Fifty-three years ago on Sunday, May 1, 1966, John Lennon debuted his new guitar, a 1965 Epiphone Casino on stage during The Beatles' appearance at the NME Poll Winner’s concert held at the Empire Pool in Wembley, London for a bedeviled audience of 10,000 that sounded more like 100,000. The Beatles topped a bill that included the Spencer Davis Group, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Small Faces. The BBC filmed all of the performances with the exception of The Beatles' due to a disagreement with the cameraman's union and Beatles manager Brian Epstein. After a heated argument, the cameras were turned off when the lads took to the stage to perform to a (typically) hysterical pop music crowd made up young people mostly around the ages of 15-25.

Only the presentation of NME awards to John, Paul, George, and Ringo was captured (check it out below towards the end). And that's a pity since The Beatles' set that night would turn out to be their last formal UK appearance. Their set list included classic singles (“I Feel Fine"), cuts from their most recent album Rubber Soul  (“Nowhere Man”), their new single “Day Tripper,” George Harrison's “If I Needed Someone,” and the B-side of "Help"-- “I’m Down.” 


In concert, Harrison had now phased out performing with his Country Gentleman and was experimenting with Kalamazoo, Michigan-made ES-archtops like the 335 as well as an SG which he also used for a promotional film for "Paperback Writer."  John, meanwhile, had retired his Rickenbacker and debuted his new Epiphone Casino, probably inspired by Paul McCartney's Casino which Sir Paul had purchased in late 1964 and had used throughout the making of Help and Rubber Soul. Harrison, too would also take up the Casino for most of their upcoming world tour.

First issued in 1961, the Casino was only a little older than the final incarnation of the Fab Four but it had already made an impact on Rock 'n' Roll in the hands of Keith Richards and Ray Davies. And though the Casino had powered smash hits like "Satisfaction"  and "You Really Got Me," after 1966, the hollowbody archtop would be forever associated with The Beatles thanks to its appearance on Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and promotional films for "Revolution," "Hey Jude", as well as band's the final concert on the roof of Apple Records in London in 1969. The Casino has remained virtually unchanged since its first issue in 1961 and today, Epiphone offers the classic Casino as well as the Elitist Casino made at Epiphone's factory in Japan. The Elitist is a virtual time machine to 1966 with a 5-ply Maple body with Spruce top bracing, Gibson P-90 pickups, and a traditional Vintage Sunburst or Natural finish. Read more about The Beatles and their guitars in our exclusive interview with Beatles Gear author Andy Babiuk.
 

Nineteen-Sixty-Six would turn out to be a harrowing year for The Beatles personally but an excellent one professionally. Though they were harassed in the Philippines, threatened with assassination in the U.S., and lost out on the #1 spot in the UK charts later that year to none other than Engelbert Humperdinck, the music they made in '66 was--and remains still--beyond category. Tracks like "Penny Lane," “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Tomorrow Never Knows," "Rain," and “Eleanor Rigby” were radically different than anything heard from a pop group before and are still turning on a new generation. Read our features on the making of Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and keep your Beatles-dial on Epiphone.com for news on the upcoming 50th Anniversary Let It Be re-edited by Peter Jackson. Thanks to Beatles.com for the cool pics.