Australian Guitar - - Cover Story -

Well, let’s be hon­est; who else was it go­ing to be?

When the Bea­tles be­gan, Len­non stepped back to the rhythm role, prin­ci­pally be­cause the then-14-year-old Har­ri­son was just so damn good. At that point, the band rocked a three-gui­tar lineup with Paul McCart­ney also play­ing a six-string, with a rhythm sec­tion of Pete Best on drums and Stu­art Sut­cliffe on bass. It wasn’t un­til 1961 that Sut­cliffe quit and McCart­ney took over bass du­ties, and the fol­low­ing year, they sacked Best for Ringo Starr – the rest, lit­er­ally, is rock’n’roll his­tory.

Those first records ad­here closely to the rhythm-lead split, with Len­non strum­ming and Har­ri­son riff­ing. But by the time the band got to Re­volver in 1966 – and, im­por­tantly, per­ma­nently stopped tour­ing – that dis­tinc­tion stopped be­ing quite so meaningful, with the song­writ­ers in­creas­ingly tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for all their own axe-work on their own songs in the stu­dio – in­clud­ing McCart­ney, who was a tasty gui­tarist in his own right. For ex­am­ple, those lead breaks on “The End” are McCart­ney, Har­ri­son and Len­non, in that or­der, each tak­ing a turn. It also meant the songs didn’t have to be able to be per­formed live, which meant that ev­ery­thing from mul­ti­ple over­dubs, to songs fea­tur­ing a sin­gle Bea­tle (“Yes­ter­day”, for ex­am­ple) were sud­denly pos­si­ble.

But when you think of the Bea­tles, it’s that pic­ture of the band play­ing live: Len­non, with his Rick­en­backer up high, bob­bing and strum­ming while Har­ri­son picks out the riffs and so­los on his Gretsch. The Crick­ets might have beaten them to it, but that’s what we think of when we think of a rock’n’roll band.

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