The ‘White Album’ Song That Showed George Harrison Back in Top Form on Lead Guitar
In the mid-’60s, George Harrison’s explorations into Indian music had a marked impact on the sound of The Beatles. From the opening notes of “Norwegian Wood” to the very Eastern “Within You Without You,” George’s use of the sitar and tambura made the Fab Four a more interesting band.
But that shift in focus had its side effects. The time George spent learning the sitar took time away from his guitar playing beginning in 1965. Looking back in ’77, he said he barely played the guitar for about three years.
During that stretch, George had to look on as Paul McCartney grabbed the solo on “Taxman” (a song George wrote in ’66) and “Good Morning, Good Morning” (’67). But after his return from India in ’68, George once again focused on the guitar.
During the White Album sessions that summer, The Beatles found their lead guitarist back in form. His playing on “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey” answered any lingering questions about his chops.
George delivered on 1 of the loudest ‘White Album’ tracks
On The White Album, you find The Beatles on guitars on most of the tracks. When you realize they wrote many of these songs while away in India (away from pianos, studios, etc.), you understand why. “Sexy Sadie,” a mellow attack song John Lennon wrote about the Maharishi, offers a good example.
Another is “Dear Prudence,” which John wrote for Mia Farrow’s sister. (She was meditating so intensely she stopped leaving her room.) Those songs reflect the idyllic setting where The Beatles stayed and meditated early that year. But The White Album has its share of screamers as well.
“Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey,” for example, could hardly get louder. Geoff Emerick, the band’s longtime engineer, recalled John and George making their amplifiers so loud Paul decided to record his bass part later. (Paul started banging on a bell.)
That left the two Beatles guitar players space to wail to their hearts’ content, and George took advantage of it. For whatever reason, he felt energized by the music and delivered a searing lead part on the track.
George impressed the studio personnel at Abbey Road on that track
Since Emerick didn’t know the details of the Beatles’ personal lives, he couldn’t have known George stopped playing guitar for those three years. However, he knew when George played well and when he didn’t. And Emerick was never shy about saying so either way.
So though he noted he had a splitting headache following the “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide” session, Emerick acknowledged the great work George had done on the track. “His lead work was crisp and efficient,” Emerick said. “Much more aggressive than his usual style.”
Indeed, the opening part and (especially) the riff just after the chorus showcase George in top form with his lead lines. Even though he didn’t take the guitar solo on his brilliant “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” that summer, he’d officially returned as the band’s top guitar player.