John Lennon: Guitarist

John Lennon in Paris courtesy of Getty Images

Now that Abbey Road has reached the top of the charts — again — on its 50th anniversary, it seems a good time to appreciate a less-celebrated aspect of their collective genius: John Lennon’s guitar playing.

Related: “‘Abbey Road’ On Steroids: The Super=Deluxe Version”

As with any masterpiece, Beatles’ music opens a new door with each visit. No matter how many times you hear the songs, there’s always something fresh to appreciate. In a recent round of bingeing on their catalog, it was John Lennon’s guitar playing that re-introduced itself. Paraphrasing Mr. Lennon himself, if George was The Beatles’ forgotten singer, John was their forgotten guitar player. And while at this point virtually nothing the band did can be considered overlooked, Lennon had a point.  For example:

He was a monster rhythm guitarist. He totally drove the band, particularly in the early days.

Listen to his wildly inventive contributions on early gems like “All My Loving” and “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You.” If you yourself play guitar, just try copying what he did. Not so easy. More to the point, he came up with this stuff – crafting innovative parts that not only served the songs but propelled them.


Later, he added raw power and avant-garde touches to tracks like Revolution and the 3-guitar volley on Abbey Road’s “The End.” His sweet fills on tunes like “Get Back” gave them their personality. His delicate fingerpicking on “Julia” showcased his fine touch on acoustic guitar. It’s obviously no secret that all four guys were sharp, road-tested, ceaselessly clever musicians; on the occasion of what would’ve been his 79th birthday, it’s worth an extra “cheers” to John Lennon for his understated, yet exceptionally versatile talents on guitar.

Al Cattabiani

Photo Credit: John Lennon in Paris by Harry Benson/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


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1 comment on “John Lennon: Guitarist

  1. Bob Taylor

    I’ve read that he kept his D string flat because it created at the subconscious level of the listener a somewhat dysphoric, bluesy feeling. Brilliant they were. I’d enjoy reading a little essay on the indispensability of George Harrison’s guitar instincts to their success. It’s rather fashionable for people to diss Harrison, to say that a lot of other guys could have filled the lead guitar role as well as he did, which is silly. Anyone who wishes to see the Beatles at their roaring best should go to YouTube and watch their performance at the 1964 NME awards.

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