Conducted 1 April 2006 on the fly in elevators and hallways at Crowne Plaza Hotel, Secaucus:
JFC: Mark, got a minute for some Beatles guitar stuff?
MH: Sure. Let's do this as we go.
JFC: OK. When did you see the first Beatle guitar? When did Ringo actually pull it out?
MH: He took me in his house in England, I was there before the band got there, and he took me into his house where his has all his original stuff, his Sgt. Pepper outfit, Magical Mystery Tour, all that great stuff that he still retains. And he goes (imitating Ringo) “Well, I’ll show you these,” and I see these three guitar cases. You know, and full well knowing – being a John Lennon freak – I knew what that was.
JFC: It was a Rickenbacker case?
MH: Yes, a Rickenbacker case. As soon as I saw that, I knew. And then I saw something shaped like a Country Gentleman Gretsch, and I knew what that was, and something else I didn’t recognize. So the first thing he opens is John’s Rickenbacker.
JFC: The Fire-Glo?
MH: Yes. And my heart fell to my ass. And I went “Oh, my God,” you know, and I said “May I?” And he went “Yeah, go ahead and play it.” And like, there I was – strumming that guitar. And then he opened up the other one, and it was George’s Country Gentleman. And it was immaculate. Olivia gave that to Ringo. And it was the guitar.
JFC: When did Olivia actually give it to him? Do you know?
MH: I can’t really say. It would be bad for me, ‘cause I don’t know when it was. But it was the guitar from Ed Sullivan, the Gretsch.
JFC: Did you play it?
MH: Are you kidding?
JFC: Which song did you play?
MH: I started off with just a twinge of “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” chong-chong-chong! Just ‘cause I wanted to hear what that was. And then he opened up the third guitar case, and the third guitar case was Marc Bolan’s Les Paul from “Bang a Gong” and all that sort of stuff. So there’s these three guitars, and he goes (imitating Ringo) “Why let ’em just sit there? You boys might as well play ‘em.” And so the guys got in town, and I said “Guess what we get to do?” So Gary [Burr] and myself and Steve Dudas, we didn’t know who could say, you know, I get Lennon, you get Harrison, and so on. So we sat around in a circle and on the song “Satisfied” on Choose Love, we played a verse, we stopped, we passed the guitar on to the other guy, he played it, we went to the chorus and we played round robin the whole time, playing those three instruments. And then when it was done and over with, he goes (imitating Ringo) “Well OK, I hope you had your fun. Put ‘em back.” We put ‘em back in the case, took ‘em back to the cellar, and that was a moment I’ll never, ever forget.
JFC: How did Lennon’s play?
MH: You could actually see the two different guys in the guitars. John’s was like, rock and roll, not set up, the E string kept going out of tune . . .
JFC: High or low?
MH: The high E. Just like you think it would be. And, cause as Ringo says “John always played like it was his last day on the planet.” But Ringo loved how he played. He always would rush, but he always played with such feel that it was unbelievable. George, on the other hand, set up – George’s guitar was like it was set up two minutes before we played it. Impeccable. Everything polished. You know, John’s – you could just see stains and fingerprints, and you know, the fretboard was tilted. George’s was -- it was unbelievably beautiful.
JFC: Wow. What a great experience.
MH: Are you kidding? And even the Mark Bolan thing. I had to play “Bang a Gong.”
JFC: So you played a few tunes and they went back in the case.
MH: Yes, once we finished recording with it, as soon as we did that we played every Beatle song that we knew that we wanted to. You know what I mean? (Sings) “Tell me why . . .” All that Lennon stuff, all that great stuff. And they sounded great when they were plugged in -- AC-30s and all Vox amps. It was just a moment in my life, it was one of those things that never did I think that that would happen. And it did.
JFC: Whew. The legendary Fire-Glo 325 – which was only played for a couple months. There are very few photos of that one.
MH: I know. And in fact, I got called from John Hall, Rickenbacker, asking, ‘cause they’re thinking of doing a reissue, of it, wanted to see if I can get a picture of it. But I don’t know if I can cross that line. You know, it’s not really my place to say to Ringo “Hey, let’s do this so they can make a Lennon guitar.” I was just happy that my hands were on the guitar that his hands were on, the guitar of the sound that was his sound that I wish I could have always had.
JFC: And I’m happy to have shaken that hand.
MH: Ha! See how it passes on? And now you’re gonna go somewhere and somebody’s gonna want to shake your hand, because that was the hand that shook the hand of – it was a beautiful thing.
JFC: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me.
MH: I hope I gave you enough info.
JFC: Plenty. By the way, did you sing “Annie”?
MH: Yeh. Killer.
JFC: When I was a kid, I said if I could ever sing that good I would be the happiest guy. The chicks would love me.
MH: (Sings) “I want you Annie, I want you to be my girlfriend. I want you to say ‘Yes,’ I want you to know, know, know, know, know.” A little bit of Paul there.
JFC: Terrific. That was really different back then. It really stood out when you heard it on the radio.
MH: It was a different thing. I believe in the danger. And I’m not stopping. Take care, man.
JFC: It’s been a pleasure.
MH: God bless. See you later.