Musicologists and verbose rock fans have dedicated thousands upon thousands of words to the merits and “behind the music” details of “important” albums such as the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St.
But how many books have you read about Mick Jagger’s solo debut, She’s the Boss? How about Bill Wyman’s 1974 solo outing, Monkey Grip? Should we even bother asking about the Charlie Watts Quintet’s Long Ago and Far Away?
Let’s face it, regardless of how great (or, in these three cases, decent-ish) they might be, solo albums by members of legendary rock bands—from the Stones to the Beatles to Led Zeppelin to Guns N’ Roses—rarely (if ever) attain the same legendary status of the music released by the bands themselves.
For instance, let’s take this George Harrison fellow.
Guitar-centric magazines and websites (like this one) have, deservedly, slathered decades worth o’ praise on Harrison’s 1962-to-1970 guitar work with the Beatles. We’ve broken down his guitar solos from “Something,” “I’m Only Sleeping,” “Let It Be” and “Old Brown Shoe.” We’ve applauded his introduction of sitars and 12-string electric guitars into pop music. We’ve even dedicated Guitar World lessons to his late-Beatles-era acoustic work.
But what about his guitar playing after the Beatles?
Harrison started playing slide in 1969 while on tour with Delaney & Bonnie, suddenly inventing an entirely new “guitar persona” for himself. What he came up with was a distinctive, often-copied, non-blues-based slide style that incorporated hints of Indian music and a few offbeat things he picked up while learning sitar—all of which he meshed with other Beatles-esque odds and ends. He debuted his new slide sound on his debut solo album, 1970’s All Things Must Pass, and refined it over the years on his own albums and as a highly sought-after session player.
Below, we explore 10 of the finest examples of Harrison’s post-Beatles guitar work. Enjoy!
BACK OFF BOOGALOO
Ringo Starr | Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo Starr | 1972
Harrison’s slide guitar is all over this Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr) composition, the follow-up to Ringo’s first hit single, “It Don’t Come Easy,” which also features a great solo by Harrison (not to mention a demo of the song that features Harrison on vocals). Oh, and Harrison produced it too.
The song also features Starr on drums and vocals, Klaus Voormann on bass and Gary Wright (“Dream Weaver”) on keyboards.
Harrison played several tasteful solos on Ringo’s songs throughout the years, including “Early 1970,” “Down and Out,” “Wrack My Brain,” “You Belong to Me” and “King of Broken Hearts.”
GIMME SOME TRUTH
John Lennon | Imagine | 1971
In mid-1971, more than a year after the Beatles officially split, John Lennon started recording what would become his second proper solo album, Imagine. The album, which was released later that year, was a critical and commercial success, not to mention a perennial fan favorite.
It also marks one of the only times Lennon recorded with Harrison, his former Beatles bandmate, after the dissolution of the Fab Four in 1970. Harrison’s fretwork can be heard on several Imagine tracks, including “I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier,” “Gimme Some Truth” and “Oh My Love.” He even plays a mean dobro on “Crippled Inside.”
However, from a six-string perspective, there’s just something special, and maybe a bit chilling, about Harrison’s slide work on “How Do You Sleep?” and “Gimme Some Truth,” the latter of which we’ve included below. Harrison wasn’t a speed demon; his talent lay in his note choices, phrasing and emotional delivery (a trait he shared with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and, in a way, B.B. King); in this song, he uses the slide to achieve a chilling, sustained, singing tone. Harrison’s solo starts at :49.
THAT WHICH I HAVE LOST
George Harrison | Somewhere in England | 1981
I admit this is an oddball choice, but there’s just something oddly enaging about it. This mini-masterpiece of a solo is very “early Eighties” in its approach, much like contemporary guitar solos by Neil Giraldo (“Jessie’s Girl”) and Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook. Harrison makes his point quickly, throws in a clever run or two and gets the hell out of there. He even incorporates a nice little pedal steel guitar impression at the very end. The solo starts at 2:37.
GIVE ME LOVE (GIVE ME PEACE ON EARTH)
George Harrison | Living in the Material World | 1973
George Harrison | Cloud Nine | 1987
We’re not gonna rehash the old stories about how Eric Clapton played guitar on Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on the Beatles’ White Album … or how Harrison co-wrote and played guitar on Cream’s “Badge,” both of which took place in the late Sixties. We will, however, remind you that these guys continued to record together long after that mythic time, especially during the “far less important” Eighties. They even toured Japan together in December 1991.
Harrison’s “comeback” album, 1987’s Cloud Nine, features a hefty serving of Clapton’s guitar playing (not to mention Ringo Starr’s drumming). On the title track, Clapton and Harrison trade bluesy solos in G minor, Harrison on slide, Clapton not.
Below, we present a live version of “Cloud Nine” from their ’91 tour. The official document of the tour, the boringly titled Live in Japan, was released in 1992.
George Harrison | Let it Roll: Songs of George Harrison | 1989
Here’s another one from Harrison and Clapton’s 1991 Japan tour (see above). It’s a rousing performance of “Cheer Down,” Harrison’s little-known 1989 single, which also is part of the Lethal Weapon 2 soundtrack.
In a marked difference from his prior tour—which took place in 1974 (yes, he took a 17-year break between tours)—Harrison played all the guitar solos (including all the slide stuff) in 1991. In ’74, guitarist Robben Ford did all the heavy lifting while George sang and strummed. He was never all that interested in showing off—until 1991, it seems.
George Harrison | Brainwashed | 2002
This instrumental track from Harrison’s last studio album shows off his light touch on slide guitar, not to mention his subtle mastery of melody. We probably should mention that the album, Brainwashed, features a healthy serving of quality guitar playing by Harrison. Be sure to check out “Any Road,” which even starts off with the spoken line, “Give me, uh, plenty of that guitar.”
A friend once characterized “Marwah Blues” as “something akin to Indian blues.” Hmmmmm, not quite. But if it helps you, go with it!
LEARNING HOW TO LOVE YOU
George Harrison | Thirty Three & 1/3 | 1976
Yes, it’s another obscure choice, a love song from Harrison’s stellar (and fun) Dark Horse Records debut, Thirty Three & 1/3. George’s beautiful steel-string solo starts at 2:24.
In my useless-thing-packed skull, I often pair this song with “Dark Sweet Lady,” a love song from George’s 1979 album, George Harrison. It features his best nylon-string guitar solo—hands down—since the Beatles’ “And I Love Her.” Knowing Harrison, he used the same Spanish guitar on both recordings.
THE BLUEST BLUES
Alvin Lee | Nineteen Ninety-Four (also released as I Hear You Rockin’) | 1994
At some point, Harrison and Ten Years After frontman Alvin Lee became neighbors in (or near) Henley-on-Thames, England. So it was inevitable that they’d record together, which they finally did in the early Nineties.
Lee’s Nineteen Ninety-Four album (can you guess when it was released?), which was issued in the U.S. as I Hear You Rockin’, features Harrison on three tracks, including a cover of the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” The highlight of the bunch, however, is a slow, bluesy burner called “The Bluest Blues.”
It’s a little crazy to hear Harrison playing something akin to blues slide guitar, but there it is! In his solo, which starts at 2:15, George plays several throaty passages that recall his chilling playing on John Lennon’s “How Do You Sleep?” and “Gimme Some Truth.”
LEAVE A LIGHT ON
Belinda Carlisle | Runaway Horses | 1989
In the January 2003 issue of Guitar World, there’s a story called “Do You Want to Know a Secret: Confessions of the Quiet Beatle.” It’s a leftover (never published)1992 interview of Harrison by Vic Garbarini. At one point, Garbarini asks Harrison to choose his best slide solo.
“The best slide solo I ever played was on…what’s her name? That girl singer who used to be with that all-girl band? … Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go’s! That’s who it was,” Harrison said. “I played on one of her albums. One of the slide solos had its own little tune which related to the tune Belinda was singing, but it’s also a little composition in its own right, which I was really pleased with.”
Harrison played guitar on two Runaway Horses tracks—”Leave a Light On” and “Deep Deep Ocean” (but it’s pretty obvious he was talking about “Leave a Light On”). His solo starts at 3:01.
George Harrison's 10 Greatest Guitar Moments After the Beatles
Source: Guitar World