By Damian Fanelli
As a musician, Paul McCartney is probably best known for his creative, melodic bass lines with The Beatles, Wings and beyond, 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.
So, in celebration of his 70th birthday on Monday, June 18, here are McCartney’s top five electric guitar solos as a Beatle. Of course, George Harrison played most of the Fab Four’s lead guitar parts, but McCartney stepped up occasionally, as did John Lennon (and Eric Clapton, for that matter).
05. “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.
04. “Another Girl,” Help! (1965)
This “solo” is more of a collection of creative, bouncy fills and bends by McCartney — enough to make it obvious that he started out as a guitarist.
Check out this scene from “Help!,” below, where George Harrison, playing John Lennon’s black Rickenbacker 325, mimes McCartney’s lead parts as McCartney plays bass.
03. “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.
And speaking of solos, it’s also the only Beatles song to include a Ringo Starr drum solo.
02. “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 from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was, in fact, played by McCartney.
01. “Taxman,” Revolver (1966)
On what is clearly one of the most respected guitar solos in The Beatles’ catalog, 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.”