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Rare guitar that survived wrath of The Who's Pete Townshend is top lot in Bonhams Entertainment Sale
Series of five autograph letters from Ringo Starr to an early girlfriend sold for £16,250. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A deep cherry red Gibson SG Special guitar (lot 186), circa 1967, owned and used by Pete Townshend of The Who made it to number one position as it sold for £37,500 at Bonhams Knightsbridge Entertainment Memorabilia sale yesterday, Wednesday 25th June.

Pete Townshend regularly stated that the Gibson SG was his guitar of preference. This model guitar is the one most readily identified with Townshend whilst touring with The Who in the late 1960s until 1973. Most of them were destroyed when Townshend famously smashed them to smithereens on-stage during his performances. In an accompanying letter, Townshend writes about this guitar, “ must be one of the few passing through my hands, which has survived without getting smashed...”.

Beatles memorabilia was of particular interest to buyers on the day with the next five top prices achieved by items that were worn, written or drawn by one of the band’s iconic members.

Fifty years ago, on 6th July, the World Premiere of the Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night took place in London’s West End. The second most valuable lot in the sale was a tailored suit that was made for John Lennon for use in A Hard Day’s Night (lot 337) which sold for £26,250. The suit was made in London for Lennon by Millings & Son and it is listed in the tailor's books as ‘Order No. 722’ and dated 5/11/63. The trousers are inscribed in black ballpoint pen ‘John Lennon ''Hard Days Night''’. Douglas Millings was the band’s principle designer for many years and was even given a cameo role in the film.

Another suit worn by John Lennon (lot 340) achieved the next top price as it sold for £18,750 to a bidder on the internet.

A series of five autographed letters from Ringo Starr to a girlfriend (lot 319) captured the hearts of many as competitive bidding pushed the price to more than double the estimate. Each letter was signed by Ringo and the group of five sold for £16,250.

A new world record for a George Harrison colour artwork was set by a 1968 drawing by Harrison of a ‘Balloon Man’ (lot 353) which realised £13,750 against an estimate of £2,000-£3,000.

Katherine Schofield, Head of sales for Entertainment Memorabilia at Bonhams, said, “We are delighted that Pete Townshend’s legendary Gibson SG guitar was the top lot in today’s Entertainment Memorabilia sale. Joining The Who, Beatles memorabilia was a star attraction in today’s auction and a new world record price was achieved for a George Harrison colour artwork. Other Beatles related sale highlights were two suits made for John Lennon and a collection of Ringo Starr love letters, written to a girlfriend in the early 1960s. It was very encouraging to see modern items finding new limits, namely, Kurt Cobains set list which sold for £5,625 and a rare poster for U2 which made £4,750. We are looking forward to the November sale in New York and our December auction in London.”

A leather belt presented to John Lennon in Texas (lot 333) during the Beatles 1964 US tour, when the band were at the height of their fame, performed outstandingly well as it sold for £12,500, against pre-sale estimates of £2,000-£3,000.

Other notable lots included a Nirvana handwritten set list which sold for £5,625 after a battle between two telephone bidders. The set list, written in black marker-pen by Dave Grohl, was taped to the stage by Kurt Cobain’s mic stand during a Nirvana performance in Glasgow in 1991 and is complete with dirty footprints from the sole of a trainer along the bottom edge where Cobain possibly stood. According to the vendor who was at the Glasgow concert, at the end of the gig he asked a member of Security for the set list which the guard ripped from the stage next to Kurt's mic stand.

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