Md. Beatles collector points out prized rarities seen in ‘Get Back’ series

Beatles' collector Russ Lease said one-of-a-kind memorabilia was rare in Get Back era

Beatles fans engrossed in the three-part “Get Back” documentary series are getting a rare chance to see John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr in the weeks leading to the rooftop concert on Jan. 30, 1969, which eventually became the “Let It Be” movie.

For Beatles memorabilia collectors, the new episodes also featured priceless — or at least pricy — pieces of music and cultural history.

“The Beatles’ public life ended in 1966 with their North American tour, when they decided they just weren’t going to play live anymore,” said Russ Lease, a Beatles historian whose Maryland-based Beatlesuits.com business makes stich-by-stich replicas of clothing worn by the Fab Four.

While Beatles-branded lunchboxes and other merchandise continued to flourish after 1966, “there’s not a ton of one-of-a-kind memorabilia in collectors’ hands from around that period,” said Lease. “I’m talking about the things that they owned, they wore, or used. ”

Lease once owned, and has since sold, the Beatles bass drumhead that Ringo used on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. “Things from the later period, in many cases, are even more sought after today,” Lease said.

“Probably the world’s most important missing guitar is McCartney’s original Hofner violin bass, which you see in Part One, when they’re recording at the Twickenham Film Studios,” said Lease. “That guitar was stolen somewhere between Part One, when they were at Twickenham, and when they moved everything over to Savile Row, to their Apple headquarters.”

“In the movement of that equipment, McCartney’s first Hofner disappeared and it hasn’t been seen since,” said Lease.

 

One of the rarest pieces of Beatles memorabilia seen in “Get Back” is one of George Harrison’s guitars — a rosewood Fender Telecaster.

“That was the only one of its kind when it was made at the time it was given to George, and he put it to use immediately during the “Get Back” sessions,” said Lease.

Later in 1969, Harrison gave it to musician Delaney Bramlett, who owned it for years before putting it up for auction in 2003, about two years after Harrison’s death. Harrison’s wife, Olivia, bought the guitar back at auction, according to Lease.

“In Episode One, in the very first couple of seconds, you see Mal Evans, their equipment manager, holding a drumhead with the Beatles logo on front. Actually, the beginning of the ‘Let It Be’ film is exactly the same thing,” Lease said. “It was painted specifically for that, but was never used.”

In 1969, drummers — including Ringo — were seeking to get a deadened, thumping sound from their bass drums. To do that, drummers would stuff blankets and other sound-absorbing materials into a bass drum, and do without a front drum head.

“So, that logo drumhead never went on the front of the drum, and you never see it again,” Lease said. However, since it made a brief appearance in “Let It Be,” and eventually “Get Back,” Lease said it is considered the seventh and final authentic drumhead emblazoned with the famous “drop-T” Beatle logo.

Lease said John Lennon gave the drumhead to an Apple employee, who eventually sold it at auction to an anonymous purchaser. “So, I guess it’s hanging over somebody’s fireplace somewhere.”

During “Get Back,” viewers see the creation of many songs on what became the “Let It Be” album.

“You see throughout the studio, in all three episodes, the handwritten lyric sheets,” Lease said. “They’re writing and developing the songs, changing lines, and writing the stanzas.”

Over history, original Beatles lyric sheets have been extremely valuable: “‘Hey Jude’ sold in April 2020 for just under a million dollars. ‘A Day In The Life’ sold for $1.2 million. ‘All You Need Is Love’ sold for one and a quarter million dollars,'” Lease said.

“All that paper you see around as you’re watching the ‘Get Back’ documentary — it’s amazing what those pieces of paper are worth,” Lease said. “And many of them ended up in the wastebasket.”

“In Episode Two, Ringo comes into the studio and he’s wearing his ‘Crosswalk Jacket’ — the long, black Edwardian coat he also is much more famously wearing on the cover of ‘Abbey Road,'” Lease said.

“That’s actually a piece of memorabilia in my collection,” Lease said. “I picked it up in December of 2001, and have had it for, I guess, more than 20 years now. That’s probably the most famous pieces of clothing from the ‘Get Back’ sessions that has actually gotten out.”

Lease said George Harrison had an identical coat made by same tailor, “but you don’t see it in the studio — during these particular sessions, anyway.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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