George Harrison’s best solos with the Beatles

By Sergio Ariza

George Harrison was always known as the shy, or the quiet, Beatle; but he never was when it came to the guitar. As a child he had a real obsession with the instrument and used to happily draw Gretschs in his notebook while the teacher gave the lesson. When he was 14 years old Paul McCartney introduced him to John Lennon, who was three years older than him, he did not hesitate in nailing Raunchy and gaining a position in the band. Neither did he think twice or remain silent when Stuart Sutcliffe left the band, as they had to decide who would replace him. Harrison had it clear "someone has to be the bassist of the group and it will not be me." And long before growing into being an incredible composer Harrison was clear that what he wanted to be was a rock guitarist. Something that he got more than enough of in the most famous band of all time. So here are 10 of the solos that we like most from his time in the Fab Four.  

Something (1969)

The most famous song of his career, the one Frank Sinatra said was his "favorite song by Lennon and McCartney", is full of his wonderful guitar work, so much so that, despite being one of the most covered songs in history, nobody has managed to match the beauty of his melodic solo with 'Lucy', his beloved 1957 Les Paul Standard; one of the most thrilling of all time.

Let it Be (1970)

There are two different versions of one of the band’s most famous songs. One is the version that was released as a single on March 6, 1970 and another is the one that appeared 20 days later on the album of the same name. Both start from the same take, recorded on January 31, 1969, but contain two totally different solos, recorded by George Harrison on two subsequent dates. This is because the guitarist had not especially liked his original solo, recorded with his Strat through a Leslie, and so he decided to re-record it with his 1968 Telecaster Rosewood, also through the Leslie, on April 30, 1969. But on January 4, 1970, when the band was already virtually separated, Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr came together again to put the finishing touches on the track before its release. So Harrison recorded a new solo again, this time with 'Lucy' his Les Paul Standard. George Martin was in charge of the single’s production, while Phil Spector was in charge of the album. Each then chose a different solo: Martin that of April and Spector that of January. I think the second one is the best of the two, demonstrating again Harrison’s musicality - which is always at the service of the song - with a somewhat distorted tone in contrast to the simplicity of the song. It is melodic and simple, and this version is on fire. In the end he returns strongly, adding the counterpoint to Paul's voice.

You Never Give Me Your Money (1969)

One of Harrison's best guitar solos, also through the Leslie, which serves as the musical bridge in the song between the calm piano part at the beginning and a part in which the guitars of Harrison and Lennon shine especially, until 'All the children go to heaven ...' part, at which point there is another spectacular solo by Harrison on his Rosewood Telecaster. A perfect song to put on for all of those who think that the lad from Liverpool did not know how to play...

The End (1969)

Recorded in the summer of 1969, Abbey Road was the last album recorded by the most famous band of all time. They may not have been aware of it but it is significant that the album ended with this legendary The End, part of a wonderful suite of songs, along with Golden Slumbers and Carry That Weight. It was as if they wanted to confirm the explosive chemistry that came about whenever they played together; in little more than two minutes there is time for each of the four members to shine personally. First comes Ringo's only drum solo in the entire career of The Beatles, then the ‘guitar duel’ with small turns for each of the remaining three: first enters McCartney with his Epiphone ES-230TD 62, then Harrison with his Les Paul 'Lucy' and, finally, Lennon with his Epiphone of 65. Each one has three rounds, which serve to showcase three very different styles. Harrison's is the most complicated, in the midst of Paul and John, serving as a bridge between the melodicism of the first and the aggressiveness of the second in a perfect way, and demonstrating, once again, that his role as lead guitarist of the band was fully deserved.

A Hard Day's Night (1964)

Even if it was only because of the initial tinkling chord on his 12-string Rickenbacker 360, this song would have to be included because of its importance in shaping the sound of the electric guitar (and if you do not think so ask Roger McGuinn and his Byrds) but it really is in the small solo that he gives a masterclass with an excellent selection of notes played twice and crowned with a striking circular effect. The curious thing is that he found himself stuck with this solo and did not know how to progress it. The band considered the possibility of Paul recording it but, in the end, he worked on the solo and showed it to the producer, George Martin, who was so delighted that he decided to doublé it on the piano himself, while Harrison played simultaneously and achieved that unique sound.

Til There Was You (1963)

Normally when we think of Harrison's contributions we think about his electric guitar parts but he also left exceptional acoustic pieces and, as in this case, with the Spanish guitar. Swapping his Gretsch for a Ramirez, Harrison put the icing on the cake of this beautful number, sung by McCartney, with a solo that is, at the same time, melodic and 'jazzy'. Soon after he would do the same with And I Love Her.

Old Brown Shoe (1969)

Despite appearing only as the B side of The Ballad of John and Yoko, Old Brown Shoe is another of Harrison's great songs. With a bluesy and furious sound, Harrison takes charge of the distorted bass, in addition to delivering another prodigious solo, one of the best technically of his career.

Octopus Garden (1969)

Ringo’s best song in the history of the Beatles, although it is clear that the competition is not much, as it is the second, and last, composition that he contributed to the band. Of course it is a remarkable song, mainly because of the help given by Harrison, who was much more worried than his other two partners in lending a hand to his friend when it came to composing and arranging his own songs. His work on guitar, with a 1961  Strat this time (again through the Leslie), is a true wonder and excels in the introduction, the end, and the fantastic solo. As a curiosity it is worth saying that while the solo plays, the voices of Harrison and McCartney were passed through compressors to make it sound like they were under water, while Ringo blew a straw in a glass of milk to get the sound of bubbles effect...

Free As A Bird (1995)  

Even if it were just to have a Beatles song with Harrison's slide in the foreground, it was worth a reunion of the three living members to work on a Lennon demo. I know there are a lot of people who do not think it's a great song but it excites me and that has a lot of it to do with George's excellent work on, how could it be otherwise: 'Rocky', his 1961 Strat. A true beauty. 

Hey Bulldog (1968)

One of the most rocking songs in the band’s history, with a tremendous riff in which Harrison shines with his cherry SG. The solo is aggressive and direct which has led some to think that it is Lennon's work, but Geoff Emerick, the engineer on the recording, remembers that it was recorded by George, using his new Fuzz, and making his guitar scream.