George Harrison “never thought he was any good” as a guitarist, says his son Dhani, and so “he focused on touch and control… not hitting any off notes, not making strings buzz, not playing anything that would jar you.” Harrison himself put it this way, in typically self-effacing, mystical fashion: “I play the notes you never hear.” Of course, as most every thoughtful guitar player will tell you, these are exactly the makings of a good—and in Harrison’s case, great—guitarist. A dime a dozen are players who can play speed runs and flashy solos, who have learned every lick from their favorite songs and can re-produce them exactly. But it’s the sensitivity—the personal “touch and control” over the instrument—that matters most, and that can make a player’s tone impossible to duplicate. Harrison’s playing, Dhani says, “is the reason no one can really cover the Beatles faithfully…. At some point there’s going to be a George Harrison solo, and that solo is usually perfect.”
I would certainly say that is the case with the guitar solo in “Here Comes the Sun.” Oh, you’ve never heard it? That’s because the song, as it was originally released on 1969’s Abbey Road didn’t have one. For whatever reason, George Martin decided to leave it out, and the song, we might agree, is perfect without it. But the solo—rediscovered by Martin and Dhani Harrison—is also perfect. You can hear a version of the song with the solo restored at the top of the post, courtesy of Youtube user Kanaal van DutchDounpour. And above, see Dhani, Martin, and Martin’s son Giles rediscovering the solo, which Martin had forgotten about, while playing around with the master tracks of the song in 2012. (The second video first appeared on our site that same year.) At 1:01, the solo suddenly appears. Martin leans in and listens attentively and Dhani says, “It’s totally different to anything I’ve ever heard.” It’s unmistakable Harrison, the “liquid quality” Jayson Greene identified in a Pitchfork appreciation, more evocative of “a zither, a clarinet—something more delicate, nuanced and lyrical than an electric guitar.”
Impossible, I’d say, to duplicate. Even the younger Harrison—perhaps the most faithful interpreter of George’s music—finds himself fudging his father’s solos when covering his songs, playing his own instead. Harrison, says Tom Petty, always had a way of “finding the right thing to play. That was part of the Beatles magic.” He may not be remembered as the most virtuoso of guitarists, he may not have thought much of his own playing, but no one has ever played like him, before or since. See Harrison play an acoustic rendition of “Here Comes the Sun”—sans solo—above at the concert for Bangladesh.
(Note: some readers have pointed out that the solo at the top of the post sounds out of tune. We do not doubt that it is George Harrison’s playing, but it has been edited and possibly even sped up to match the final mastered recording. This is not a professional remix, but only a rough recreation of what the song might have sounded like had the lost solo been included.)