JOHN LENNON & GEORGE HARRISON
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.