Way back in 2016, at the dawn of CultureSonar, I wrote about a favorite topic: John Lennon’s guitar playing. I recently stumbled across another cool analysis, and — now that The Beatles are back on the charts again — it seemed a good time to update the original article. Please do let us know what you think! — Al Cattabiani
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. It’s pretty tricky. More to the point, he came up with this stuff – crafting innovative parts that not only served the songs but propelled them.
“I Want to Hold Your Hand” is another prime example, as this cool YouTube analysis shows. There’s quite a lot to enjoy on this instrumental track. John, of course, is absolutely driving the song with his chunking rhythm. George mixes single-note fills and bits of complementary chord strumming in a master class in good taste and restraint. For his part, Paul is already asserting himself as a de-facto music director. Ringo, as usual, finds just the right thing for the song…
Later, Lennon 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. It’s worth an extra “cheers” to John Lennon for his understated, yet exceptionally versatile talents on guitar.
Photo Credit: John Lennon in Paris by Harry Benson/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images