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John Lennon and the Epiphone Casino

Updated on August 21, 2018
Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.

John Lennon with his 1965 Epiphone Casino with The Beatles.
John Lennon with his 1965 Epiphone Casino with The Beatles.

Irreplaceable John Lennon

John Winston Lennon was the co-founder and leader of the single most successful commercial musical enterprise in history, and so, it's a bit intimidating for a mere mortal such as myself to speak about him. What could I possibly say which hasn't already been said, and haven't all the great writers wrote at length about him anyway? Of course they have.

John Lennon remains such a huge force in our culture today that his absence is almost as telling as his presence was. We had a John Lennon, and that was something, but now that we've been without a John Lennon for some decades, and that is something else altogether. It is a pretty substantial dearth.

Persons like me still listen to the music of The Beatles quite a lot because there's been nothing in the way of a replacement for it. No one has come along to take their music and go further with it. The music is a benchmark, if you will, and so it and its creators are as relevant a subject for today as they were yesterday.

John has been dead for the most of my life. He just made such a huge impression on the world of popular music, such a towering and huge shadow he cast over everything, that it seems we've all just been struggling along since his passing.

Of course John Lennon was half of pop and rock music's greatest songwriting team. He also had a pretty substantial solo career after The Beatles, but so many fan's dreams died the day John did. There would be no reunion, no more Lennon and McCartney songs to hear.

Paul, Ringo, John and George at the famous rooftop concert.
Paul, Ringo, John and George at the famous rooftop concert. | Source

The Epiphone Casino is the most Beatlesque of Guitars

The music of The Beatles was very guitar oriented. There is the famous story about how The Beatles were rejected from a record label or recording contract because the mogul considering the thing believed that guitar music was a fad which was on the way out. It turned out to be one of the poorest decisions in the history of the music business.

There is no question as to who was the guitarist in The Beatles, that was George Harrison, but the fact of the matter is that both John Lennon and Paul McCartney could also play the guitar fairly well, and did play guitar on the band's albums. On some songs, the only guitarist you hear is John Lennon or Paul McCartney.

The music of The Beatles, with three guitarists in the band, was very guitar oriented. When the band came to prominence the big, long, technically advanced guitar solos were not common in rock music, and so The Beatles kept their music the same way, with the focus on terrific song crafting, singing, and lyrics, and not instrumental solos. There was still a lot of terrific guitar playing in the band, and Harrison, Lennon, and McCartney all used their guitars to write songs.

For a long time any sort of merchandise associated with The Beatles was something millions of adoring fans simply had to have. This was also true of the guitars the boys played, and the three who did play guitar were often setting trends for instrument sales. Such is the case when Paul McCartney got his Epiphone Casino in 1964. George and John heard Paul and his guitar, and thought they'd do well to have one too, and so in time for the Revolver tour, they both acquired their own.

What Is Great About The Epiphone Casino

You say you want a revolution? Well, you know, this is the guitar John used for that song. The man literally believed that with a guitar and song, the world could be changed for the better. I would tend to believe so too, as the good feeling got from a great song could change the course of anyone's day.

Lennon loved the Epiphone Casino, and used it almost exclusively in the late 1960s, and all the way up to his Double Fantasy album in 1980. It was sadly to be his farewell album. You watch the wheels go round and round, and there's that Casino again and again. Epiphone has honored John Lennon with two different 'inspired by' John Lennon Casino guitars.

Why 'inspired by?' Well, because John isn't here to sign off on the project, and so there would possibly be legal issues were the instruments worded in a way which linked them more directly to the late Mr. Lennon.

What is it about the Epiphone Casino that makes it so special?

  1. The Epiphone Casino is also known as the Epiphone E230TD. While this guitar looks a lot like the Gibson ES-335, the fact of the matter is this is an extremely different guitar, for this guitar is a true hollow body. The entire body is hollow, and there is no center block like in the Gibson ES-335, and similar models.
  2. Because the Casino is a true hollow body electric, it is much lighter in weight, and so it is much easier to play on stage for long periods of time.
  3. Because the Casino is a hollow body electric, it is a lot louder when played unplugged. This allows for the guitarist to have a guitar which just about doubles as an acoustic guitar, and so, the Casino is a great song-writing partner, and a great instrument to practice with even without amplification.
  4. The Casino sports two P-90 pickups, and these classic pickups provide a tone that is much brighter than a humbucker's sound, but much thicker than a Fender style single coil's sound. It's a great happy middle of the road pickup which offers a huge lot of versatility.
  5. Nothing sounds like an Epiphone Casino except an Epiphone Casino. The sound is not dated, as modern blues greats like Gary Clarke Jr. play one, but this is also the guitar most associated with the music of The Beatles. If you want to replicate the sound of John, Paul, and George on those classic albums, then this is the perfect place to start.

Epiphone Inspired by John Lennon Revolution Casino Outfit Features:

  • Body Material: Laminated Maple
  • Neck Materials: Mahogany
  • Neck Shape: SlimTaper
  • Neck Joint: Glued-In; 16th fret
  • Truss Rod: Adjustable
  • Scale Length: 24.75"
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood with pearloid "Parallelogram" inlays
  • Fingerboard Radius: 14"
  • Frets: 22; medium-jumbo
  • Bridge Pickup: Gibson U.S.A P-90T
  • Neck Pickup: Gibson U.S.A. P-90R
  • Controls:
  • -Bridge Volume
  • -Neck Volume
  • -Bridge Tone
  • -Neck Tone
  • -Switchcraft™ 3-way toggle
  • Switchcraft™ 1/4" Output Jack
  • Bridge: Tune-o-matic
  • Tailpiece: Trapeze
  • Nut Width: 1-11/16"
  • Binding: Body and Fingerboard
  • Machine Heads: (Revolution - LN) Gold Grovers
  • Includes: Hard Case (940-E519)

The Two 'Inspired By' John Lennon Casino Guitars are Very Similar

The Epiphone 'Inspired By' John Lennon Casinos came in two varieties, the first one was just like John's guitar was when he got it. It had the sunburst finish, the pick-guard, and the original machine heads, or tuning machines. The second one, which was called the 'Revolution' Casino, was the exact same except it modeled John's guitar after he sanded the finish off, removed the pick-guard, and he'd also replaced the tuning machines with gold Grover ones.

Currently these guitars are only available on the used guitar market. Those persons who purchased either version of the things new did more than just provide themselves with a replica of a historic guitar, their purchase also contributed to the BMI Foundation for the John Lennon Scholarship Fund which supports music education.

Keep in mind Lennon used the Casino to write and record such classic albums as Revolver, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, and my all time Beatles favorite, The White Album. I have spent countless hours loving the endless creativity displayed in that double album.

Should the differences matter to you? Only you can really answer that question. Removing the finish and the pick-guard make no difference at all to the guitar's play-ability, or tonal character. You may prefer the looks of a Casino with the blond top and no pick-guard, but that is merely your personal visual aesthetic preference. One could suggest the Grover brand machine heads were superior, but I would not think John had ever had much problem with the original tuning machines, and the gold Grover turners were just his visual aesthetic preference.

I'm currently seeing either of these guitars, modeled after John Lennon's one Casino guitar, on the used market for between two thousand and twenty eight hundred dollars. My personal thought on this is that the persons who gobbled those guitars up thought of them as investments, i.e., something to buy now, and sell for more later. So they've probably not been played much, and should you purchase one, they would likely have a minimum of wear and other damage on them.

Epiphone Elitist Casino
Epiphone Elitist Casino

Epiphone Casino Elitist

There's really no question about it, if you're a person with the money to spend, and you want to try to catch some of that Beatles lightening in a bottle with the purchase of the most Beatlesesque guitar available, then it is the Epiphone Casino Elitist that you should buy.

Gibson is the parent company for Epiphone, and Epiphone is known for producing guitars nearly as good as Gibson, but at around half the price. Well, take that bit of knowledge, and forget about it for this. The Elitist is Gibson quality, and it sells for Gibson prices.

Like the 'Inspired By' John Lennon Casinos, this guitar is available in a natural finish like the 'Revolution' Casino, and it is available in the sunburst finish like the original Casinos. The natural finish guitar, however, comes with a pick guard, and if you're really just rabid for the John Lennon look, then you could simply remove the thing.

To be perfectly up front here, I've never actually laid eyes or hands on either of the 'Inspired By' John Lennon Casinos. I'm certain they are absolutely great guitars, as Epiphone is a great brand, and you don't go putting John Lennon's name on something cheesy. I have played the Epiphone Casino Elitist, however, and can say I believe it to be every bit the guitar a Gibson. In fact, the Elitist has Gibson P90 pickups, and then there are things like a genuine bone nut. It's a top of the line instrument, as the name implies.

Epiphone Elitist Casino Specifications

  • Epiphone Casino Elitist
  • Available in natural or sunburst finish
  • Body Wood: 5-ply maple back and sides
  • Top Wood: 5-ply maple
  • Neck Wood: 1-piece mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Joint set, 16th fret, 1-5/8" bone nut
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale length: 24 3/4
  • Number of Frets: 22
  • Pickups: 2 PU P90 (USA single-coil)
  • Controls: 2 volume, 2 tone
  • Pickup Switching: 3-way selector
  • Hardware: Nickel
  • Machine Heads: Grover
  • Bridge/Tailpiece: Tune-o-matic Trapeze
  • Case: Hardshell

Epiphone Casino Thin-Line Hollow Body Electric Guitar, Vintage Sunburst
Epiphone Casino Thin-Line Hollow Body Electric Guitar, Vintage Sunburst

Epiphone Casino Thin-Line Hollow Body Electric Guitar, Vintage Sunburst

When it comes to guitars, things are much the same as with any other product. You get what you pay for. The thing is, after a certain price point is reached, you get less value for more money. What am I talking about?

The Epiphone Casino Elitist goes for a bit over two thousand dollars. It's a great guitar, and is generally a better guitar than the regular Epiphone Casino, but I do not think it is twice as good as the standard Casino, it is only twice as expensive. For those of us who are working our tails off just to make ends meet, Epiphone is a go-to brand, and the standard Casino is just what the good doctor ordered.

I've handled maybe a dozen of these guitars from my youth up to today. You put a bone nut on any guitar that doesn't have one, and you've improved it. Do the Gibson pickups in the Elitist make that big a difference? Not really, but there is a subtle difference. You could make yourself sound better for less money by simply practicing more.

Having handled and played manyof these exact guitars, if there was one thing I could change about them, it would be the tail-piece. I'm simply not in love with the trapeze, and would rather the guitar have a stop-bar tail-piece. There is nothing wrong with the trapeze, I'm merely a guy who prefers the stop-bar, and changing out that hardware wouldn't be a super expensive thing to have done.

The three guitarists in The Beatles, and all four of the fabulous ones came from very working class families in a very working class town. They worked their tail ends off becoming the great band they became, and so, I feel the standard Casino is the one which is most representative of The Beatles. If you can't play well and sound good with this one, then the problem is most certainly not the guitar.

At just under a thousand dollars, you get a guitar that is a lot more than half as good as the Elitist Casino. I've seen at least a dozen of these in Guitar Centers, etc, and it is not a problem to pick one up there, plug it into something, and play it. Hey, none of the members of The Beatles were the slightest bit Elitists, at least not way back then. They only had elite drive, and elite talent. If you've got that, then the standard Casino could bring it out of you, should fortune be with you.

Want to put Gibson brand P90 pickups in the thing? Save your money. Go right ahead. Want a bone nut installed? That's not a big deal either, and should you do both of those things, you just made your guitar a bit more elite. There are even less expensive Casino models than this available, but this one is very traditional, widely available at your friendly neighborhood guitar store, and you can demo one there.

Epiphone Casino Thin-Line Hollow Body Electric Guitar, Vintage Sunburst Guitar Specifications

  • Epiphone Casino Thin-Line Hollow Body Guitar with Sunburst Finish
  • Timeless 6-string electric guitar famous for its sparkling sound heard on classic tunes made by bands like the Beatles
  • Vintage sunburst finish. Guitars are hand painted and there will be variances between individual guitars in color
  • Thin-line full-hollow construction, twin P-90 pickups, and streamlined neck
  • Made with a select maple body and top with f-holes, trapeze tailpiece, mahogany neck
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Laminate Maple body
  • Dogear P-90 Classic pickups
  • Rosewood fret-board
  • Maple top, 24.75 scale

A young John Lennon.
A young John Lennon. | Source

Destined For Fame

John Winston Lennon, partially named for the great Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, did not come from a particularly musical family. This is uncommon for a person who rose so very very high in the realm of music. Of course John was never considered a virtuoso with any instrument, but he was certainly much more competent than most persons ever become.

He would have a turbulent and somewhat troubled early life. His family life wasn't especially stable, and you have to remember, he was born in 1940, and his nation was at war. While he'd still be quite young, the United Kingdom would prove victorious in war. It must have felt, for young John, like he was riding at least two different roller coasters at once.

Lennon would prove to be a true individualist. He was a leader, always, among his friends. He had a very strong artistic disposition, and besides his love of music, he loved to draw caricatures, and to write bits of poetry. He would get his first guitar, with a loan from his mother, in 1956.

He'd make wild claims that he would be famous some day. Well, he'd prove himself correct. When a record company man, in the early years of The Beatles would say that guitar music was on its way out, he'd pay them no mind, and with the stiff upper lip, and likely a sneer, he and the boys would slug onward with it.

In 2017 the John Lennon estate was worth an estimated eight hundred million dollars. I wouldn't expect for it to shrink much, unless some terrible management were to happen. Here in 2018, Mark David Chapman is up for parole for the tenth time. While I'm a forgiving person, and know it is best for a human mind to find forgiveness for persons who wrong us. I would think we could all best forgive Mr. Chapman were he to remain safely imprisoned for the rest of his life.

John Lennon's Songwriting, and Guitar Playing Style

While the Lennon/McCartney songwriting credits are famous worldwide, the fact of the matter was that typically those songs were written either primarily by John Lennon, or primarily by Paul McCartney. You can almost always tell who did what by the mood the song conjures.

Paul was always very light of heart, John was nearly always the very opposite, brooding and discontent. They'd contribute to each other's work with a bit of needed melody, or clever lyric, or maybe even a bit of both. They were the perfect foil for each other. Lennon had stated that one particular song was entirely his, and it is one of my favorites of all time, Norwegian Wood.

There are other examples of songs which were just John's or just Paul's, but when confronted with so much greatness, it's maybe best not to get carried away with score keeping. We should never forget that the late, and great George Harrison was also a fine songwriter, and his was some of the finest work of The Beatles.

What can we say about John Lennon's guitar playing style? It was not something which could be separated from his songwriting, as they went together like fish and chips. Lennon was a master rhythm guitarist, and you can be sure working nearly non stop, and jived up on amphetamines in Hamburg, Germany was where he'd honed his chops.

John was a terrific finger-style guitarist, and he didn't even need to know so many chords to pull it all off. In this day and age of virtuoso guitarists everywhere you look, I think it is important to remember that John Lennon was one of the most successful guitarists of all time, and he was never one who even needed those most athletic of shredding skills.

He was fond of a clawhammer and Merle Travis style and the incorporation of brush strokes across two or three strings to provide a fuller sound, as though there were a rhythm guitarist backing him up. Do not be afraid to incorporate the use of a capo for your playing, John Lennon certainly used one, and often.

More than anything else, the massive success of John Lennon and The Beatles would seem to be that John knew, as did the others, exactly what their strengths were, as individuals and as an ensemble, and they exploited those strengths to the maximum of their collective abilities.

The whole point here is if you've enough confidence and inspiration, you will never need to play like Steve Vai, and in one hundred years, most of those virtuoso guitarist will be forgotten. The music of The Beatles will still be known, and you can do all of those magical things, and more, with an Epiphone Casino. Thanks for reading.

© 2018 Wesman Todd Shaw

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    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      2 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hey thanks, Matt. I really like P90s a lot myself. But then again, I seldom dislike a guitar.

    • profile image

      Matt 

      2 months ago

      Here's a fellow who bought the IBJL Casino new to play. I've probably beat it up enough now that I couldn't cash in on that investment, but that's ok because I still play it all the time (and more than the Gibson Les Paul it sits next to in my closet).

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      3 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hey thanks, Mr. Happy, Sir!

      Having spent a lot of time in jails, there's little to talk about, but in some jails you can purchase a tiny radio, and that makes things a lot better. One time I went to jail and had had $400 in cash on me, which was put into my commissary account, and so I bought a radio and plenty of batteries.

      Jailhouse music trivia is a good way to pass time, if you have anyone in the cell who's worth their Ramen.

      Lots of old guys in there, which are much preferable to the young ones, who sometimes think they are gladiators or whatnot. Well, the old guys always think I must have inherited my father's record collection.

      My father doesn't listen to the music of his own era though. He was never into hippies at all, and very much disliked all of that. He likes the music of the 50s the best. Me, I like the 70s the best.

      Your grandpa doesn't like Slipknot? LOL.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      3 months ago from Toronto, Canada

      "Persons like me still listen to the music of The Beatles quite a lot because there's been nothing in the way of a replacement for it." - Couldn't have said it better myself. And what's really great is that anybody, of any age group can listen to the Beatles. It's not like telling grandpa to listen to Slipknot.

      Well, your article goes well above my head since I don;t know much about guitars but it was nice to read about this specific guitar, in its relation to the Beatles. Cool photo of "young John Lenon" too! He looks like such an innocent Being lol

      "guitar music was on its way out, he'd pay them no mind, and with the stiff upper lip" - That last bit takes me to AC/DC right away! Haha!

      "John Lennon was one of the most successful guitarists of all time" - For sure and it is hard to pick a favorite. There were so many "greats" like Jimmy Page, Jimmy Hendrix, Roger Hodgson, etc.

      Cool piece of writing. Got to learn a bit, or two. Thanks for putting it together. Cheers!

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