Why The Beatles Knocked George Harrison’s Guitar Solo Off ‘Mr Moonlight’
If you liked bands with multiple lead guitar players, The Beatles certainly fit the bill in the 1960s. On records as early as A Hard Day’s Night (’64), you can hear John Lennon taking the solo on “You Can’t Do That.”
The following year, fans of the Fab Four heard Paul McCartney out in front with his piercing work on “Drive My Car.” During the recording of Revolver (1966), Paul again jumped in to play a mean solo on “Taxman,” a song George Harrison had written for the occasion.
Though George argued otherwise, those present for Beatles recording sessions recalled the band’s lead guitarist being unhappy about getting solos taken from him. (“I’ll Follow the Sun” was one example.”)
On “Mr. Moonlight,” an odd cover the Fab Four recorded for Beatles for Sale, George actually played the original guitar solo but had his part get cut when the band remade the track later. The second time around, the solo went to a different instrument entirely.
George Martin considered the guitar sound ‘too weird’
Over the years, “Mr Moonlight” has become one of the more maligned Beatles tracks. In some lists, you won’t see it crack their top 150 songs, while on others you’ll find editors ranking it among the Fab Four’s 10 worst. And even the most devoted fans of the group admit it has issues.
“Mr Moonlight” starts out well, with John belting out the song title unaccompanied before the band kicks into gear. (The Dr. Feelgood original features the same sort of vocal intro.) From there, The Beatles mostly follow the same pattern as the 1962 source material.
In the early takes, George jumped in for his solo right at 1:30. (Anthology 1 brought out this version for Beatles complete-ists.) Going even further than Dr. Feelgood’s guitarist, George got a distorted sound from his guitar that drew audible shouts from his bandmates in the studio.
However, despite getting John’s approval for that tone, Beatles producer George Martin gave it the thumbs-down. According to engineer Geoff Emerick, Martin simply said it was “too weird” to put on record. So the band left it there and picked it up at a later session.
Paul’s uninspiring organ solo took the place of George’s guitar break
Considering what replaced George’s solo on “Mr Moonlight,” we wouldn’t blame the Beatles’ lead guitarist for getting annoyed about this one. (A particularly dull organ solo by Paul, starting at 1:25, went onto the album version.)
It’s amusing to hear the feedback from different sources on that solo. In Here, There and Everywhere, Emerick called Paul’s organ work “cheesy” and admitted he “loathed the sound” on the record.
But the show went on and Paul’s organ part made the final cut. In Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald suggested the “gold lamé ghastliness” of Paul’s solo could have been an in-joke for the band.
If you hear The Beatles play “Mr Moonlight” in earlier live shows, it’s hard to understand why George didn’t stick closer to solos he’d gotten used to playing. Nonetheless, no one could have predicted the final version would get Paul on organ. If it’s a joke, the punch-line didn’t really land.