It’s quite noticeable that in early Beatles footage, George is often playing about with volume and tone controls.
That’s right, you can see that particularly on the Ed Sullivan Show, which is a great way to look at how George is playing. He’s constantly adjusting his tone, flicking between pickups, moving the volume just a little bit all the time. He didn’t have a solo boost, so he would have to do it partially with his hands and partially with the volume of the guitar.
So is that how you do it too?
I do, although it depends on the kind of venue. The Beatles were initially a club group, so they played like a club group, which is a group playing in a very tight confine. Things really do change when you start playing theatres.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like for The Beatles to play somewhere like the Liverpool Empire, where they’ve just got that small combo that they’re using to hearing with the fans right in from of them and walls all around them. Suddenly they’re in this cavernous – no pun intended! – venue, so that must have had a big effect on how they played.
But for TV and recording, they would have just played like a club group I would have thought.
You’ve been doing it a long time now; do you still go back to the videos and live footage to keep yourself fresh?
Absolutely, it’s kind of a labour of love. In fact, the group’s changed line-up in the last two years. Adam Hastings is the new John and he’s really good at getting sounds.
Our maxim now is that we really only go for the records. The band has been going for so long that we’ve done live versions of things and we’ve done combinations, but now we really try to, particularly in the last ten years, Pas are so much better and they’re so much more accurate that we can really replicate the recordings.
So say on something like I Saw Her Standing There from the first album, we will definitely do what’s on the record. So I’ll play very minimally during the verses, and just let my riffs leap out a bit more when it hits the V chord or the solo.
One big thing that we’ve started using recently is the Boss ME-25 multi effects pedal, that’s been a boon. Take the solo from All My Loving, which is the sub-country and western solo that George plays. That’s got a very smooth sound to it, and playing an AC30 that can be a bit toppy, so by having some EQ settings within the ME-25, when it comes to that solo I can click it on to a much more mellow sound but have a slight volume boost. So I can play that quite lightly. Sometimes in a live situation you can dig in too much and you get away from the sound of the record, which is quite subtly played on that solo. It’s an amazing solo, he just picks some lovely little harmonies and 6th chords in that.
Do you have any other favourite songs or solos from that early period?
Well, I’ve mentioned She Loves You. I think what he plays in between the vocal is incredible. Imagine, you’re 20 years old, you’re in Abbey Road and you’re presented with this song which was fairly fresh when they recorded it, so they hadn’t been recording it for hours and hours, and you’ve got to make your mark by putting your stamp in the small space that you’ve got. He does a brilliant job, the few licks he does are just stand out and historic. So I would say She Loves You is a great example of George doing the maximum with the minimum amount of space.
And I think the riff in Twit And Shout is fantastic. Sometimes he plays a fifth on the G chord at the intro, but then when he’s playing the riff while he’s singing he plays slightly differently. It’s really subtle. That’s on the Duo Jet which is a solid body, and that does sound better with a solid body guitar that with a Gretsch Country Gent, it’s a bit more twangy. There’s so much great guitar work, but they are really fantastic inventions by him I think.