listen to the BARTELL fretless

THE BEATLES - WHITE ALBUM

The following tracks suggesting the use of a specific guitar, the Bartell prototype fretless, mainly used for effects or overdubs are all officially unconfirmed, neither denied or confirmed.  However the claim has been backed up by personal testimony of musicians who knew George, fretless experts and renowned academics who all agree, there was a fretless on the White Album.

Identifying a fretless guitar requires a skilled musician with a trained ear that can tell the difference in bends, slides and sustain that are different to any other type of guitar. It would seem the sensible course of action would be to establish the historical facts, with all sides of the argument collectively considered by all the experts. The Beatles continue to be able to surprise us.

Happiness Is A Warm Gun - The Beatles White Album

During ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ overdubs, neither John nor George were very happy with the bend notes on the ‘I need a fix’ section, as originally played on George’s Les Paul, ‘Lucy’. That’s when they remembered the fretless in the cupboard.

“Both John and George then played several versions of the very bendy guitar line on the fretless, with compression and a vox distortion pedal. George could not recall whose version was used in the end.”

The characteristic timbre of a fretless guitar is unmistakable (0:44– 0:58).

Helter Skelter - The Beatles White Album

Was the Bartell Fretless used on the longest recording the Beatles ever made? It’s sounds exactly like it on the 12 minute version of Helter Skelter, was it on the 27 minute session?!!! 

Listen to this early recording of Helter Skelter (First Version / Take 2)

The very distinctive tones of the Bartell fretless stand out all over this track, especially from minute 9 onwards.

The 27 minute version, recorded the same day, the longest recording the band ever made, is the Bartell on this? The recording has never been released!

Savoy Truffle - The Beatles White Album

Eric Clapton loved chocolates, George Harrison wrote ‘Savoy Truffle’ as a

tribute to Eric’s sweet addiction.

There is sufficient evidence to suggest the use of a fretless guitar on ‘Savoy Truffle’ (1:27–1:32; 1:35–1:40; 1:43–1:45).”

Long Long Long - The Beatles White Album

George also thought he used the fretless on ‘Long, Long, Long’ and possibly ‘Savoy Truffle’, but couldn’t recall if it made the final mix. Although from page 25 of Drugs, Divorce and a Slipping Image: The Complete, Unauthorised Story of The Beatles’ ‘Get Back’ Sessions, John mentions that he’d like to emulate the peculiar guitar sound George achieved in his song ‘Long, Long, Long’, and assumes that George had used a fretless guitar. George informs John that he used his Gibson on that number, but that really doesn’t matter – it isn’t the specific kind of guitar that interests John, but the tone that it produced.

Everybody's got something to hide (Except Me And My Monkey) - The Beatles White Album

Evidence suggests the fretless use on this track at 0:33 - 0:39, and repeated at 1:13 - 1:19 and 1:52 - 1:59

The Beatles Interview with Kenny Everett - 6th June 1968

While the other Beatles worked on overdubs for Ringo’s first composition, ‘Don’t Pass Me By’, John was interviewed by BBC radio disc jockey Kenny Everett. The interview was recorded on tape by Kenny’s friend Tony Oliverstone.  At minute 6 Kenny asks ‘What kind of guitar is that? It’s very strange looking,’ with John responding, ‘A fretless guitar’.

Anthology 3 & The Beatles (White Album) 50th anniversary box set

There has been a suggestion of the fretless being used on this track or an earlier version of it, although to be fair it is a little harder to pick out.