George Harrison's guitar work in "Till There Was You"

I was listening to The Beatles Live At The BBC on my way home last night. It includes lots of covers of old rock and roll tunes as well as a version of Till There Was You. George Harrison’s guitar playing in this song has always struck me as somewhat out of character for him, and this was even more apparent to me when I heard it among a bunch of rock and roll covers. While I’ve always admired Harrison’s contributions to The Beatles, his early playing strikes me as being a bit stiff and not very creative. He often sounds like a less fluid version of Chuck Berry.

So, where did his playing on Till There Was You come from? I’m familiar with the song from the movie version of The Music Man, but I don’t remember that version having a prominent guitar part. Was there a popular version of it that Harrison lifted the guitar part from? Or did George work out this arrangement on his own?

Paul McCartney based his arrangement of Til There Was You on Peggy Lee’s version from Latin a lá Lee. That didn’t have a guitar solo either, but the classical/Spanish guitar idea wasn’t a million miles from the approach Lee took in her version. Given that Paul was the more technically fluent guitar player (particularly in the early days), I would guess that George’s guitar part was mostly if not entirely worked out by Paul.

Thanks, Nonsuch. I’ll try to track down Lee’s version and give it a listen. Because George was a pretty good mimic in the early days, according to written accounts of why the Quarrymen wanted him, I figured that he just lifted it from an earlier arrangement with a similar guitar part. Your suggestion gives me something else to think about and listen to.

George’s early guitar style is influenced mainly by Carl Perkins. And I certainly agree that it is stiff and not very creative. I’m often surprised that Paul and John let a lot of George’s solos stand, e.g. the one in “The Night Before”.

While it is a pretty solo that sounds different from his other efforts of the time, it’s not that hard to play. I feel sure that George could have picked it out without Paul’s help, especially if there was an earlier version to work from.

On the other hand, Paul was definitely the band’s “ballad man” in those days; so I can’t help but wonder if he was the one to figure it out.