Auction Results

Beatles Norwegian Wood sitar is worth £53k


sitar owned by George Harrison

The first sitar owned by Beatle George Harrison and played on Norwegian Wood has sold at auction for more than £53,000 in Los Angeles. 

The instrument, bought by Harrison in 1965, is arguably one of the most important and influential in late 60s pop culture. 

Although Harrison fairly swiftly passed it on to a friend, it sparked a life-long love affair with Indian classical music that was vividly audible during the later years of the Beatles.  

George Harrison reportedly first encountered a sitar as a jokey prop on the set of Help!, the Fab Four’s second movie. 

Back in London he picked up his own version from the shop, Indiacraft, in Oxford Street. 

Although the instrument was not of the best quality, Harrison used it to record Norwegian Wood. He said: “Anyway, we were at the point where we’d recorded the Norwegian Wood backing track and it needed something. We would usually start looking through the cupboard to see if we could come up with something, a new sound, and I picked the sitar up – it was just lying around. I hadn’t really figured out what to do with it. It was quite spontaneous: I found the notes that played the lick. It fitted and it worked.”

Although not the best quality instrument, Harrison’s sitar could be one of the most consequential impulse buys in pop history.

Later, after celebrating his honeymoon with Pattie Boyd in the Caribbean he gifted it to George de Vere Drummond, who owned the property where the couple stayed. 

Drummond was the seller at this sale, with Nate D Sanders auctioneers. 

A Sanders spokesperson said: “It is more than an instrument; it’s a bridge between cultures and melodies. From the moment he acquired it in 1965, this unassuming piece of craftsmanship ignited a revolution.”

The sitar was auctioned with an estimate of $25,000 and sold for $67,000 (just under £54,000). 

The instrument – with some unlikely decoration from Harrison – was confirmed genuine by Pattie Boyd. 

It is the only Beatles sitar ever sold. And it may be the last. 

Beatles fans who want to add an instrument to their collection will get a chance to bid in May on a John Lennon acoustic guitar, also from the Help! period. The 12-string Hootenanny by Framus was played on You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away among other songs and is expected to make as much as $800,000. 

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