The Fab 50: The Beatles' 50 Greatest Guitar Moments
Check out Guitar World's guide to the Fab 50 — the Beatles' 50 finest guitar moments!
30. And I Love Her
A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
It’s overshadowed by the Beatles’ more innovative songs, but “And I Love Her” demonstrates a leap in the group’s harmonic sophistication and musical arrangement skills.
Harrison performs delicate arpeggiations on his 1964 Ramírez nylon-string classical acoustic, while McCartney subtly propels the song along with his soul-inflected bass work. A modulation from the key of E to F on the solo ramps up the drama and keeps the song from flagging. The final chord, D major—the relative minor of F—delivers surprise and emotional uplift that allows the song to end hopefully, in keeping with the optimism of the lyrics.
29. Not Guilty
Anthology 1 (1995)
Recorded for 1968’s White Album but unissued until the release of Anthology 1 in 1995, this Harrison track was a lyrical response to his fellow Beatles, who felt that their trip to India at his urging to study transcendental meditation had been a waste of time.
It’s hard to understand why this track was abandoned, especially after the group devoted more than 100 attempts to the rhythm track. Harrison’s guitar work is especially superb, from his sinewy lead lines to his sizzling tone, achieved by placing his amp in one of Abbey Road’s echo chambers and cranking it up for maximum effect, while he performed, safe from the volume, in the studio control room.
Harrison eventually re-recorded this song for his self-titled 1979 album.
28. Old Brown Shoe
Dishonorably relegated to the B-side of the single “The Ballad of John and Yoko” (see entry 42), this 1969 Harrison composition is one of his best. His stinging guitar work is at times reminiscent of Clapton, especially on the solo, where he plays his rosewood Telecaster through a Leslie cabinet, his preferred effect of the period.
In addition to guitar, Harrison plays organ and, by his own account, the buoyant bass line. “That was me going nuts,” he said of the bass work in a 1987 interview. “I’m doing exactly what I do on the guitar.”
Rubber Soul (1965)
Another great example of McCartney’s innate gift for songwriting/composing, “Michelle” features, in its intro and elsewhere throughout the song, the previously mentioned standard “minor-drop” progression heard in “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “All My Loving” (see entries 7 and 16).
The song also includes some rather clever and original harmonic twists and turns, such as the use of, in the second bar of the verse progression, the dominant-seven-sharp-nine (7#9) chord pointed out earlier in regard to Harrison’s “Till There Was You” solo, which, in both songs, is voiced “widely,” low to high: 1(root)-5-3(10)-b7-#9. Lennon, by the way, would later also employ this same chord voicing in “Sexy Sadie,” a chord that he, McCartney and Harrison all learned early on from a friend and local guitar-hero in Liverpool named Jim Gretty and dubbed “the Gretty chord.”
26. Cry for a Shadow
Anthology 1 (1995)
In 1961, unknown and looking for a break, the Beatles supported British rock and roll singer Tony Sheridan on a recording date in Hamburg. While there, they recorded two tracks of their own, including this Harrison-Lennon guitar-instrumental written in the style of U.K. pop group the Shadows (hence, the title).
The recording provides early evidence of Lennon’s steady and dynamic rhythm guitar work, as well as McCartney’s melodic skills on the bass, which he had just begun playing. But it’s Harrison who shines, making the most of the trite melody with double-stop licks and generous use of the whammy bar on his Strat-style Futurama electric guitar.
He ends the song with a major sixth—C6, specifically—a voicing that would become a signature Beatles coda on songs like “She Loves You,” “No Reply” and “Help!” (see entry 40).
25. Hey Bulldog
Yellow Submarine (1968)
McCartney’s lead guitar work had characterized most of the great solo guitar moments on the Beatles’ records during 1966 and 1967. But with “Hey Bulldog,” recorded in February 1968, Harrison came charging back with a guitar solo that’s heavier and hairier than just about anything in the group’s catalog.
For the song, he played his red 1964 SG Standard, using a fuzz box (most likely his Tone Bender) to give his sound a snarl befitting the song’s title. Recalls engineer Geoff Emerick, “His amp was turned up really loud, and he used one of his new fuzz boxes, which made his guitar absolutely scream." Equally outstanding is Paul McCartney’s buoyant bass work, which is practically a lead instrument on its own.
24. I’ve Just Seen a Face
Rubber Soul (1965)
Written by McCartney and musically inspired by the skiffle movement that was popular in the U.K. in the late Fifties and early Sixties, this up-tempo knee-slapper features Lennon, Harrison and McCartney all playing acoustic guitars, with Ringo Starr providing percussion (brushed snare drum and overdubbed maracas).
The lyrical instrumental intro features a bass-line chord-melody, played (most likely by Harrison) on a 12-string, which serves to octave-double the bass-line melody, over which McCartney and Lennon flatpick a single-note melody based on double-stops, mostly sixth intervals, played up and down the G and high E strings in a quick, unbroken triplet rhythm, beautifully outlining the underlying chords with ascending and descending note pairs.
23. Don’t Bother Me
With the Beatles (1963)
Harrison’s first solo songwriting effort for the Beatles sounds like nothing else in the group’s catalog. With its moody minor chords, propulsive drum beat and tremolo guitar, this 1964 track has more in common with California surf music than it does the American rock and soul that inspired the Beatles’ music at the time.
The tremolo—provided by Harrison’s Vox AC30—gives the song an air of menace appropriate to the song’s title, and its use here marks the first time the group used an electronic effect on a finished recording.
22. Octopus’s Garden
Abbey Road (1969)
By 1969, George Harrison had put down his sitar to focus on his first love, the guitar. The results are apparent on Abbey Road, which features his most fluid and confident playing to date.
On “Octopus’s Garden,” one of Ringo Starr’s rare Beatles-era tunes, Harrison calls on his country/rockabilly influences for the first time since the band’s pre-psychedelic days. The intro is a slick masterpiece in the major pentatonic scale, the same territory Dickey Betts would later visit on “Blue Sky.” The song’s fun, twangy solo could sit snugly among James Burton’s work on Merle Haggard’s late-Sixties albums.
21. Till There Was You
With the Beatles (1963)
With this charming early cover of a love song from the popular 1957 Broadway musical play and 1962 feature film The Music Man, the Beatles demonstrated their stylistic versatility as they authoritatively breeze through the song’s harmonically sophisticated, jazz-like chord progression.
Harrison’s solo break conveys a musical savvy on par with that of a veteran jazz improviser, as he strongly outlines the underlying chord progression, producing a perfect melodic counterpoint with the bass line by using arpeggios and targeting non-root chord tones, such as the third or ninth, on each chord change.
Also impressive is his incorporation of two-, three- and four-note chords into what would otherwise be a predominantly single-note solo to create jazz-guitar-style chord-melody phrases, as well as his superimposition over the five chord, C7, of a daringly dissonant Gb7#9 chord (voiced, low to high, Gb Db Bb E A), a trick known in the language of jazz as a tritone substitution.
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