards, they were some of the first electronic keyboards to offer piano sounds in a portable format that could easily be amplified in the context of a rock band.
Sound City Concord
This photo taken from the control room shows what I believe to be a Sound City Concord amplifier in the live room. I think this photo was taken early in 1971 or maybe even in late in 1970. The Concord was a 2 channel 2x12 EL34 combo amp made from about 1970-1975. No evidence of of the Concord being around during at least the May Imagine sessions.
Sound City Eric Clapton Model Guitar Strings
Videos from 26 May show a package of Eric Clapton model Sound City guitar string strings stuck under the bridge of John's Casino and also a box on the control room window ledge. John can be heard on outtakes from that day mentioning how difficult the Casino was to play so its possible that he changed the strings that day and stuck the package under the bridge. I would imagine that Clapton sent boxes to John and/or George. That said, its obviously impossible to know what if any guitars the Sound City strings were on.
I can't find out a whole lot about them, but the internet tells me Sound City strings were manufactured by the Cardiff Music String Co. LTD. and that the Eric Clapton strings came in the following gauges: Super Ultra Light (8.5 to 38), Ultra Light (9.5 to 38), Extra Light (10 to 40), Light (11 to 43), and Medium (12 to 46).
Steinway & Sons Model O Grand Piano
Serial Number 41905. This white Steinway Model O grand piano was ordered by John as a gift for Yoko on 29 January 1971 from Steinway & Sons in London and was delivered to Tittenhurst Park in February 1971. John had an inscribed plaque added to the the fallboard that reads, 'This Morning, A White Piano For Yoko, From John With Love, 18.2.1971’. The piano was located outside of the studio in the large "White Room" at the front of the house.
This piano is widely associated with John and the song "Imagine" due to its inclusion in the "Imagine" music video and album promotional material, though it wasn't actually used on the recording. On 27 May 1971 John started tracking "Imagine" on this piano but it was quickly determined that the acoustics of the white room were not ideal. "John tried it out but there was just too much room content; the room was too reverberant and it wasn't a complimentary reverberation to the piano" -Eddie Veale, John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky. My guess is that based on that try the Model O didn't end up being used on any of Imagine.
The piano eventually made its way to America with John and Yoko. It still resides at home with Yoko.
Steinway & Sons Model Z Upright Piano
Serial No. 417139. This Steinway Z upright piano was manufactured in Hamburg Germany in 1969 and purchased by John on 15 December 1970 from Steinway & Sons in London for around £1,000. The Steinway Model Z piano was a humble looking piano and the the smallest upright Steinway made at 116cm tall. Despite these factors, John was apparently quite fond of it.
Although they started recording the song "Imagine" on his white Steinway O grand piano, it was decided that the room that it was in was too reverberant and they switched to the Z in the live room. Its likely that most of the piano on the Imagine album was recorded on the Model Z. John, Nicky Hopkins, and John Tout can all be seen playing the Model Z at various points during the Imagine sessions.
I've seen an interview with Record Plant assistant engineer Jack Douglas where he says that the final piano part (and vocal) on "Imagine" was overdubbed during the 4-5 July sessions at The Record Plant in New York City. Most sources that I have seen say that the only recording done at the Record Plant those two days was the King Curtis saxophone overdubs and the "Flux Fiddlers" string overdubs. I can't find any other sources that corroborate the piano overdub. That said, I can't find anything that totally refutes that this happened either.
The Model Z was eventually sold to a private British collector in 1992 and was on loan to the Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool for a time. The piano was famously sold again on 17 October 2000 to George Michael for £1.45 million. Michael did do some recording with the piano, but it has spent most of the time since 2000 in international traveling exhibitions and museums. Since 2020, the piano has been on loan to Strawberry Fields in Liverpool courtesy of the Estate of George Michael.
Tingsha (unknown make/model)
Upright Bass (unknown make/model)
"On 'Crippled Inside', John said he wanted an upright bass. I had never played one before, but he said 'No, you can play it!' So John sent me to London with Mal Evans and we rockers went into this classical music store, full of very neat people wearing bow ties! Mal bought a really good, huge, full-size upright bass. John realized he wanted it played like a slap bass, and I couldn't do it so I played the notes on the bass with my left hand and Alan White played the strings like drums, with his sticks." -Klaus Voormann
Its hard to tell much about the bass from videos and photos, but due to the condition of the finish I think they may have bought it second-hand. In addition to "Crippled Inside", video shows that Klauss played the upright on early run-throughs of "Oh My Love" on 28 May 1971. He eventually switched to the electric bass, however, which is what we hear on the released version of that song.
Vibraphone (unknown make/model)
Alan White played a vibraphone on "Jealous Guy" (John Barham had played it on "How" though it was eventually replaced with strings). According to White, the vibraphone belonged to him. Unfortunately, I can't find any photos or videos of it. It was placed in the toilet that during the recording of "Jealous Guy". The toilet door was diagonally across the hall from the live-room door. "When we did 'Jealous Guy', Jim Keltner played the drums and I ended up playing vibraphone in the toilet in the corner of the studio. It had a little door, with a four- or five-inch crack, and I could see everybody thorough there." -Alan White, Imagine John Yoko
"We talked about what else the song needed, and I suggested some vibes - I had a small set in the trunk of my car. I had started out playing piano as a young boy, so I had some knowledge of how to play them as they’re kind of a keyboard." -Alan White (source)
Amongst the keyboards at Ascot during the Imagine sessions was a red Wurlitzer 200. It has two "fragile" stickers on top and a blue embossed label near the controls. For what it's worth, the embossed label looks to me to read "ORG" followed by a space and then a few more characters I can't make out. The 200 can be heard on "How Do You Sleep?" played by Nicky Hopkins at Ascot.
Update: Unpublished photos of some of the final Beatles recording sessions at EMI (Abbey Road) Studios on 3 & 4 January 1970 have started floating around. On the 3rd, The Beatles sans Lennon (who was out of the country) recorded "I Me Mine", and on the 4th they overdubbed onto the previously recorded "Let It Be". Both tracks featured Wurlitzer played by Paul McCartney which is visible in the photos. Lo an behold I noticed that it is the same red Wurlitzer 200 played by Nicky Hopkins on "How Do You Sleep" at Ascot in 1971.
The Wurli is pictured above left on 3 January, and above right on 4 January during The Beatles sessions at EMI (Abbey Road) Studios. Below in the collage is a picture of Nicky Hopkins playing the Wurli on at Ascot on 26 May 1971. As we can see from my A Beautiful Mind-style illustrations, the Wurli has the same two red "Fragile" stickers on top, the same blue embossed label on the faceplate, and what looks like a large round sticker on the left.
I believe that this Wurlitzer may have belonged to George or was at the very least purchased by George at some point. The top photo in the above collage is of George and Spike Milligan at George's studio F.P.S.H.O.T. circa 1973. As we can see, the Wurli has the same large round sticker as the Wurli in 1970 Beatles/EMI (Abbey Road) Studios photo on the bottom. Also visible in the 1970 photo is George's Fender Twin Reverb with what looks to be the same sticker.
I think this sticker may be a Delaney & Bonnie sticker, with whom George had preformed with three weeks before the January 1970 Beatles sessions on 10 December 1969 in Copenhagen. Billy Preston was also on that gig playing a, you guessed it, red Wurlitzer 200. From all of this info, I'm surmising that this Wurli was George's and was used for Delaney & Bonnie, The Beatles, John Lennon, and then obviously George Harrison records and probably many others!
Yamaha FG-180 (Rod Lynton)
Rod Lynton recalls in a Guitar World article trying a few takes of "Imagine" on his Yamaha FG-180: Rod Lynton recalls sitting in a molded plastic egg chair, equipped with stereo speakers, in one of Tittenhurst’s many rooms. He was smoking a joint when he received the summons to go into the studio and try putting an acoustic guitar part on “Imagine.” He took up his own guitar, a Yamaha 180 acoustic, and answered the call. Spector and Lennon were alone in the control room. Lynton tried three different approaches — straight strumming, arpeggiated chords and some counter-melodic lines. Each time, he stopped halfway through the take and drew his finger across his throat — the “cut” signal. “This isn’t working,” he told Lennon and Spector. The two men conferred briefly in the control room. Finally Lennon came on the talkback. “You’re right,” he told Lynton. “And that’s how I did myself out of playing on one of the greatest songs of all time,” the guitarist laughs.
Yamaha FG-230 (Ted Turner)
Guitarist Ted Turner can be seen playing a 12 String Yamaha acoustic guitar at Ascot. I'm fairly sure it is a FG-230. From what I can tell the only other 12 string Yamaha was making prior to 1971 was the FG-550 which looks to have a tortoise pickguard. Turner played guitar on "Crippled Inside" and "How Do You Sleep?".
A guitar with a very unique pickguard and bridge can be seen at Ascot on 26 May 1971. I believe that it is a Yamaha FG-300. I found a photo of George playing a FG-300 with Alvin Lee in 1973, so I'm led to believe that this guitar was likely George's.
SOURCES & NOTES
Imagine John Yoko - This book compiled by Yoko Ono was indispensable in researching this post. Much of the gear list, quotes, and photos are from the book. Its really detailed and beautifully laid out, I highly recommend it. It can be purchased here.
https://imaginejohnyoko.com - the official website for all things Imagine.
"Imagine there’s a studio: Eddie Veale recalls his time with John Lennon" by Dave Robinson. This PSN Europe article has some great info. PSNE is unfortunately defunct, but the article can be found with the Wayback Machine here.
Recording The Beatles - by Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew - This book is the bible when it comes to, well, recording The Beatles! It is a constant reference for me. Unfortunately it has been out of print for many years now.
Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium - by Chip Madinger and Mark Easter. An encyclopedia of dates and information regarding solo Beatles recording sessions through the year 2000. Very detailed. The book can be purchased as an E-Book here.
https://www.voormann.com - The official website of Klaus Voormann.
"'Imagine' This: How John Lennon and George Harrison Teamed Up to Record a Classic Album in 1971" - A 2019 Guitar World article with some interviews and information on guitars. The article can be found here.
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