By Damian Fanelli
As any rock fan knows, the Beatles never got back together.
What you might not know is that even partial Beatles reunions and “near misses” were frustratingly rare back when such things mattered (prior to George Harrison’s death in 2001).
Which is why the video below is so enjoyable.
On June 5, 1987, three of the five original musicians who appeared on the classic Beatles White Album track “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” reunited to perform the song live at the Prince’s Trust Rock Gala at London’s Wembley Arena.
George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton were joined by an all-star U.K. band, including Elton John, Phil Collins, Jeff Lynne, Ray Cooper and … well, if you’re wondering who that understandably happy bassist is, it’s Mark King of Level 42.
What’s most interesting about this performance is the fact that A., the normally Strat-happy Clapton is playing a beautiful Gibson Les Paul, just as he did on the original 1968 recording, and B., the also-Strat-happy Harrison joins Clapton in the extended guitar solo at the end of the song (He does not solo on the original studio version). The two guitarists trade solos and feed off each other’s energy, and their intertwining lines are often pretty damn cool.
Paul McCartney, another one of the five original musicians who appeared on the original Beatles recording (John Lennon is the fifth), would go on to perform “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Clapton and Starr in November 2002 at the Concert for George. Harrison, Starr and Clapton also performed the song live in 1971 at the Concert for Bangladesh.
Of course, for the closest thing to a full-on Beatles reunion, there’s nothing quite like the mid-Nineties footage of McCartney, Harrison and Starr hanging out together during the making of Anthology (bottom video).
For studio recordings that come close to full reunions, check out Starr’s “I’m the Greatest” from 1973 (written by Lennon and featuring Lennon, Harrison, Starr and Let It Be keyboardist Billy Preston) and Harrison’s “All Those Years Ago” from 1981 (featuring McCartney, Harrison and Starr).
Damian Fanelli is the online managing editor at Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado. His New York-based band, the Blue Meanies, has toured the world and elsewhere. Fanelli, a former member of Brooklyn jump-blues/swing/rockabilly band the Gas House Gorillas and New York City instrumental surf-rock band Mister Neutron, also composes and records film soundtracks. He writes GuitarWorld.com’s The Next Bend column, which is dedicated to B-bender guitars and guitarists. His latest liner notes can be found in Sony/Legacy’s Stevie Ray Vaughan: The Complete Epic Recordings Collection. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram.