Hear 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 here.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in May, 2013.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Lost Gui­tar Solo for “Here Comes the Sun” by George Har­ri­son, Dis­cov­ered by George Mar­tin

A Young Eric Clap­ton Demon­strates the Ele­ments of His Gui­tar Sound

George Har­ri­son Explains Why Every­one Should Play the Ukulele

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Comments (9)
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  • Alan Yates says:

    Iron­i­cal­ly, per­haps the best of all the Bea­t­les’ songs was writ­ten by George Har­ri­son and not Lennon and Macart­ney, and their best gui­tar solo played by Eric Clap­ton.

  • Steve77 says:

    Clap­ton would dis­agree, but in my mind he’s the great­est rock gui­tarist ever, sur­pass­ing even Jimi. Longevi­ty counts for some­thing, in my book.

  • Jeff Hawkins says:

    Out­stand­ing achieve­ment by both.clapton and Har­ri­son.

  • Dan Thompson says:

    The Bea­t­les changed music for­ev­er no doubt about it. Eric Clap­ton assist­ed them enter the his­to­ry books, as an indi­vid­ual and a col­lab­o­ra­tor he is unde­ni­ably one of the great­est musi­cians of our time .it will be a long time before any­one will be con­sid­ered as good as or bet­ter than him .let’s be thank­ful we shared this plan­et at the same time HE was on it .all of them made our lives a bit nicer while they were here.

  • Bobby Zander says:

    I have read that a lot of what this arti­cle refers to as descend­ing vibra­to by Clap­ton was actu­al­ly pro­duced by stu­dio techs per­form­ing an oper­a­tion called ‘flang­ing’ on the tape machine. There’s a lot of info on how they achieved the war­ble that made the gui­tar more like a Bea­t­les sound as sug­gest­ed by Eric, appar­ent­ly.

  • Mel says:

    The arti­cle links to the wrong song at the end — an acoustic ver­sion that does NOT have Eric Clap­ton play­ing the Les Paul.

  • takinitin says:

    Tape of Clapton’s iso­lat­ed gui­tar doesn’t open, and tape of final sound switch­es to some­thing else… dis­ap­point­ing.

  • Steve says:

    Fas­ci­nat­ing hear­ing just Clap­ton’s gui­tar. Thanks for this.

  • Hotaru says:

    So he played the whole song not just the solo.. Is beau­ti­ful..

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