Paul McCartney reunited with famous bass stolen 50 years ago after online campaign

Paul McCartney has been reunited with the iconic bass guitar that became a key part of the Fab Four’s image during their rise to fame in the 1960s.

McCartney has confirmed that he now has the guitar, which was used in countless live shows and classic albums before it was stolen in 1972.

A statement on his official website, dated Wednesday, said: “Following the launch of last year’s Lost Bass project, Paul’s 1961 Höfner 500/1 bass guitar, which was stolen in 1972, has been returned. The guitar has been authenticated by Höfner and Paul is incredibly grateful to all those involved.”

The four-string was thought to be lost or destroyed following its theft from a van. Its unusual violin shape was a key part of The Beatles’ visual style, along with sharp suits and those moptop hairdos.

The guitar was found in the possession of a family in Hastings, southern England, still with its original case. Ruaidhri Guest wrote on X: “To my friends and family, I inherited this item which has been returned to Paul McCartney.”

A campaign called the Lost Bass Project was launched to find the missing instrument in 2018 and attracted worldwide attention from Beatles fans and volunteers who claimed to know something about where the bass was.

The campaign said in a statement on its website Thursday: “We are extremely proud that we played a major part in finding the Lost Bass. It has been a dream since 2018 that it could be done.”

It continued: “Despite many telling us that it was lost forever or destroyed, we persisted until it was back where it belonged.”

McCartney bought the violin-shaped, hollow-bodied Höfner 500/1 guitar in Hamburg, Germany, for 30 pounds (around $37) in 1961 when the young Beatles were on one of their lengthy and arduous residencies in the city, before hitting the big time two years later.

He ordered a custom-made left-handed version from the German manufacturer and liked its lightweight feel and symmetrical look, according to “Tune In,” the authoritative account of the Beatles’ early years by cultural historian Mark Lewisohn. McCartney had just, reluctantly, taken over the role of bass player from Stuart Sutcliffe.

McCartney was unsure how long the guitar would last — a previous guitar broke and was smashed to pieces on stage. More than 50 years later, the Höfner is in need of minor repairs but otherwise in fine condition, the Lost Bass Project said.

He played it hundreds of times at The Cavern, the Liverpool club synonymous with the Beatles’ embryonic stardom, and on early hits such as “Please Please Me” and “She Loves You.”

In 1963, McCartney got another almost identical Höfner bass, with the original Hamburg-bought version becoming a backup. But the original was still used occasionally, including on the “Let It Be” sessions, as documented in Peter Jackson’s epic “Get Back” documentary.

Beatles memorabilia is big business. A Gibson acoustic guitar, on which John Lennon wrote songs such as “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” went missing during a show in 1963 but resurfaced in 2015 and was sold at auction for $2.4 million.

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