According to German guitar virtuoso and former member of the Scorpions, Uli Jon Roth, George Harrison was a crucial member of The Beatles. Although most people focus on John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Roth said that they “wouldn’t have sounded anywhere near as good” without Harrison.
“He played the right note at the right time; only a handful of people can do that,” claims Uli in an interview with Simon Pink of My Guitar Lessons. Elaborating more on the matter, the guitar legend added:
“He was the missing link in the Paul-and-John scenario — The Beatles wouldn’t have sounded anywhere near as good as they did without him.”
Many may think of Harrison as “the quiet one” from the bunch. The McCartney-Lennon writing duo often stole the spotlight and, to some degree, so did Ringo Starr with his laid-back and noticeably cheerful approach to the band and their music.
However, in this whole equation, it does feel like Harrison is overlooked to a degree, at least to wider audiences. But according to Uli, he was the crucial component that made The Beatles what they were:
“He was really the icing on the cake — and extremely important icing, particularly. Also, once he started to get into all the Eastern stuff with the sitar, then the Beatles kind of went up to the next level sonically, and a large part of that was because of George Harrison. So yeah, I’m a big fan.”
For Uli, The Beatles were one of the biggest influences. In fact, as he explained, he got into them even before embarking on his guitar player journey.
“I was a huge Beatles fan,” said Uli after being asked what he listened to when he was ten years old. “And I knew all of this stuff by heart before I could even play.”
“And I think that was a really good introduction for me. Because melodically and harmonically, it doesn’t get much better than ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and stuff like that, you know? So I really grew up on that before I even started playing. A little bit unusual, but yeah — I guess it was good for me.”
During the interview, Uli also discussed his first steps on the guitar. Although he wasn’t able to exactly point out that one moment when he decided that it was time to pick up the instrument, Uli did recall his earliest instruments. He actually started off with trumpet, and then he moved on to bass guitar. And then, after hearing a random live band, it was time to pick up a 6-string:
“I just picked up the guitar, and it was like a match made in heaven. It was so easy. It just… I don’t know.”
But the reason why he discovered it?
“Oh, I discovered the instrument because back then there was no tuition — there were no teachers for electric guitar. It was all fair game. All we had were records. We listened with our ears and tried to copy Eric Clapton & Co., so to speak. So yeah, that’s how I really learned to explore the instrument.”
When asked if he could recall his first guitar, Roth recalled this cheap instrument that he essentially used as a bass:
“The very first one was called Hopf. That was a German brand, but I think it only had four strings because… Don’t ask me why, but I played bass on it.”
“And my friend, the one who is responsible for starting this band [Blue Infinity, his high school band] — Bernd [Kloss] was his name — one day he sat on it by mistake and the neck broke.”
“So yeah, I remember it was on my confirmation day, on May 19… When was it?… ’68, I got this guitar — it was a second-hand guitar [by] Framus, a German brand. It was a bit of a cross, a distant relative of a Gibson and a Strat [yet] nothing like any of those, but it was quite a good-sounding guitar and I still have this guitar.”
As Roth also adds, he still owns that instrument:
“It’s upstairs in my bedroom, actually. And after 50 years for the first time, I played it on stage during a tour — which was called the 50th Triple Anniversary Tour — some years ago, where we celebrated my 50 years on stage, I played it and I chose the song.”
“I played it for one song, and the song was a song that I played on my very first show back in Hanover in December 1968, and that song was none other than ‘Apache’ [by The Shadows].”
You can see the instrument Roth is talking about in the embedded player below, where he shares a few details about it.