100 Greatest Guitarists

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John Lennon
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images55/100

55. John Lennon

When Rolling Stone founder Jann S. Wenner asked John Lennon how he rated himself as a guitarist, Lennon replied, "I'm not technically good, but I can make it fucking howl and move. I was rhythm guitarist. It's an important job. I can make a band drive." It is, and he did: Lennon was the Beatles' spark plug and bloodletter, often adding rawness to pristine pop songs. Listen to the airborne strums that power "Help!," the circular riffage of "Day Tripper" or the deceptively sloppy "The Ballad of John and Yoko" – where, with George Harrison away on holiday, Lennon turned rudimentary lead and rhythm lines into sharptoothed magic. He was also capable of generating a truly ferocious tone: In the live promo clip for "Revolution," Lennon makes his hollow-body Epiphone Casino screech like a very angry lawn mower. Still, he didn't get his due as a guitarist in the Beatles' heyday. "They call George the invisible singer," Lennon said. "I am the invisible guitar player."

Key Tracks: "Help!," "Day Tripper," "Yer Blues"

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