(function(h,o,t,j,a,r){ h.hj=h.hj||function(){(h.hj.q=h.hj.q||[]).push(arguments)}; h._hjSettings={hjid:104204,hjsv:5}; a=o.getElementsByTagName('head')[0]; r=o.createElement('script');r.async=1; r.src=t+h._hjSettings.hjid+j+h._hjSettings.hjsv; a.appendChild(r); })(window,document,'//static.hotjar.com/c/hotjar-','.js?sv=');
Join us

Features

‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’: The Story Behind The Song

Starting life as a touching acoustic song, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ became an epic rock number, and one of George Harrison’s finest moments.

Published on

While My Guitar Gently Weeps Story Behind The Song artwork web optimised 1000 with border

Of all the songs on “The White Album”, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ underwent some of the most radical changes over the course of recording. Left unheard until its 1996 release on Anthology 3, the song began life in tender form, George Harrison singing to his own acoustic guitar accompaniment, backed only by Paul McCartney on harmonium. A touching version of the song, it was nonetheless not what George was after, and would be drastically remade – not once, but twice – before he was satisfied. The lyrics would also go through a number of changes before the final version, with entire verses being lost along the way.

“Everything has some purpose”

The song began as an experiment with a theory from the I Ching while George was visiting his parents. “‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ was just a simple study based on the theory that everything has some purpose for being there at that given moment,” George explained. “I was thinking that anything I see when I open a book, I’m going to write a song about. So I opened this book and I saw ‘gently weeps’. I shut the book and then I started the tune.”

c

After abandoning the delicate acoustic approach taped in July 1968, George enlisted the rest of The Beatles for a full-band version in August. Once the group had created a decent backing, George spent hours trying to craft a backwards guitar solo for the song, before ditching this version too.

George had been friends with Eric Clapton since The Yardbirds supported The Beatles in 1964, and, seemingly on a whim, invited his friend to play on the next attempt to nail the song.

Speaking to Guitar Player in 1987, George recalled Clapton’s initial reluctance: “He said, ‘Oh, no. I can’t do that. Nobody ever plays on The Beatles’ records.’ I said, ‘Look, it’s my song, and I want you to play on it.’ So Eric came in, and the other guys were as good as gold – because he was there. Also, it left me free to just play the rhythm and do the vocal. So Eric played that, and I thought it was really good. Then we listened to it back, and he said, ‘Ah, there’s a problem, though; it’s not Beatley enough’ – so we put it through the ADT, to wobble it a bit.”

Chris Thomas, who at that time was George Martin’s assistant, recalled how this was achieved: “I was given the grand job of waggling the oscillator on the ‘Gently Weeps’ mixes… We did a flanging thing, really wobbling the oscillator in the mix, I did that for hours.”

“A beautiful moment”

These early September 1968 recording sessions for ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ were significant for a number of reasons, not least because this was the first time Ringo had returned to the studio since leaving the group, albeit temporarily, during work on ‘Back In The USSR’ a couple of weeks earlier. For his return, George had Ringo’s Ludwig Hollywood drum kit decorated with flowers, a gesture that meant a lot to the drummer. “It was a beautiful moment,” he later wrote.

During the summer of 1968, the group had on occasion decamped from the familiar surroundings of EMI’s Abbey Road studios in St John’s Wood to Trident in Soho, a facility that offered eight-track recording while Abbey Road modified their own pair of eight-track 3M machines. Back at Abbey Road, on 5 and 6 September, using the extra tracks allowed The Beatles (plus Eric), under the guidance of Chris Thomas deputising for an absent George Martin, to finally realise Harrison’s vision for the song. Paul contributes an inspired piano part, which opens with a distinctive introduction ahead of the first burst of guitar from Clapton, but continues to underpin the whole piece beautifully. George’s effortless lead vocal takes its inspiration from Smokey Robinson, ably assisted by Paul, before Clapton’s virtuoso lead guitar soars above a powerful and heavy rock backing. The lengthy coda rises again and again as a frenzy of sound delivers a knockout punch a million miles away from the acoustic song ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ began life as.

The super deluxe edition of The Beatles’ “White Album” will be released on 9 November. Scroll down to read the full tracklist and pre-order the box set here.

Listen-Buy

The BEATLES (‘White Album’) releases include:

Super Deluxe: The comprehensive, individually numbered 7-disc and digital audio collections feature:

CDs 1 & 2: The BEATLES (‘White Album’) 2018 stereo album mix

CD3: Esher Demos

– Esher Demo tracks 1 through 19 sequenced in order of the finished song’s placement on ‘The White Album.’ Tracks 20-27 were not included on the album.

CDs 4, 5 & 6: Sessions

– 50 additional recordings, most previously unreleased, from ‘White Album’ studio sessions; all newly mixed from the four-track and eight-track session tapes, sequenced in order of their recording start dates.

Blu-ray:

– 2018 album mix in high resolution PCM stereo

– 2018 DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 album mix

– 2018 Dolby True HD 5.1 album mix

– 2018 direct transfer of the album’s original mono mix

Deluxe: The BEATLES (‘White Album’) 2018 stereo album mix + Esher Demos

The 3CD; 180-gram 4LP vinyl box set (limited edition); and digital audio collections pair the 2018 stereo album mix with the 27 Esher Demos.

Standard 2LP Vinyl: The BEATLES (‘White Album’) 2018 stereo mix

180-gram 2LP vinyl in gatefold sleeve with faithfully replicated original artwork

Super Deluxe [6CD+1Blu-ray set / digital audio collection]

CD1: The BEATLES (‘White Album’) 2018 Stereo Mix

Back in the U.S.S.R.
Dear Prudence
Glass Onion
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Wild Honey Pie
The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Happiness is a Warm Gun
Martha My Dear
I’m so tired
Blackbird
Piggies
Rocky Raccoon
Don’t Pass Me By
Why don’t we do it in the road?
I Will
Julia

CD2: The BEATLES (‘White Album’) 2018 Stereo Mix

Birthday
Yer Blues
Mother Nature’s Son
Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey
Sexy Sadie
Helter Skelter
Long, Long, Long
Revolution 1
Honey Pie
Savoy Truffle
Cry Baby Cry
Revolution 9
Good Night

CD3: Esher Demos

Back in the U.S.S.R.
Dear Prudence
Glass Onion
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Happiness is a Warm Gun
I’m so tired
Blackbird
Piggies
Rocky Raccoon
Julia
Yer Blues
Mother Nature’s Son
Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey
Sexy Sadie
Revolution
Honey Pie
Cry Baby Cry
Sour Milk Sea
Junk
Child of Nature
Circles
Mean Mr. Mustard
Polythene Pam
Not Guilty
What’s the New Mary Jane

CD4: Sessions

Revolution 1 (Take 18)
A Beginning (Take 4) / Don’t Pass Me By (Take 7)
Blackbird (Take 28)
Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey (Unnumbered rehearsal)
Good Night (Unnumbered rehearsal)
Good Night (Take 10 with a guitar part from Take 5)
Good Night (Take 22)
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (Take 3)
Revolution (Unnumbered rehearsal)
Revolution (Take 14 – Instrumental backing track)
Cry Baby Cry (Unnumbered rehearsal)
Helter Skelter (First version – Take 2)

CD5: Sessions

Sexy Sadie (Take 3)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Acoustic version – Take 2)
Hey Jude (Take 1)
St. Louis Blues (Studio jam)
Not Guilty (Take 102)
Mother Nature’s Son (Take 15)
Yer Blues (Take 5 with guide vocal)
What’s the New Mary Jane (Take 1)
Rocky Raccoon (Take 8)
Back in the U.S.S.R. (Take 5 – Instrumental backing track)
Dear Prudence (Vocal, guitar & drums)
Let It Be (Unnumbered rehearsal)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Third version – Take 27)
(You’re so Square) Baby, I Don’t Care (Studio jam)
Helter Skelter (Second version – Take 17)
Glass Onion (Take 10)

CD6: Sessions

I Will (Take 13)
Blue Moon (Studio jam)
I Will (Take 29)
Step Inside Love (Studio jam)
Los Paranoias (Studio jam)
Can You Take Me Back? (Take 1)
Birthday (Take 2 – Instrumental backing track)
Piggies (Take 12 – Instrumental backing track)
Happiness is a Warm Gun (Take 19)
Honey Pie (Instrumental backing track)
Savoy Truffle (Instrumental backing track)
Martha My Dear (Without brass and strings)
Long, Long, Long (Take 44)
I’m so tired (Take 7)
I’m so tired (Take 14)
The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill (Take 2)
Why don’t we do it in the road? (Take 5)
Julia (Two rehearsals)
The Inner Light (Take 6 – Instrumental backing track)
Lady Madonna (Take 2 – Piano and drums)
Lady Madonna (Backing vocals from take 3)Across the Universe (Take 6)

Blu-ray: The BEATLES (‘White Album’)

Audio Features:

: PCM Stereo (2018 Stereo Mix)

: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (2018)

: Dolby True HD 5.1 (2018)

: Mono (2018 Direct Transfer of ‘The White Album’ Original Mono Mix)

Deluxe [3CD digipak / 180-gram 4LP vinyl box set (limited edition) / digital audio collection]

The BEATLES (‘White Album’) 2018 Stereo Mix

Esher Demos

Standard 2LP Vinyl [180-gram]

The BEATLES (‘White Album’) 2018 Stereo Mix

Explore our The Beatles Artist Page.

Don't Miss