The more I listened to it, the more I decided I didn't like the guitar sound I had. It was crap

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Another new Ludwig for Ringo, and a Mellotron for John

After their television appearance in Blackpool The Beatles had barely two weeks off before departing for their second American tour. Prior to leaving, Starr received yet another Ludwig drum set - his fourth, and the second standard-size set with a 22-inch bass drum. Starr now had two such Ludwig kits, larger than his earlier sets, and they were virtually identical, including the added Rogers Swiv-O-Matic tom mount. The only noticeable difference between Starr's third and fourth 22-inch-bass Ludwig sets is in the distinct swirling patterns in the drums' oyster black pearl covering. Like fingerprints, no two of these coverings are exactly the same.

Along with the drum set came a new Beatles drop-T logo drum-head, number five. The logo was painted on a Ludwig Weather Master head, and the clearest difference between it and the earlier heads is that the Ludwig logo is larger, heavier and appears somewhat crooked on the left side in relation to "The Beatles". Starr used this fourth Ludwig set with 22-inch-bass and number-five drop-T logo for the group's 1965 American tour. (Starr's two 22-inch-bass Ludwig kits would show up together in photographs taken at Abbey Road in 1966 during the recording of 'Paperback Writer'.)

Always searching for new sounds from different instruments, Lennon became one of the first artists in Britain to acquire a unique new keyboard, the Mellotron. It was like 70 tape-recorders in a box. Pressing a key activated one of the pre-recorded tapes inside, loaded with sounds as diverse as pitched strings and brass to rhythm effects and entire musical passages (although any held note would stop after ten seconds). In effect it was a forerunner of today's sampling keyboards.

The Mellotron was the younger brother to a US invention, the Chamberlin keyboard devised in the late 1940s by Harry Chamberlin. A Chamberlin representative, Bill Fransen, visited Britain in the early 1960s, ostensibly in search of tape-head manufacturers, but more likely on the look-out for a marketing

The inside of an early Vox Continental organ with orange top removed, showing how at this period the instrument had wooden keys. Later examples had plastic keys and modified electronics, giving a different feel and sound.

Paul with an early-style wooden-key Vox Continental Portable organ which the group used live and in the studio.

opportunity. Fransen stumbled upon electro-mechanical engineers Bradmatic in Birmingham, run by the Bradley brothers, Les, Frank and Norman.

Soon Fransen and the Bradleys collaborated - minus Harry Chamberlin - to form the British sales and distribution company Mellotronics, with the Bradleys set to manufacture a copy of the Chamberlin, the Mellotron Mark I, beginning in 1963. Changes were soon made to this prototype, and the Mark II appeared in 1964. It was this production version that Lennon saw.

Its retail price then was a phenomenal £1,000 (about $2,800 then; around £11,500 or $16,200 in today's money). The sometimes out-of-tune and eerie but always atmospheric sounds of the Mellotron later became widely used by many bands, including The Moody Blues and King Crimson. Despite Lennon's early enthusiasm, The Beatles would not use a Mellotron until the end of 1966 when they added some of its distinctive sounds to the recording of' Strawberry Fields Forever'.

Lennon's acquisition of his Mellotron was noted in a contemporary news item. "On the day before they left for their current American tour, The Beatles did some very secret recording at the IBC studio in [London's] Portland Place. John Lennon was persuaded to try a Mellotron during a break and after just five minutes said, 'I must have one of these.' It was delivered on August 16th." 8

This report not only provides the precise date for the arrival of Lennon's Mellotron, but also refers to a recording session that has never before been documented. Unfortunately no further information about this "secret" recording session at TBC was given. There seems no particular reason why the group would be recording there at this time. Perhaps there was no "secret" other than a visit to IBC to see an early demo of the fabulous new Mellotron?

Back in the USA

The group travelled to New York to start their American summer tour, arriving on August 13th. First on their busy schedule was the filming of a live performance for The Ed Sullivan Show, for broadcast in September. The Beatles ran through the same numbers that they had performed weeks earlier in Blackpool. They attended rehearsals at CBS TV's Studio 50 on the afternoon of August 14th, with McCartney playing his '63 Hofner bass, Harrison his Gretsch Tennessean, Lennon the Rickenbacker 325, and Starr his new fourth Ludwig drum set.

McCartney again played his Epiphone Texan acoustic guitar during the performance of 'Yesterday'. During the afternoon camera rehearsals, McCartney was accompanied by three tuxedo'd violinists standing in a row in front of him. But for the actual taped performance later that evening, he played alone to a pre- recorded accompaniment of the three violins.

Also present during this Ed Sullivan appearance was Lennon's Vox Continental Portable organ. It had a non-standard "Vox Continental" logo in black letters on white added to the right of the front of the case, presumably at the request of Vox who must have thought that two name-tags would help publicise their keyboard to the big TV audience. Lennon used the Continental on 'I'm Down', playing the organ break in the song with his elbow.

Brian Epstein chats with John during rehearsals for the group's appearance on Ed Sullivan in August 1965. John's '64 Rick 325, complete with Vox Python strap and set-list, lies on top of the Vox Continental organ. In the background, Ringo's second 22-inch-bass Ludwig kit has a new Beatles drop-T logo, head number five in the sequence.
This US television appearance marked the first time that The Beatles used their Vox amplifiers in front of Ed Sullivan's 70-million-plus viewing audience. The group's backline of Vox AC-100 amps, plus an AC-30 combo for the organ, acted as the best advertising campaign that Vox and their US agent Thomas Organ could have wished for. What a way to break into the American market and kick the Vox line into high gear - and all for free! Thomas would capitalise on the group's use of the Vox AC-100 amp, renaming it for the US market as the Vox Super Beatle - an amp that every Beatles-inspired US teenage band and musician would want.

The following day, August 15th, marked the first date of the group's ten-city 1965 American tour, with a concert that would prove to be the biggest and one of the most memorable of their career. Over 55,000 screaming Beatle fans packed into New York's Shea Stadium to witness the group's live performance. John St John, guitarist with one of the tour's opening acts, Sounds Incorporated, remembers what he describes as a "wild" concert. "You just couldn't imagine how loud the crowds were. I could barely hear myself on stage. When The Beatles went on, it was even more deafening. You've never heard anything like it!" 9

Harrison said later that by this stage in their career, they had enough confidence to play more or less anywhere. But Shea Stadium was different. "It was such a screaming crowd, and it was such a long way to get to the stage, and we all were very nervous," he recalled. "We'd still get nervous doing concerts, even in small theatres. I'd always get a little bit of the butterflies. But at Shea Stadium, although in the film we look very casual when we're lying around waiting to go on, we were very nervous, with that mixture of excitement and anticipation with the biggest crowd that had ever gathered in history. But once we got out there and got on stage and started doing it, it became apparent we were doing it for our own amusement - because nobody could hear a thing." 10

In conjunction with Ed Sullivan, Epstein had arranged to have the concert filmed as a television special to air in Britain and the US. The film was simply titled The Beatles At Shea Stadium. This important document not only presents Beatlemania at its height but provides a detailed view of the instruments and equipment used during the group's second US tour.

The line-up was the same as in Blackpool. The amplifiers were two Vox AC-100 guitar amps and one AC-100 bass amp. Lennon played his '64 Rickenbacker 325, with his '64 Gibson J-160E as a spare. Harrison played his Gretsch Tennessean, alternating with his Rickenbacker 12-string, and had his second Gretsch Country Gentleman as a spare. McCartney used his '63 Hofner violin bass with his original '61 Hofner nearby as back-up. Starr played his new Ludwig 22-inch-bass kit with number-five drop-T logo drum-head. Also on-stage for each date of the tour was the Vox Continental Portable organ, played through a Vox AC-30 combo amp mounted on a Vox side-swivel stand. Lennon used it on the closing number, 'I'm Down'.

This organ was recently sold at auction as John Lennon's first Vox Continental, as used during the Beatles 1965 American tour.

Manufacturers were always quick to demonstrate the instrumental activities of the world's favourite group - this Vox ad from 1965 shows the Beatles at Shea Stadium.
For the grand finale at Shea Stadium, Lennon savagely attacked the organ during the lead break of 'I'm Down' in a way that would have made Jerry Lee Lewis proud. But Lennon's frenzied performance resulted in the Continental's malfunction for the next show, on August 17th in Toronto, Canada. The following day, while in Atlanta, Georgia, the group made arrangements to have the organ replaced. The local Atlanta dealer, The Vox Shoppe, swapped out a Vox Continental organ from the store's stock for Lennon's faulty keyboard. Apparently, Epstein even managed to arrange to have an Atlanta policeman carry out the exchange. Lennon's "Shea Stadium" Vox Continental remained in the possession of the shop's owner until recently when it was sold at auction.

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