Eric Clapton’s Isolated Guitar Track From the Beatles’ ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (1968)

George Harrison of the Beatles was an accomplished guitar player with a distinctive soloing style. So you might think that with a song as personal and guitar-centric as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” he would do his own playing. In fact, the song features guitar playing by Eric Clapton.

It was recorded on September 6, 1968, during the acrimonious White Album sessions. Harrison had been struggling off and on for over a month to get the song right. He first tried it with his own playing on a Gibson J-200 guitar along with an overdubbed harmonium. He later experimented by running the guitar solo backwards. Nothing seemed to work. So finally Harrison asked his friend Clapton for a little help. When Harrison walked into Abbey Road Studios with Clapton, the other Beatles started taking the song seriously. In a 1987 interview with Guitar Player magazine, Harrison was asked whether it had bruised his ego to ask Clapton to play on the song.

No, my ego would rather have Eric play on it. I’ll tell you, I worked on that song with John, Paul, and Ringo one day, and they were not interested in it at all. And I knew inside of me that it was a nice song. The next day I was with Eric, and I was going into the session, and I said, “We’re going to do this song. Come on and play on it.” 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 [automatic double-tracker], to wobble it a bit.

For the impression of a person weeping and wailing, Clapton used the fingers on his fretting hand to bend the strings deeply, in a highly expressive descending vibrato. He was playing a 1957 Gibson Les Paul, a guitar he had once owned but had given to Harrison, who nicknamed it “Lucy.” You can hear Clapton’s isolated playing above. And for a reminder of how it all came together, you can listen to the official version below. We’d also encourage you to listen to the acoustic demos for the album.

Related Content:

The Beatles: Unplugged Collects Acoustic Demos of White Album Songs (1968)

A Young Eric Clapton Demonstrates the Elements of His Guitar Sound

Hear the 1962 Beatles Demo that Decca Rejected: “Guitar Groups are on Their Way Out, Mr. Epstein”



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by | Permalink | Comments (52) |

  • Steve Boyce

    Thank you Open Culture, for all the great hidden, forgotten, and historic media you find and share with us.

  • joy bhattacharjya

    Brilliant. Such a pleasure to find these hidden gems.

  • jackie nimmerrichter

    Thanks so much for sharing this. It was amazing!!

  • Geno

    This is absolutely stunning. I love stuff like this.

  • Cheebo

    So the isolated track we’re listening to – has it been run through the ADT already or is it dry?

  • Shannon Morrow

    I never knew that Clapton played on this cut, but it makes sense. George and Eric were close friends, so it’s natural that he would be asked to help out. I have always known that George had been under-utilized and his music not regarded as “Beatle” material, and this story just shows that one of their most revered songs almost didn’t get recorded. Jealousy…yes, I think so.

  • rick

    You can hear the ADT at different levels throughout- although I would have guessed it was Clapton using a Leslie rotating speaker ( listen to the solo on Cream’s ‘Badge’).

  • melodieman

    try playing them together at the same time with just a half step different for some trippy delay. kinda cool if you are as bored as i am.

  • Peter Reynders

    The whole story behind the sound engineering of this song can be found at http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jun12/articles/classic-tracks-0612.htm

  • nyobx

    never got to hear the unplugged white album stuff and can no longer access the link
    anyone know of a way to access it???

  • Lori Seubert

    Fascinating! Truly a gem.

  • Mario

    Playing through a Hammond Leslie was a signature sound of Harrison’s. That was him playing on Badge…

  • John Starrett

    Sloppier than I expected.

  • Frank L Miller

    All these years I knew that Eric Clapton played on it, but thought it was just background and the end. Until I heard this piece, Clapton alone, did I fully appreciate that he was the lead all the way through. How telling, not only about George whose ego was second to the music and his friendship with Eric, but the rest of the boys who were willing to write off George’s song until Eric (who was called “God” in those days) showed them what the song was all about. Beautiful! Saw Eric Clapton March 29th in Florida and was amazed how he can still play that axe like it was 1968!

  • Dan Colman

    Just curious, does anyone know who promoted our post on their Facebook page today?

    Thanks,
    Dan (the editor)

  • Jane

    I saw the link on a local guitar teacher’s page.

  • sandra mccallister

    thanks for such a treat. I’ve always loved his music to me he is the best there is. he seems to keep getting better when you listen to his new tracks. thanks again colin

  • Rama

    enjoyed that :)
    I followed a link from Guitarist Ireland on facebook. Maybe that’s the link you’re looking for?

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/guitaristireland/559401444111469/?notif_t=group_comment_reply

  • Joe

    Clapton had a severe heroin habit during this period in time as well. Something to think about.

  • Baron von Tollbooth

    Clapton’s heroin habit lasted from late 1969 to late 1973, per his autobiography.

  • Anne

    I saw the link on FB via a Connecticut guitar teacher who is also an author. Did you need more specifics?

  • Stan

    My friend Charles Venturella had it posted on his Facebook page today, that’s how I found this. He’s a major Beatle fan.

  • mary macgowan

    loved this, what a pleasure!

  • Gordon

    In EC’s autobiography he tells his version of this story, and he stated that after he left the studio he thinks the Beatles recorded the song another time with George playing the solo. If I recall this chapter of the book correctly, EC wrote that even he wasn’t sure if it was his playing or George’s that made the final version on the album.

  • Normand Chiasson

    Thank you so much for all of this. I am a (very old) Beatle Fan and I surely appreciate havinf th eopportunity to listen to such a gifted artist in an incredible rendition. What a treat. Thanks again!

  • Joshua Smith

    I remember the first time I heard the song. I wasn’t a big fan of Harrison, and I thought, “wow, George Harrison is damn good after all!” It was about a year later that I learned the truth. :PnnMy opinion of Harrison has incidentally improved a little since then, but I still consider him to be musically the least interesting Beatle. (I like Ringo a lot – check out “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “Rain”, or “Come Together” if you don’t think he’s awesome.)

  • herschel Stratego

    meh…

  • Captain Awesome

    “My opinion of Harrison has incidentally improved a little since then, but I still consider him to be musically the least interesting Beatle. I like Ringo a lot – check out “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “Rain”, or “Come Together” if you don’t think he’s awesome.”nnnnLOL! I love a good comedy writer. You had me chuckling at “least interesting Beatle” but the calling of Ringo “awesome” had me rolling on the floor. You, you sir, are the next Mark Twain! That is some brilliantly funny satire!

  • DavidS

    They’re both awesome. Those who don’t think Ringo is a great drummer, don’t know drumming.

  • Karl Hungus

    I read an interesting article yesterday about George Harrison’s sister, who lives Missouri and who apparently was left nothing in her brother’s will.

  • Jim Salman

    Eric Clapton had beautiful, expressive, perfect vibrato. Very few electric blues/rock guitarists in the world in 1968 had his level of artristry.

  • Christian Down

    Eric Clapton is a racist piece of human garbage.

  • Joe from Buffalo

    You are a brainless a–hole!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Christian Down

    Oh really? Choke on this: nnhttp://samuel-warde.com/2013/05/eric-claptons-racist-rant/nnIn 2007, Clapton gave an interview in which he insisted that Powell was “outrageously brave” and “misunderstood,” and that his own views on the matter haven’t changed.nnnBefore you go name calling, do a little homework.

  • Jesu00fas

    maybe, but he is an amazing and great guitar player, lucky for us he is not politician.

  • Billy Murrell

    Great article! Thank you.

  • nosocialism

    Yeah, and it’s clearly indicated as a drunken rant – yet you chose this as your best evidence that he is a racist? Since I don’t know you, I can’t say whether or not you are actually an a-hole, but you are definitely brainless.

  • Christian Down

    So when you get drunk, you go on racist tirades? Ridiculous. Rock Against Racism was founded DIRECTLY as a result of this incident. He has never apologized. Just because you don’t want something to be true doesn’t mean it isn’t true. nnhttp://thequietus.com/articles/11246-physical-resistance-hundred-years-anti-fascism-extractnnhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_Against_Racismnnhttp://pedagogyofpop.wordpress.com/blog-3/pedagogy-of-pop-latest-post/rock-against-racism/

  • martiniolives2

    You may want to look at the page below. As noted, Eric hand-picks the artists he wants to play at this charitable Crossroads concerts. Take a look at the racial diversity of the artists. For a “racist piece of human garbage” who has raised and contributed millions of dollars to people struggling with drug addition, he’s doing a very poor job of showing it. Troll on.nnhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossroads_Guitar_Festival

  • Christian Down

    So that excuses him? He has never apologized. As noted below, Rock Against Racism was founded DIRECTLY in response to his outburst and subsequent reiterations. nnSo he threw a concert to help some junkies; what does that have to do with anything? nnNobody has yet to produce a single piece of credible evidence in which Clapton apologizes. Fact.

  • Christian Down

    I previously posted a comment about Eric Clapton being a racist. I posted four or five links to back up my statement. I pointed out that Rock Against Racism was founded as a direct response to his politics. nnnI was met with a chorus of name calling, but nobody could actually refute what I was saying with any facts. One person even excused his racist tirade by pointing out that Clapton was intoxicated, as though this is normal.nnnI’m so disappointed that in this, a day and age that you can learn almost anything in a few clicks, people would rather bury their heads in the sand than take the time to do a little homework before they start hurling insults.nnnIt saddens me that people would defend a man who believes as he does. Shame. nnnI removed my previous comments; I leave this forum disgusted.

  • John Gordon

    I get what you are saying, but take it from one who knows – heroin doesn’t inspire racism – whether in the throes of a high, or coming off of it in the worst way.

  • CityHoller

    They were all good musicians. Check out Paul’s bass playing on later records. Ringo was very good, he was invited to join the Beatles because he was the best drummer they knew of, and totally solid. And I was just listening to the guitar solo on Hard Days Night, and it is absolutely fine. Later musicians took their musicianship further, but they did it standing on the Beatles’ shoulders.

  • Clapton Fan

    You clearly have an issue with Clapton. The so called racist comments and your “facts” relate to a single “alleged” incident in the 70′s and a biased article written by RAR. The organization was founded as a direct result of this? Really? Are you the founder? I doubt very much that many of the Blues artists, most of which experienced true racism back in the day, would play or support Clapton if he was a racist. This was a story about Harrison and Clapton – and a beautiful song. Glad you left this forum because you disgust me and just about everyone else who read this piece. Good riddance…

  • Christian Down

    Sigh. Again, just a simple google search:nnhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_Against_RacismnnnnArrogance and ignorance walk hand in hand. I’m simply asking you to do a little research, instead of excusing his actions. He is unrepentant. He STILL feels that Enoch Powell is “misunderstood” and has never apologized for his statements. nnIt wasn’t a slip of the tongue. Here is his whole disgusting rant in it’s entirety, so no one has to do any homework.nn”Do we have any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, please put up your hands. Wogs I mean, Iu2019m looking at you. Where are you? Iu2019m sorry but some fucking wogu2026Arab grabbed my wifeu2019s bum, you know? Surely got to be said, yeah this is what all the fucking foreigners and wogs over here are like, just disgusting, thatu2019s just the truth, yeah. So where are you? Well wherever you all are, I think you should all just leave. Not just leave the hall, leave our country. You fucking (indecipherable). I donu2019t want you here, in the room or in my country. Listen to me, man! I think we should vote for Enoch Powell. Enochu2019s our man. I think Enochu2019s right, I think we should send them all back. Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now Iu2019m into racism. Itu2019s much heavier, man. Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans and fucking (indecipherable) donu2019t belong here, we donu2019t want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we donu2019t want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I donu2019t want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country, what is happening to us, for fucku2019s sake? We need to vote for Enoch Powell, heu2019s a great man, speaking truth. Vote for Enoch, heu2019s our man, heu2019s on our side, heu2019ll look after us. I want all of you here to vote for Enoch, support him, heu2019s on our side. Enoch for Prime Minister! Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!”nn-Eric Clapton

  • Tony Valenti

    I was lucky enough to see Jimmy Hendrix perform a few months before he died, at the Astoria Theatre, North London. A roar went up, when Eric Clapton jumped up on stage, and started an impromptu jam with the “Experience”, midway thru the show. Hugs and kisses all round, love and peace. If Eric Clapton was/is a rabid racist, then he has certainly fooled me all these years.

  • Klaus Knuth

    I believe what Eric used as a guitar effect was a flanger. It sounds different than a Leslie speaker like the one he used on “Badge”.

  • graham

    preach that hate brother , let that hate flow brother , Remember only a white man is racist not a black who openly hates whites and calls them cracker or honky,. umm any rap artist who ever lived anybody?, and remember people cant hate jews , but jews can hate gentiles and get away with it like a joke on seinfeld, we are all racist whatever ur stupid skin colour is accept it or don’t its really up to the hard headed individual who thinks hes perfect

  • mikey the schwartz

    history in recording-PRICELESS

  • Brad Nailer

    It took me a long time to finally admit to myself that it’s Clapton playing that solo and not Harrison–and still, it’s only because George and Eric are telling me that. The style is George’s and not Eric’s. If the boys had not themselves said who was doing what to whom, I still wouldn’t believe it.

  • wpw

    RAR/ANL was an SWP front organisation, designed to indoctrinate young people in the wonderful ways of the Trotskyite left. Profound cynicism is what was promoted. Organisations describing themselves as ‘anti-fascist’ or ‘anti-Nazi’ are mirror images of intended targets – they therefore invoke and promote fascism in order to oppose it. Useful idiots are used to disguise this hypocrisy. Clapton’s remarks were racist. Doesn’t make him a racist, though, and to use the noun with this kind of promiscuity (instead of the adjective) is to demonstrate a political rather than a moral objection – in other words a lust for control rather than a lust for good. Vicky Park gig was great though: TRB, The Clash, Steel Pulse, etc.. Saw EC supporting Dylan at Blackbushe, the same year (with Joan Armatrading and Graham Parker).

  • Dan Sharrow

    George Harrison and Clapton popped into the studio to record the solo for this song that George had been working on. Clapton listened and ran through it once. The track you here is just his second time playing it. And that’s why they call him God!

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