How the Danelectro/Coral Electric Sitar captivated rock and metal guitarists from Metallica and Steve Howe to Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen

Steve Hackett
Steve Hackett playing a a Coral electric sitar during a performance with Genesis at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, January 1974. (Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

One of George Harrison and the Beatles’ most influential contributions to the electric guitar actually didn’t involve an electric guitar at all. When Harrison first played an actual sitar on Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) on Rubber Soul, it inspired numerous other pop bands to incorporate the distinctive droning sounds of a sitar on their records as well. 

Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, for example, played a sitar on Paint It, Black, recorded in March 1966 a few months after the release of Rubber Soul in December 1965. However, the Beatles were not the first pop/rock band to experiment with sitar sounds – the Kinks featured one on See My Friends released in mid 1965, and the Yardbirds attempted to use one on Heart Full of Soul, hiring an actual sitar player before settling on Jeff Beck’s fuzz box simulation instead.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.