Much has been said and speculated about the 1958 Rickenbacker 325 used by John Lennon during the initial rise to fame of the Beatles. Perhaps what makes the famous ‘Hamburg’ 325 so interesting is the amount of speculation regarding such issues as it’s original configuration, it’s modification, the refinish, alleged theft, and current whereabouts.
The first thing that most people notice is that the guitar has no sound hole or elevated pickguard unlike almost every vintage or modern hollow-bodied Ric you’ll ever see. If you examine examples of Rickenbacker’s very first capris from 1958 you’ll notice that they have only a single lucite control plate. It was towards the end of ’58 that elevated pickguards were introduced. The run of 325’s were produced very early in ’58. The lack of soundhole on Lennon’s 325 is harder to explain, but the feeling is that soundholes were not on the first few 325’s but were quickly introduced as a visual indicator that the 325’s were hollow. Without actually picking one up and feeling the exceptionally light weight, due to the alder body and extensive internal routing, they give every appearance of being a solidbody, and hence lower quality instrument.
Next, if you compare Lennon’s 325 to almost every other known example of ’58 325 you’ll notice that it is unusual in having 4 controls. Most original 325’s have only 2 rotary controls and 1 pickup selector. The reason for this can be found in the ‘Rickenbacker’ book by Richard R. Smith. On page 162 and 163 it is noted that “the first 325 guitars had a single pickup selector switch, a volume control, and a tone control. However, later in 1958, the factory refitted the 325’s still in Rickenbacker’s inventory with two tone controls and two volume controls.” Due to the low position of the existing two controls it can be assumed that the two additional potentiometers were added above the existing two using the same ‘single’ lucite plate. This would also explain the ‘skewed’ placement of the controls on Lennon’s. The new Rickenbacker standard Rogan (stove) type knobs were likely installed in the process. Here we have another answer, John’s 325 was one of the retrofitted two control 1958 325’s.