The Paul McCartney Project

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Written by George Harrison

Album This song officially appears on the The Beatles (Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1968
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

Spread the love! If you like what you are seeing, share it on social networks and let others know about The Paul McCartney Project.

Song facts

From Wikipedia:

While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is a song written by George Harrison, first recorded by the Beatles in 1968 for their eponymous double album (also known as “the White Album”). The song features lead guitar by Eric Clapton, although he was not formally credited on the album.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is ranked at number 136 on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time“, number 7 on the magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time, and number 10 on its list of The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs. In an online poll held by Guitar World magazine in February 2012, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was voted the best of Harrison’s Beatle-era songs. In October 2008, Guitar World ranked Clapton’s playing at number 42 in its list of the “100 Greatest Guitar Solos“.

Composition and recording

Inspiration for the song came to Harrison when reading the I Ching, which, as Harrison put it, “seemed to me to be based on the Eastern concept that everything is relative to everything else, as opposed to the Western view that things are merely coincidental“. Taking this idea of relativism to his parents’ home in northern England, Harrison committed to write a song based on the first words he saw upon opening a random book. He later explained the process:

I wrote “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at my mother’s house in Warrington … I was thinking about the Chinese I Ching, ‘The Book of Changes” … The Eastern concept is that whatever happens is all meant to be, and that 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. I decided to write a song based on the first thing I saw upon opening any book – as it would be relative to that moment, at that time. I picked up a book at random, opened it, saw “gently weeps”, then laid the book down again and started the song.

The initial incarnation was not final, as Harrison said: “Some of the words to the song were changed before I finally recorded it.” A demo recorded at George’s home in Esher includes an unused verse:

I look at the trouble and see that it’s raging,
While my guitar gently weeps.
As I’m sitting here, doing nothing but ageing,
Still, my guitar gently weeps.

As well as an unused line in the very beginning:

The problems you sow, are the troubles you’re reaping,
Still, my guitar gently weeps.

This line was eventually omitted in favour of the one appearing on The Beatles.

An early acoustic guitar and organ demo of the song featured a slightly different third verse:

I look from the wings at the play you are staging,
While my guitar gently weeps.
As I’m sitting here, doing nothing but ageing,
Still, my guitar gently weeps.

This version was released on the 1996 compilation Anthology 3 and was used as the basis of the 2006 Love remix, with a string arrangement by George Martin.

The band recorded the song several times. Take 1 on 25 July 1968 involved Harrison on his Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar and an overdubbed harmonium. Sessions on 16 August and 3 and 5 September included a version with a backward (or “backmasked”) guitar solo (as Harrison had done for “I’m Only Sleeping” on Revolver), but Harrison was not satisfied. On 6 September 1968, during a ride from Surrey into London, Harrison asked friend Eric Clapton to contribute lead guitar to the song. Clapton was reluctant; he said, “Nobody ever plays on the Beatles’ records“; but Harrison convinced him and Clapton’s guitar parts, using Harrison’s Gibson Les Paul electric guitar “Lucy” (a recent gift from Clapton), were recorded that evening. Harrison later said that in addition to his contribution, Clapton’s presence had another effect on the band: “It made them all try a bit harder; they were all on their best behaviour.” Clapton wanted a more “Beatley” sound, so the sound was run through an ADT circuit with “varispeed,” with engineer Chris Thomas manually ‘waggling’ the oscillator: “apparently Eric said that he didn’t want it to sound like him. So I was just sitting there wobbling the thing, they wanted it really extreme, so that’s what I did.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was one of three songs on The Beatles where Paul McCartney experimented with the Fender Jazz Bass (the others being “Glass Onion” and “Yer Blues“) instead of his Hofner and Rickenbacker basses. According to Walter Everett’s book The Beatles as Musicians, John Lennon’s electric guitar is audible only in the coda with the tremolo switched on.

Musical structure

The song is in Am, with a shift to a ♭7 (Am/G) on “all” (bass note G) and a 6 (D9 (major 3rd F#)) after “love” (bass note F#) to a ♭6 (Fmaj7) on “sleeping” (bass note F). This 8-♭7-6-♭6 progression has been described as an Aeolian/Dorian hybrid. Everett notes that the change from the minor mode verse (A-B) to the parallel major for the bridge might express hope that “unrealized potential” described in the lyrics is to be “fulfilled”, but that the continued minor triads (III, VI and II) “seem to express a strong dismay that love is not to be unfolded”. Clapton’s guitar contribution has been described as making this a “monumental” track; particularly notable features include the increasing lengths of thrice-heard first scale degrees (0:17–0:19), the restraint showed by rests in many bars then unexpected appearances (as at 0:28–0:29), commanding turnaround phrases (0:31–0:33), expressive string bends marking modal changes from C to C# (0:47–0:53), power retransition (1:21–1:24), emotive vibrato (2:01–2:07), and a solo (1:55–2:31) with a “measured rise in intensity, rhythmic activity, tonal drive and registral climb”.

Performances

On The Concert for Bangladesh, Clapton performed the song on a Gibson Byrdland hollow body guitar, and later acknowledged that a solid-body guitar would have been more appropriate. The version in the Prince’s Trust Rock Concert 1987 (released on DVD by Panorama) reunited Harrison, Starr and Clapton, and features an extended coda with the guitars of Harrison and Clapton interweaving. Mark King (of Level 42) played McCartney’s bass line. On their 1991 tour of Japan, Harrison and Clapton performed a live version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with additional background vocals. An edit combining parts of the 14 December and 17 December Tokyo performances of the song is included on the album Live in Japan.

On 3 June 2002, within the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II concert at Buckingham Palace Garden, Paul McCartney performed the song with Clapton, as a tribute to George Harrison who had died the year before. They were introduced by George Martin. The performance appears on the DVD release Party at the Palace. On 29 November the same year, McCartney, Starr, Dhani Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Marc Mann, and Clapton performed “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the Concert for George in memory of Harrison. This version showcased Clapton singing the lead vocal and playing his original guitar solo while McCartney provided background vocals and piano; Mann played Clapton’s original fills during the verses.

In 2004, Harrison was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was played in tribute by Tom Petty vocals/guitar, Jeff Lynne vocals/guitar, Steve Winwood Hammond organ, Billy Preston keyboards, Scott Thurston Bass Guitar, Steve Ferrone Drums, Jim Capaldi percussion and tambourine, Marc Mann lead guitar, Dhani Harrison vocals/guitar, concluding with the guitar solo by fellow inductee Prince.

George Harrison in Anthology:

We tried to record it, but John and Paul 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.

The next day 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 woulnd’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.

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 14 Oct 1968.
    UK: Apple PMC 7067 white album 1968.
  • [b] stereo 14 Oct 1968.
    UK: Apple PCS 7067 white album 1968, Apple PCS P718 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.
    US: Apple SWBO 101 white album 1968, Apple SKBO-3404 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 46443 2 white album 1987, EMI CDP 7 97039 2 The Beatles 1967-1970 1993.

This is the first 8 track recording (by anyone) at EMI Abbey Road.

The Clapton guitar remains loud in mono [a] after the solo break, not in [b]. Near the end of the fadeout only the stereo [b] has “yeah yeah yeah”, even though it is a few second shorter than [a].

From Anthology 3 liner notes:

Having withheld his own new composition since the White Album sessions started eight weeks earlier, George Harrison waited no longer and recorded this eloquent demo of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, the first of five songs he contributed to the growing collection. The song would undergo two re-makes between this date and 6 September, when the master was completed, and become significantly heavier in the process – the final version featuring a lead guitar track played by guest Eric Clapton. The first studio recording could scarcely be more different, George singing live to his own acoustic guitar accompaniment (augmented by an organ part played by Paul), and incorporating an additional verse omitted from later version.

Last updated on July 5, 2017

Lyrics

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
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

Officially appears on


The Beatles (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1968

4:45 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass guitar, Organ, Piano
Ringo Starr:
Castanets, Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon:
Rhythm guitar
George Harrison:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Hammond organ, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Eric Clapton:
Lead guitar
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 05, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 06, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 14, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1968

4:45 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass guitar, Organ, Piano
Ringo Starr:
Castanets, Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon:
Rhythm guitar
George Harrison:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Hammond organ, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Eric Clapton:
Lead guitar
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 05, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 06, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 14, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Anthology 3

Official album • Released in 1996

3:27 • DemoC • Stereo • Having withheld his own new composition since the White Album sessions started eight weeks earlier, George Harrison waited no longer and recorded this eloquent demo of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, the first of five songs he contributed to the growing collection. [...]

George Martin:
Producer
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jul 25, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Concert For George

Official album • Released in 2003

5:57 • Live

Concert From "A Concert For George" in London, United Kingdom on Nov 29, 2002


Love

Official album • Released in 2006

3:46 • Studio versionD • A BBC article reported that George Martin chose to use an early version of the recording for the album and wrote a new orchestral backing for the track; the demo version used is found on Anthology 3. This was also stated in the fifth chapter of The Beatles 'LOVE' Podcast.

George Martin:
Producer
Giles Martin:
Producer
Paul Hicks:
Remix engineer
Sam Okell:
Remix engineer assistant
Chris Bolster:
Remix engineer assistant
Mirek Stiles:
Remix engineer assistant

Session Recording:
Circa 2004-2006
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Circa 2004-2006
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

4:45 • Studio versionR2018 • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass guitar, Organ, Piano
Ringo Starr:
Castanets, Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon:
Rhythm guitar
George Harrison:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Hammond organ, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Eric Clapton:
Lead guitar
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 05, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 06, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 14, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Demo

Session Recording:
Late May 1968
Studio:
George Harrison's Home, Kinfauns, Esher, Surrey, UK


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Outtake • Acoustic version – Take 2


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Outtake • Third version – Take 27

Bootlegs


Take It Off!

Unofficial album

2:27 • Outtake • Take 1


Complete Controlroom Monitor Mixes - Volume 1

Unofficial album

3:19 • Studio version


Complete Controlroom Monitor Mixes - Volume 2

Unofficial album

3:26 • Alternate take


Complete Controlroom Monitor Mixes - Volume 2

Unofficial album

2:59 • Alternate take


Complete Controlroom Monitor Mixes - Volume 2

Unofficial album

0:57 • Alternate take • Paul


Videos

Live performances

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” has been played in 2 concerts.

Latest concerts where “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” has been played


A Concert For George

Nov 29, 2002 • United Kingdom • London • Royal Albert Hall


Party At The Palace

Jun 03, 2002 • United Kingdom • London • Buckingham Palace Gardens


Contribute!

Have you spotted an error on the page? Do you want to suggest new content? Or do you simply want to leave a comment ? Please use the form below!

Your comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.