The Tinkering Hypothesis
A second reason offered as an explanation for the refinishing stems from the claim by some that Lennon had an insatiable desire to "tinker" with his guitars. So what is the evidence for the tinkering hypothesis? Personal communication with Pete Best, September 12, 2000, has confirmed that Lennon indeed displayed the tendency to figet or adjust his guitar on an ongoing basis, right from the beginning. In describing the events leading up to Lennon's purchase of his 1958 Model 325 in natural finish, Best indicated that Lennon was playing a Hofner Club 40 model at the time that the Beatles went to Germany in the fall of 1960. Apparently, Hamburg offered John the opportunity to purchase instruments that were not available in Liverpool. In referring to John Lennon, Best recalled "He tried out a short-arm Rickenbacker at a shop in Hamburg. He loved the sound and the ease with which he could move up and down the neck. He didn't like the pickup arrangement though or the "vibrator arm." So he changed the arm to a Bigsby which was popular at the time. He didn't like the resonance of the guitar so he tinkered with the pickups." Best said that he did not know why Lennon had his instrument painted black or who did the work as this was after the time that he was asked to leave the group.
Some authors addressing this refinishing issue have offered evidence that Lennon was, to some extent, neglectful of his 325. Presumably it was this neglect that set the stage for the need to refinish the instrument. John Crowley's article on Lennon's Guitars, for example, reveals comments made by Long Island technician, Ron DeMarino who mentioned the wiring problems associated with the 325 Capri. DeMarino has not been able to determine if Lennon was responsible for the bad wiring job, but he did comment on that the instrument was neglected and that it was strung somewhat haphazardly when he first saw it. Pete Best's observation that Lennon was unhappy with the pickup arrangement and his persistence in making adjustments to his guitar does, however, implicate Lennon.
A closer inspection of Lennon's 325 is possible from a photo of him performing at the Star Club in Hamburg in April 1962. The following photo is an important one for a couple of reasons. To begin, it shows that Lennon's instrument is in reasonably good condition with regard to the body with the presence of some finish marks. The finish is not marred to the entent that refinishing is needed. Moreover, this photo also permits a reasonably good look at the guitar's setup. Lennon remarked about the good action. Some observers have pointed to a possible misalignment of the strings on the fretboard. In this photo the sixth or low "E" string appears to be close to falling off the fretboard at the 12th fret. The photos that seemingly demonstrate an alignment difficulty are typically those of Lennon playing live, with the strings bent due to strumming. So refinishing for the sake of a compulsive tendency to tinker remains a possibility, particularly when Lennon's preoccupation with his instrument's setup and a desire to want his guitar to be optimum has been validated by Pete Best.