- Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the The Beatles (Mono) LP.
- EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road
More from year 1968
Some songs from this session appear on:
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On this day, The Beatles continued working on George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps“. The session started at 7 pm, and overdubs were added to Take 16 (created two days ago). George added two separate lead vocals and a new lead guitar track, while Ringo Starr added maracas and a new drum track.
George then listened to a playback of the progress so far and didn’t like what he heard. He decided to scrap the whole thing and start fresh.
The Beatles recorded 28 takes of a new rhythm track during this session. Those were numbered take 17 to take 44. On all those takes, George sang a guide vocal and played acoustic guitar, Paul McCartney alternated between piano and organ, Ringo Starr played drums and John Lennon played lead guitar… until guest star Eric Clapton arrived in the studio and replaced him!
We tried to record [“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”], but Paul and John were so used to just cranking out their tunes that it was very difficult at times to get serious and record one of mine. It wasn’t happening. They weren’t taking it seriously and I don’t think they were even all playing on it, and so I went home that night thinking, ‘Well, that’s a shame,’ because I knew the song was pretty good.
I was driving into London with Eric Clapton, and I said, ‘What are you doing today? Why don’t you come to the studio and play on this song for me?’ He said, ‘Oh, no – I can’t do that. Nobody’s ever played on a Beatles’ record and the others wouldn’t like it.’ I said, ‘Look, it’s my song and I’d like you to play on it.’
So he came in. I said, ‘Eric’s going to play on this one,’ and it was good because that then made everyone act better. Paul got on the piano and played a nice intro and they all took it more seriously.George Harrison – from “The Beatles Anthology”
George: The next day I brought Eric Clapton with me. He was really nervous. I was saying, ‘Just come and play on the session, then I can sing and play acoustic guitar.’ Because what happened when Eric was there on that day, and later on when Billy Preston… I pulled in Billy Preston on Let It Be… it helped, because the others would have to control themselves a bit more. John and Paul mainly because they had to, you know, act more handsomely. Eric was nervous saying, ‘No, what will they say?’ And I was saying, ‘Fuck ’em, that’s my song.’ You know, he was the first non-Beatle person who’d ever played on anything.
It must have been terrifying…
George: And it was a good date. Paul would always help along when you’d done his ten songs– then when he got ’round to doing one of my songs, he would help. It was silly. It was very selfish, actually. Sometimes Paul would make us do these really fruity songs. I mean, my god, ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ was so fruity. After a while we did a good job on it, but when Paul got an idea or an arrangement in his head… But Paul’s really writing for a 14-year-old audience now anyhow. I missed his last tour, unfortunately.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was such a personal song, I’d always wondered why Eric was there.
George: Well, I’d been through this sitar thing. I’d played sitar for three years. And I’d just listened to classical Indian music and practiced sitar– except for when we played dates, studio dates– and then I’d get the guitar out and just play, you know, learn a part for the record. But I’d really lost alot of interest in the guitar. I remember I came from California and I shot this piece of film for the film on Ravi Shankar’s life called ‘Raga’ and I was carrying a sitar. And we stopped in New York and checked in a hotel, and Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton were both at the same hotel. And that was the last time I really played the sitar like that. We used to hang out such alot at that period, and Eric gave me a fantastic Les Paul guitar, which is the one he plays on that date. So it worked out well. I liked the idea of other musicians contributing.George Harrison – Interview for Crawdaddy Magazine, February 1977
George: It was [Ravi Shankar] who helped me to get back into being a pop singer and also my association with Eric [Clapton]. He really helped me because he was such a – I mean I admired him as a guitar player. I had no confidence in myself as a guitar player, having spent so many years with Paul McCartney. ‘Cause he ruined me as a guitar player.
In what way?
George: He uh…well I don’t know. I think it’s easier just to read what – ‘cause he also seems to have done the same thing to Henry McCullough because I remember reading something that Henry said that he left Wings, and he just left it because he said, “I don’t know if I’m good or I’m bad, I can play this or I can’t play anything,” so somebody like Eric, who I rated as a guitar player, that he treated me like a human, and he gave me a guitar which was the best guitar I’ve ever had, and which – you know, I went from there. I just decided, “OK I’m gonna become a pop singer and guitar player again.”George Harrison – Interviewed by Alan Freeman, October 1974
We’d had guest instrumentalists before – Brian Jones had played some crazy stuff on sax (for ‘You Know My Name (Look Up T(he Number)’), and we’d used a flute and other instruments — but we’d never actually had someone other than George (or occasionally John or me) playing the guitar.
Eric showed up and he was very nice, very accommodating and humble and a good player. He got wound up and we all did it. It was good fun actually. His style fitted very well with the song and I think George was keen to have him play it – which was nice of George because he could have played it himself and then it would have been him on the big hit.Paul McCartney – from the Beatles Anthology book
It was very generous to give Eric this moment when he could have had it for himself…George was very like that. He was very open.Paul McCartney – From “McCartney 3,2,1” documentary series
Eric behaved just like any session musician; very quiet, just got on and played. That was it…there were no theatrics involved. I remember Eric telling George that Cream’s approach to recording would be to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, spending very little time in the studio itself, whereas The Beatles’ approach seemed to be to record, record, record, and then eventually get the right one. The sessions were their rehearsals.Brian Gibson – Technical engineer – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn
It’d been a few years since I’d seen them and they had changed. This particular song was a strong view and it was coming very much from where George had found himself as a result of becoming involved with mysticism. Seeing John and George and Paul sing together when they were doing harmonies and things… It was fantastic.Eric Clapton – From Martin Scorsese’s 2011 George Harrison documentary “Living In The Material World“
Take 25 was considered to be the best and would be overdubbed on September 6.
It is worth noting that, at some point, Paul McCartney took advantage of a break to try out playing “Let It Be” for the first time in the recording studio :
On a tape box for the final session to record “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, there is a note of a performance of another song. Not knowing what it was, the second engineer, John Smith, wrote “Ad Lib”. It was, in fact, an early try-out of “Let It Be”. In this embryonic version, Paul sings “Brother Malcolm comes to me” – not “Mothey Mary”, as, of course, the world is familiar with from the official recording of the song in January 1969.From “The Beatles” Super Deluxe edition book (2018)
There was no producer in the room for this session, as George Martin was absent and had gone on holiday. The next Monday, his assistant, Chris Thomas, would be back from his own holiday and learn that he would produce the Beatles during all the September sessions!
Last updated on September 5, 2021
The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.
We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!
The fourth book of this critically acclaimed series, "The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 4: The Beatles through Yellow Submarine (1968 - early 1969)" captures The Beatles as they take the lessons of Sgt. Pepper forward with an ambitious double-album that is equally innovative and progressive. From the first take to the final remix, discover the making of the greatest recordings of all time. Through extensive, fully-documented research, these books fill an important gap left by all other Beatles books published to date and provide a unique view into the recordings of the world's most successful pop music act.
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