News October 23

News updates from the Lost Bass Project

8 October 2023McCartney’s lost bass stolen in Notting Hill in 1972

We have made a significant breakthrough in the search for Paul McCartney’s original Höfner bass – pinpointing where and when the iconic guitar went missing.

The Lost Bass Project confirmed recently that McCartney’s original Höfner 500/1 Violin Bass – the bass that powered Beatlemania – was stolen from the back of a rented truck, parked in a residential street in London’s Notting Hill, in October 1972.

The bass, which a teenage McCartney bought in Hamburg in 1961 for just £30, was left inside a 3-tonne truck – white and unmarked – in the Ladbroke Grove area at around 10 pm on 10 October 1972 by McCartney’s two sound engineers, Trevor Jones and Ian Horne.

At the time, Trevor Jones lived close to where the truck was parked overnight. The truck’s rear doors were secured with a heavy padlock, but by morning thieves had smashed open the doors and stolen the most important bass in music history. It has not been seen since.

Described as his “favourite” guitar, McCartney played the lost bass throughout the birth of The Beatles; at the Top Ten Club in Hamburg, at the Cavern Club in Liverpool through to the band’s early recording sessions in London, when The Beatles made Love Me Do, Twist and Shout and She Loves You at Abbey Road studios in 1962 and 1963. With its unique history, McCartney’s original Höfner bass is today conservatively valued at £10 million. Höfner launched the Lost Bass search after McCartney told the Bavaria-based company how much he wanted his original bass back.

The search team includes Nick Wass, a Höfner executive and the world’s leading expert on McCartney’s lost bass, and two investigative journalists, Scott and Naomi Jones. As reported in The Telegraph, The Lost Bass Project set out four weeks ago to ‘trace the bass’. The story made headlines worldwide and led to more than 600 emails being submitted to the project team’s website in the first 48 hours. One stood out. Nick Wass said: “When we saw Ian Horne’s message, we knew we had made our first major breakthrough. It simply said, ‘I was working with Wings, I was his sound engineer, when the bass was stolen from a hired truck.’ To hear from someone like Ian, who was there at the time and who still cares deeply to this day about getting the bass back, we were blessed at a very early stage in the investigation.”

Ian Horne said: “In 1972, Paul McCartney was preparing for his first UK and European tours with Wings, and the band was recording their second album, Red Rose Speedway. We had rented a truck to move the gear – guitars and amplifiers – to various recording studios and rehearsal spaces across London. We were often crisscrossing London to rehearse or record at Morgan Studios in Willesden Green, the ICA in The Mall, Manticore Studios in Fulham, Islands Studios in Notting Hill, and Abbey Road in St John’s Wood. One night, after a long day, we got to Notting Hill, where Trevor lived, and decided to park the truck up there for the night.”

“We knew there was huge padlock on the back doors, but when I got up in the morning and saw the van, with the broken padlock lying in the road, I knew it was bad news. I looked inside and the bass, along with one other guitar and two Vox AC30 amps, had gone. “We instantly suspected people living in and around Ladbroke Grove were responsible. One or two people living close by knew that we worked for Paul, so they would have known there was a chance that the kit in the back of the truck belonged to McCartney. We went from door to door, asking people if they’d seen anything or if they knew anything, but nobody said a word.”

Desperate to get the bass back, Horne went to Notting Hill Police Station at around midday on 11 October 1972 to report the theft. Horne, who went on to work with Ian Dury and Madness for more than 30 years, said: “I knew it was Paul’s original Höfner bass that had been stolen, and I knew what it meant to him. Trevor and I did all we could to find it, but it was gone. Eventually, we had to go to Paul’s house in Cavendish Avenue and tell him that the gear had been stolen from the back of the truck. We went into the room and told Paul. He told us not to worry, and we kept our jobs. He’s a good man, Paul. I worked for him for six years after the bass went missing. But I’ve carried the guilt all my life.”

Before Ian Horne came forward, it was widely believed that McCartney’s original Höfner bass was stolen from the basement at the Beatles HQ at 3 Savile Row in late January 1969 –during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions, and days before The Beatles went up onto the roof to play live for the last time.

Scott Jones said: “Ian’s information has been incredibly useful. Not only can we now pinpoint exactly where and when the bass went missing, but using archives and paper records, we have been able to forensically explore who was living in Notting Hill, close to where the truck was parked, in October 1972.”

Naomi Jones, who is leading the archive research, said: “Using Ian’s evidence, coupled with other pieces of information that we have gathered, we are now focussing on who was living in the Ladbroke Grove area in 1972.”

“Someone took that bass from that truck. The trail starts there. We believe we are now honing in on what happened to that bass after the theft in October 1972. And all the evidence is pointing towards that bass existing today. It’s too soon to say if we are close to finding Paul McCartney’s lost bass, but we are all very excited about these recent developments. If not, then the search will continue.”

Wass said: “The search for the lost bass was inspired by Paul McCartney himself. When I met Paul a few years ago, he spoke about the lost bass and asked me to help him find it. So the developments we’ve seen in the last few weeks – with all the publicity and so much information coming into the project – have been incredibly exciting. And here we are now, possibly honing in on the Holy Grail of Rock and Roll.”