By Chris Gill | Photo: Dave Hogan/Getty Images
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” isn’t only one of the best songs George Harrison wrote with the Beatles. It’s also one of the greatest songs on the White Album.
Whether it was jealousy, ego or apathy, the other members of the band didn’t seem to care too much for the tune when Harrison introduced it to them and attempted to record initial takes on August 16, 1968.
After more work on the song on September 3 and 5, Harrison decided he didn’t like what he heard and scrapped the recording. He and the Beatles then promptly started over again, nailing a new backing track in 28 takes.
The initial live backing track featured Harrison on acoustic guitar and guide vocals, John Lennon on electric, Paul McCartney on piano and Ringo Starr on drums. Harrison later overdubbed double-tracked lead vocals, and McCartney recorded backing vocals and a bass line with Lennon playing in unison on either a Fender Bass VI or electric guitar. Harrison’s masterstroke was inviting his friend Eric Clapton to overdub lead guitar, which was recorded on a single track with Harrison’s organ accompaniment on September 6.
Clapton initially refused to participate, saying, “Nobody ever plays on the Beatles’ records.” “So what?” Harrison countered. “It’s my song.”
Clapton finally agreed to play, but he wanted his part to sound “Beatle-y.” Harrison’s solution was to process the track containing Clapton’s guitar part and the organ with Artificial Double Tracking, varying the speed to create a pitch-wobbling effect.
If you’ve tried to listen to the Beatles’ music on YouTube lately, you know their songs are no longer available for streaming. Ergo, we’ve included a few noteworthy live performances of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” all of which feature Clapton and various former members of the Beatles. In order, we present Harrison, Clapton and Starr performing the song at the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971; the same trio performing the song at the Prince’s Trust Rock Gala in 1987; and Clapton, McCartney and Starr performing it at the Concert for George in 2002.