Which Beatle Played the Funky Piano Solo on ‘Good Day Sunshine’?
In early June 1966, The Rolling Stones ruled the airwaves on both sides of the Atlantic with “Paint It Black.” That track, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard and UK charts, featured a driving rhythm and a sitar part played by Brian Jones.
But The Beatles weren’t looking to their purported rivals for inspiration as they recorded Revolver in April-June ’66. A year earlier, George Harrison wrote a song that reflected the influence of The Byrds (“If I Needed Someone”) for Rubber Soul. (George played sitar on that ’65 album as well.)
Meanwhile, Paul McCartney was hitting a peak during the Revolver sessions with ballads like “For No One” and “Here, There and Everywhere.” And on “Good Day Sunshine, the album’s bounciest song, Paul looked to another American band for inspiration.
On that short and sweet track, Paul said he had The Lovin’ Spoonful in mind. But Paul didn’t play the barroom-style piano on “Good Day Sunshine.” Those honors went to the best pianist in the studio that day.
Producer George Martin played the ‘Good Day Sunshine’ solo
If anyone could lay claim to the title of “fifth Beatle,” Parlophone chief and Fab Four producer George Martin would be the guy. By the summer of ’66, Martin had already made his mark on countless Beatles records.
Maybe his most obvious contribution to that point was scoring the strong arrangement to the smash-hit “Yesterday,” but that only scratches the surface. For example, he’d also written and played the keyboard solo on “In My Life,” which is still considered one of John Lennon’s greatest songs.
When it came time for another piano solo during the Revolver sessions, Martin was again the man for the job. He wrote and played the barroom-style part (heard at 0:56) in the band’s very efficient June 9 session.
Even though Paul improved as a piano player while he was in The Beatles, he didn’t takes solos on keys the way he did on guitar (see: “Taxman” and “Drive My Car“). Fortunately for the Fab Four, Paul didn’t need to solo with George Martin in the control room.
Martin played the best Beatles piano until Billy Preston arrived in ’69
After Revolver, The Beatles spent a big chunk of 1967 recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club. And Paul had another piano-driven song, “Lovely Rita,” ready for the album. Not surprisingly, Martin took the difficult keyboard solo on that track, too.
In short, he was the go-to guy when the Fab Four needed a piano part front-and-center. At least, that was the case until early 1969, when Billy Preston came in (at George Harrison’s request) to play on the sessions that became Let It Be.
On “Get Back,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” and other tracks, Preston delivered on such a level that John believed they should bring him into the band. But that “fifth-Beatle” scenario was shot down by Paul almost as soon as it came up. As far as fifth Beatles go, Martin was probably the closest anyone got.