As a musician, Paul McCartney is probably best known for his creative, melodic Beatles and Wings bass lines. But he’s always been a guitarist at heart.
The guitar was, after all, his first instrument (if you ignore the trumpet his father gave him for his 14th birthday), and it’s always been his main songwriting tool.
And while George Harrison played the bulk of the Fab Four’s lead electric guitar parts (especially in the band’s early years), McCartney occasionally – and understandably – claimed the lead-guitar spotlight, as did rhythm guitarist John Lennon (and Cream’s Eric Clapton, on one famous occasion).
On that note, here are McCartney’s top six (yes, six) electric guitar solos as a member of the Beatles. Enjoy!
6. Back in the USSR – The Beatles, aka the White Album (1968)
By the White Album era, the days of the Beatles sticking to their traditional roles were very much over. In this case, McCartney wrote the song, sang it and played drums on it. Why not play lead guitar, too?
The solo, which follows the melody line, is simple but effective – and don’t forget his fine, fast, alternate picking during the last verse.
5. Another Girl – Help! (1965)
This ‘solo’ is more of a collection of creative, bouncy fills and bends by McCartney – more than enough to make it obvious that he started out as a guitarist.
Check out this scene from Help!, below, where Harrison, playing Lennon’s black Rickenbacker 325, mimes McCartney’s lead parts while McCartney plays bass.
4. Tomorrow Never Knows – Revolver (1966)
“People tend to credit John with the backwards recordings, the loops and the weird sound effects, but the tape loops were my thing,” McCartney says in Barry Miles’ Many Years From Now. “The only thing I ever used them on was Tomorrow Never Knows. It was nice for this to leak into the Beatle stuff as it did.
“We ran the loops and then we ran the track of Tomorrow Never Knows and we played the faders, and just before you could tell it was a loop, before it began to repeat a lot, I’d pull in one of the other faders, and so, using the other people – ‘You pull that in there,’ ‘You pull that in’ – we did a half random, half orchestrated playing of the things and recorded that to a track on the actual master tape, so that if we got a good one, that would be the solo.
“We played it through a few times and changed some of the tapes till we got what we thought was a real good one. I think it is a great solo.”
Rumor has it that McCartney’s Tomorrow Never Knows guitar parts are actually transplants from Taxman.
3. The End – Abbey Road (1969)
The extended guitar jam on The End, the Abbey Road finale (unless you count Her Majesty), also could make the list of the best Beatles guitar solos by Harrison and/or Lennon, since all three guitarists take turns soloing for two bars each.
McCartney starts it off, followed by Harrison, followed by Lennon – around and around until ‘the end.’ And speaking of solos, it’s also the only Beatles song to include a Ringo Starr drum solo.
2. Good Morning Good Morning – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Young, guitar-playing Beatles fans are often disappointed when they find out Harrison didn’t play this very 1967-sounding, brash, psychedelic, distorted, raga-inspired gem of a guitar solo from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was, in fact, played by McCartney.
1. Taxman – Revolver (1966)
On what is clearly one of the most powerful guitar solos to be found on a Beatles song, McCartney channels a bit of Jeff Beck (with descending pull-offs a la Shapes of Things) and gives a nod to Harrison’s current, Indian-inspired frame of mind.
“I was pleased to have Paul play that bit on Taxman,” Harrison said in 1987. “If you notice, he did like a little Indian bit on it for me.”