George Harrison might be one of the most influential guitarists ever to grace the earth. However, even with that said, he was the antithesis of the other superstar guitarists of the day. The so-called ‘quiet Beatle’ went about his business in a dignified manner, often hiding out of shot, which is bizarre considering he was an integral figure in the biggest band of all-time. Here, in a selection of isolated guitar tracks, we prove exactly why Harrison deserves to be in the pantheon of greats.
Harrison may have enjoyed keeping the spotlight away from himself, or perhaps it was that the class of guitarist he rose up alongside with the likes of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix made him realise that he needed to play the instrument in a unique manner, considering that he couldn’t go pound for pound with his contemporaries when it came to licks. Either way, Harrison was never one to boast about his work on the fretboard.
When you consider this against the fact that alongside John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, he was the lead guitar in some of the most widely loved songs ever written, it can be a hard fact to get your head around. When you see most of his counterparts value him to be one of the best, then the plot appears to thicken.
A great songwriter himself, Bob Dylan once accurately summed up Harrison’s place within The Beatles: “George got stuck with being the Beatle that had to fight to get songs on records because of Lennon and McCartney,” he said. “Well, who wouldn’t get stuck? If George had had his own group and was writing his own songs back then, he’d have been probably just as big as anybody.”
Here, in a collection of five isolated guitar tracks, we prove why Harrison had as much talent as anyone on the planet and, more importantly, how he is one of his generation’s most versatile guitarists.
George Harrison’s 5 best isolated guitar tracks:
The Beatles – ‘Helter Skelter’
‘Helter Skelter’ is an outlier in The Beatles’ vast back catalogue, and, given though it doesn’t sound like their typical sound, you could easily be mistaken for not realising it was the Liverpudlians in action if you didn’t know otherwise. That said, the material bizarrely epitomises everything great about the pioneering four-piece, with Harrison shining like a diamond on this visceral effort that sounds even more powerful when isolated.
“‘Helter Skelter‘ was a track we did in total madness and hysterics in the studio,” Ringo Starr once recalled. “Sometimes you just had to shake out the jams”—and they certainly did. What fell out of the proverbial shaken tree was a vocal unlike any other; for Paul McCartney, it was what he wanted. However, it wasn’t just McCartney that performed out of their skin that day in the studio, as this isolated guitar track proves.
The Beatles – ‘Something’
The Beatles gem ‘Something’ is regarded as George Harrison’s finest hour in The Fab Four, one that saw him finally elevated as an equal on John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s level when it came to songwriting. While his profound lyricism is the key to the song’s beauty, his work on the guitar is equally divine.
His solo is emotive, dignified and isn’t an example of Harrison using the guitar to show off his talent overtly, but instead expertly adding delicate layers to the song. It is what helps make ‘Something’ incredibly iconoclastic.
Harrison’s use of the guitar doesn’t steal the show. However, without it, then the track would crumble apart. It’s an underappreciated part of the track’s brilliance, which acts as a microcosm of George Harrison’s career.
The Beatles – ‘I Me Mine’
The track is in contention as the best song on Let It Be. Harrison, by this stage of The Beatles’ career, had perfectly cultivated his style, and there was simply no stopping him. He was not confined to any standard themes of writing pop songs and, instead, was a deeply personal and honest songwriter. The song title would later go on to title Harrison’s autobiography.
About the song’s conception, Harrison said in 1997: “I kept coming across the words I, me and mine in books about yoga and stuff … [about the difference between] the real you and the you that people mistake their identity to be … I, me and mine is all ego orientation. But it is something which is used all the time…No one’s frightened of; everyone’severyone’s playing it, coming on strong all the time. All through your life, I me mine.”
In the isolated guitar track, this sentiment is tangible across every second, thanks to Harrison’s purposeful and unique style.
The Beatles – ‘She Said She Said’
‘She Said She Said’ was penned by Lennon for the 1966 album Revolver, and the bespectacled Beatle once described it as “an ‘acidy’ song”. Harrison’s isolated guitar part alone is enough to make you start to feel hazy and transcend you into a brighter universe. This song marked the period when the band were now expanding not only their sound but their minds.
‘She Said, She Said’ is also a contentious song for the fact it doesn’t feature Paul McCartney at all on the record. Still, as this isolated version proves, The Beatles weren’t reliant on one member and the other three more than stepped up to the mark in Macca’s absence, whilst Lennon usually gets the plaudits for the track, Harrison proves here why his contribution is equally stellar.
The Beatles – ‘Don’t Let Me Down’
As B-sides go, they don’t get much better than ‘Don’t Let Me Down’. Most bands would make a track of such magnitude, but not The Beatles, who put it out alongside ‘Get Back’. Harrison’s unique flourish and colourful tone are unavoidable on the track, spinetingling when heard isolated.
Recorded during the band’s infamous Let It Be Sessions in 1969, the song remains a firm favourite with the band’s fans. Harrison’s critical role in conjuring up the magic is often underplayed, even though it’s hard to picture the track with anyone else playing the guitar on it.