A rare amp once belonging to the late George Harrison—and used for several Beatles recording sessions—will be sold at auction on December 15 at Bonhams in London, England.
The amp, a Vox UL730, was used during recording sessions for Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart's Club Band. Its connection to the Beatles and Harrison—who died 10 years ago today—has been discovered only recently.
Peter Hook of Joy Division and New Order borrowed the amp from the current vendor in February 2011, as his guitarist needed a vintage amp for a recording session at Blueprint Studios in Salford. It developed a fault at the end of the session and was taken to a specialist engineer to be fixed.
When the amp chassis was removed from its case, the engineer noticed "George Harrison" scratched onto the chassis. After further inspection, he found a label on the inside of the speaker cabinet. Subsequent research led to a photograph of Harrison and The Beatles in the studio with a UL730, with visible chalk markings similar to those seen in the cabinet that will appear at auction.
A member of The Merseybeats who used to write the "Beatles Gear" pages for the monthly Beatles Book magazine, and who attended many Abbey Road Beatles' sessions as a guest, has also identified this as Harrison's UL730.
Developed by JMI Vox lead amp engineer Dick Denney and introduced in 1966, the UL730 represented a new design that incorporated a solid state pre-amp section with a tube output amplifier. The UL (Ultra Linear) was produced for lead (700 series) and bass guitar (400 series). The initial 7 series models given to The Beatles by the manufacturers were 730s, to replace their Vox AC30 amps, and it is thought about six of these went to the band early in 1966. John Lennon and Paul McCartney moved to higher-powered models in the series later in the year, but Harrison continued using the preferred 730, playing it on the Revolver and Sgt. Pepper sessions.
The 730, and all other 7 series models built by Triumph for Vox, were only in the Vox catalogue for less than a year and were withdrawn from commercial sale almost immediately after release as Vox decided to dispense with valve amplifiers altogether and manufacture transistor models exclusively. This decision ultimately proved disastrous for the company. Some 76 UL730s went back to the factory to be destroyed, leaving just 26 that had already been distributed. Most of the other models in the 7 and 4 series suffered the same fate, being destroyed or having speakers removed for use in other cabinets.
“Very few amps used by the Beatles have come to auction before, and to find one that was used on two such significant albums is truly rare and exciting," says Stephan Maycock, Bonhams Entertainment Memorabilia consultant. "Beatles fans all over the world will be eager to own such an important piece of music history.”
The amp is estimated to sell for at least £50,000 (about $78,100 USD).