Portada single Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da y While My Guitar Gently weeps en España

George Harrison, Eric Clapton and The Beatles: While My Guitar Gently Weeps, 46th Anniversary Beatles’ White Album

Author of the song George Harrison was inspired thanks to Chinese book “I Ching”, the Book of Changes, started to be written supposedly around 1200 BC, and is one of the five classics related to Confucio. About I Ching Harrison said “It seemed to me to be based on the Eastern concept that everything is relative to everything else, opposed to the Western view that things are merely coincidental.”

One day, while at his mother’s house in Warrington, Harrison was thinking about I Ching, “The Eastern concept is that whatever happens is all meant to be, and there’s no such thing as coincidence, every little item that’s going down has a purpose. While My Guitar Gently Weeps was a simple study based on that theory.” So with this idea, Harrison thought about writing a song with the first words he saw upon opening a book at random what “it would be relative to that moment, at that time.” The words were “gently weeps”. He laid the book down again and started the song.

George Harrison in the studio

Harrison found always difficulties to get his songs into The Beatles albums and this was not a different case. Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney seemed indifferents about the new song of his mate; usually they let him get a song or a cover into the albums. At first he struggled but the song jelled finally.

Different takes were recorded of While My Guitar Gently Weeps at different sessions on 25 July, 16 August and 3, 5 and 6 September 1968. Initially it was recorded only with Harrison on acoustic guitar and McCartney on harmonium (you can listen it below, it was included on The Beatles Anthology 3). Takes from 16 August and 3 and 5 September were recorded with a backmasked guitar solo, as Harrison did on the album Revolver with I’m Only Sleeping. Harrison was not convinced with any take, he saw much more potential for the song and finally, he came up with an idea that would be captured for posterity on final take in 6 September.

Harrison talked with his friend Eric Clapton and asked him to add a lead solo guitar to the song. At first Clapton said no because he thought the other Beatles would not be happy with the idea since they never brought musicians to the studio, “Nobody ever plays on the Beatles’ records”, said, to which Harrison countered “So what? It’s my song.” Luckily for all, Harrison managed to convince him and at the end it happened opposite, Lennon and MacCartney were keener to record the song when they saw Clapton appear in the studio.

The presence of Clapton in the studio and his contribution with guitar helped to calm the tense atmosphere that surrounded the band since some time ago, and that it could be felt while recording The White Album. Something that however contradicts the young sound engineer Ken Scott — who took part on such a feat at the age of just 21. According to Scott “They acted as backing musicians for each other up to a point, but there were also times when they were closer than they’d be in ages.”

It was also good for Ringo Starr who discontent and frustrated had left the band a few weeks before, and when he finally returned, he found flowers in his drums as gift “Welcome home again.” Harrison put the flowers, again according to Scott “He’d be the only one who would think of doing something like that.”

Lennon and ClaptonThe funny thing for Clapton was that he first thought that he would be rejected by Harrison’s colleagues and he finished being good friend with Lennon, so much that when Harrison threatened to walk out the group in 1969, Lennon already had in mind Clapton as a replacement, in addition to ask him for collaboration in some of his solo works.

So Clapton recorded the lead guitar on While My Guitar Gently Weeps with “Lucy” — the guitar that he himself had given Harrison just one month before — although the solo was manually vari-speed because Clapton did not want it to sound to him, but “Beatley”.

Clapton’s contribution to the song is superb, making it a memorable recording. However, Clapton did not appear on the formal album credits. The reason why he was excluded on the credits responds to something very simple: his name could not appear for merely contractual problems. But his name appeared later in the previously mentioned Anthology 3. For the same reason Harrison could not appear in the credits of Badge of Cream’s Goodbye album, however he used the pseudonym L’Angelo Misterioso. Also, according to Harrison, the presence of Clapton in the studio encouraged the rest of the band, who worked a bit harder, giving the best of themselves.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps, (The Beatles album, commonly kown as the White Album, released on 22 November, 1968, Appel Records. Written by por George Harrison. Produced by George Martin, Chris Thomas. Engineer Ken Scott.

Personnel:

George Harrison: double-tracked vocal, backing vocal, acoustic guitar

Paul McCartney: harmony vocal, bass, piano, Hammond organ

John Lennon: electric guitar with tremolo

Ringo Starr: drums, tambourine, castanets

Eric Clapton: lead guitar

Lyric:

I look at you all, see the love there that’s sleeping

While my guitar gently weeps

I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping

Still my guitar gently weeps

 

I don’t know why nobody told you

How to unfold your love

I don’t know how someone controlled you

They bought and sold you

 

I look at the world and I notice it’s turning

While my guitar gently weeps

With every mistake we must surely be learning

Still my guitar gently weeps

 

I don’t know how you were diverted

You were perverted too

I don’t know how you were inverted

No one alerted you

 

I look at you all, see the love there that’s sleeping

While my guitar gently weeps

I look at you all

Still my guitar gently weeps

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