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Beatles "Get Back" Guitar No Match For Clapton's "Brownie"

Beatles "Get Back" Guitar No Match For Clapton's "Brownie"

August 19, 1999 12:00 AM ET

After Eric Clapton's 1965 Fender Stratocaster "Brownie" was sold to an anonymous bidder for a record-breaking half a million dollars at a special Christies' auction in June, the vintage rock guitar market was due for a comedown. The fall came this morning at an auction at Bonhams in London, when a 1969 rosewood Fender Telecaster once owned by George Harrison failed to reach its reserve price and was taken off the block when bids topped out at 100,000 pounds ($154,000). The guitar, which Harrison used in the Beatles' famous January 30, 1969 rooftop performance at Apple Headquarters and later given to Delaney Bramlett of Delaney & Bonney fame, was expected by some to sell for 200,000 pounds (roughly $310,000).

Part of the reason the guitar failed to fetch its asking price, theorizes Matt Brewster, owner of 30th Street Guitars in Manhattan, is that -- unlike Clapton -- Harrison was not known as a Fender guy. Instead, the Quiet Beatle is more widely associated with Gretsch models like the Country Gentleman and Duo-Jet. Brewster said a rosewood Fender Telecaster like Harrison's, minus the historical significance, has a book price $4-$5,000.

"The sale of the Clapton guitar was a big peak in guitar buying," said Brewster. "Those were crazy prices. It's going to take something really special for anything like that to happen again."

A second non-Gretsch Harrison axe, this one a 1962 Rickenbacker 465 which he bought in America 1963, goes on sale at Christie's House Kensington in London on Sept. 30. Like the Fender, the Rickenbacker is being sold by a fellow musician Harrison gave it to, though a Christie's spokesperson said the owner's name -- and reserve price -- are confidential. She did say that the guitar is estimated to fetch between 50,000 to 70,000 pounds ($77,000 - $108,000). Also up for sale the same day -- and expected to sale in the same price range as the Harrison guitar -- is a prototype of the Gibson Explorer, known as the Futura, produced in 1957. Only three of the prototypes are known to exist.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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