By Damian Fanelli and Jimmy Brown | Photo: Cummings Archives/Getty Images
Here’s a handy video we recently stumbled upon. It’s a three-screen clip that shows the magic of “And Your Bird Can Sing,” a 1966 track that always ranks as one the Beatles’ best “guitar songs.”
In fact, Guitar World ranked it at Number 7 when we published “The Fab 50: The Beatles’ 50 Greatest Guitar Moments” a few years ago.
This middle-period gem from Revolver, written primarily by John Lennon, features George Harrison and Paul McCartney on impeccably crafted and performed harmony-lead guitar melodies, a pop-rock arranging approach that was still in its infancy in 1966. It would later be employed extensively in Southern rock by the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd as well as hard rock/metal acts like Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden.
The two Epiphone Casinos in the clip (it’s probably the same guitar, of course) represent the parts of Harrison and McCartney, both of whom were playing Casinos at the time. The Strat in the middle (which is painted to look like Harrison’s “Rocky”) represents Lennon’s part. Yes, this is confusing, but let’s go with it.
Together, Harrison and McCartney’s individual single-note harmony lead guitar parts form, for the most part, diatonic (scale-based) third intervals in the key of E. (Lennon performed his rhythm guitar part as if the song were in the key of D, using a capo at the second fret to transpose it up a whole step, as he did on “Norwegian Wood,” “Nowhere Man” and “Julia.”)
The quick half-step and whole-step bends that Harrison and McCartney incorporate into their parts here and there in lock-step fashion are particularly sweet sounding. Heard together, they have the precise intonation of a country pedal-steel part performed by a seasoned Nashville pro.
The harmonized lines that the two guitarists play over the “minor-drop” progression during the song’s bridge section, beginning at 1:05 (in the original Beatles recording), reveal their musical depth and sophistication and command over harmony beyond the basic “I-IV-V” pop songwriting fodder.
Below, we’ve also included a video of a band—1964: The Tribute—performing “And Your Bird Can Sing” in 2008. The guitarist, Tom Work, does an incredible job of capturing the essence of the two-guitar solo with one guitar, a very nice Gretsch Country Gentleman. His solo starts at 1:01. Enjoy!