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While My Guitar Gently Weeps
21 January 2012
1.04am
BornInThe80s
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I searched through the forum and couldn't find a topic on this song so here it is!

 

My favorite 'Beatles' song hands down. Not sure why really. I love the vibe, I love the solo (thanks Clapton), and I love that the lyrics make you think because honestly, what is George talking about….if he's talking about anything at all!

 

I love how simple, yet complicated it is. Everytime it comes on it just takes me to a relaxing place and boy what a title! I was intrigue by the song before I even heard it (although I thought it was Paul for some time when I first listened. I was still a noob then…). The version on Anthology 3 is beautiful and it shows that even without the whole band and Clapton it is still a wonderful song underneath it all and I loved how softly the guitar wept in that versiona-hard-days-night-george-1

 

So my question is what do you folks think the song is about exactly? Are there any meaning behind the words or just words strung together that end with…'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'? Where does it place in your favorite songs by George and if there was anything you could change about it what would it be?

 

For me the song is just saying how sad it is that we all, in essence, won't just love each other. How sad it is that the answer lies within all of us and yet many of us just don't (or choose not to) see it. Sometimes the answer is presented to us and we still choose to ignore growth. So many of us are traveling the wrong path and it's a sad thing that life just isn't perfect. Even though we sometimes learn from our mistakes it's still a sad fact that life is hard and the world just keeps on turning.'

 

So yeah that's a summary of what I got from it! Maybe I am looking to deep into things but the thing that I love about this song and many Beatles songs is that they're open to interpretation. It's a sad, thought provoking song, and one of my all time favorites! Let me see what you guys think!

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Mr. Kite
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21 January 2012
3.10am
meanmistermustard
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There are a lot of things i love about, it is a sublime piece of work be it the acoustic or electric version,; the intro is fab as is when Ringo's drums kick in, eric's guitar work, and the stereo ending with Georges groans (i miss that a lot in the mono). However what blows me away every time i hear it is Paul and George s vocals together. Of all the songs that the beatles never sang live WMGGW would be very high up my list so i could see George and Paul sing it around the same mic. I can picture it in my mind but to see it for real!!

 

Where the heck were Yoko and John and their damn film crew when The Beatles were together in the studio?

Don’t make your love suffer insecurities, trade the baggage of self to set another one free. ('Paper Skin' - Kendall Payne)
21 January 2012
3.10am
Rat Salad
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From what I've read, no Beatle fit music to lyrics. George found a pleasing and heavy riff and later invented some lyrics to go with it.  It's not exactly contrived, but the message is in the music, not the lyrics. And that's usually the case.

The lyrics are sparse. I looked here, I looked there. I was disappointed, I saw a floor that needed sweeping, I think we should all think about stuff. These are not stellar insights.  It's not developed into a theme -- it's not describing what it's probably trying to describe, which is some Zen awareness that the floor is more "real" than the "love" he's looking for.

It's not one of my favorites. I find it boring.  The riff is boring and found in other songs of the era (Chicago's "29 or 6 to 4"), and the lyrics hint at cosmic things but not, really. 

23 January 2012
7.16pm
Joe
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It's straying off topic a little, but the lyrics to All My Loving were written before the music. That was the first time Paul had done it, possibly the last. Lennon did it quite frequently though - listen to songs like Good Morning Good Morning and it's obvious he was fitting the meter of the song around words he'd previously written.

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23 January 2012
7.34pm
Zig
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BornInThe80s said:

So my question is what do you folks think the song is about exactly? Are there any meaning behind the words or just words strung together that end with…'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'? Where does it place in your favorite songs by George and if there was anything you could change about it what would it be?

 

There is a very good article about the song in the "Songs" section of this site. /songs/while-my-guitar-gently-weeps/

This used to be my favorite Beatles song and remains in my top 5.a-hard-days-night-george-10

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23 January 2012
9.56pm
vonbontee
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Great song indeed, but I've always felt the performance was lacking due to the leaden rhythm section. I've never liked what Paul & Ringo were doing, that lurching one-beat-at-a-time rhythm. (Is there another Beatles track in which I find both Paul & Ringo delivering a less-than-satisfactory performance? I highly doubt it!) Maybe George wanted to make the tune more dirgeful, in which case I can't really complain, but I'd still prefer something with a strumming flow like "My Sweet Lord" ended up with. (Also, the organ sounds weird and vaguely out-of-tune, but that doesn't bother me much.) 

Is the "Anthology" version different? I haven't played it enough to remember.

I just want to play. I’d like to think I could work opposite Sinatra, B.B. King, the Beatles, or a polka band... - Jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, 1967
24 January 2012
1.59am
Into the Sky with Diamonds
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The song is a reflection of Beatle genius.

Consider the Anthology version - the song in its plain, original form. Not bad, but somewhat stark and a bit of a downer without any special message.

Ask yourself: "If I were a producer, what could I do with this song?"

Would you ever come up with that devastatingly simple but effective opening?

Then of course, there's the invitation to Eric Clapton to furnish a solo. As Clapton says in his autobiography, this was a BIG moment in his life, and he gave it his all - and what a success!

Finally, as noted by meanmistermustard, the harmonies take the song to another level and IMHO (here I disagree with vonbontee) it's those vocals that keep the song from being dirge-like.

As with many Beatle songs, it's a good example of the total being greater than the sum of the parts.

 

[In fact, I think that THIS is what McCartney missed the most when the Beatles broke up: the opportunity to sink his teeth into songs he would/could never write himself but that he could produce up to a higher level]

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24 January 2012
8.38pm
The Walrus
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vonbontee said:

 

Is the "Anthology" version different? I haven't played it enough to remember.

Yes, totally. It is George and his acoustic guitar alone, with an extra verse ("I look from the wings at the play you are staging, as I'm sitting here doing nothing but ageing").

This is my most played Beatles song lately. Brilliant guitar, bass and piano, like Hey Bulldog. Just a real sense that all musicians involved (except maybe Ringo, he didn't perform to his best on either track) are playing at their absolute peak.

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24 January 2012
9.06pm
Zig
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vonbontee said:

...I've always felt the performance was lacking due to the leaden rhythm section. I've never liked what Paul & Ringo were doing, that lurching one-beat-at-a-time rhythm.

This is one of the aspects of the song that I really like - makes it stand out. Since it is such a different sound than most other songs they do, I have to believe George (Harrison and/or Martin) wanted it that way on purpose. I'm not saying that particular rhythm makes the song any better or worse than anything else they do, it's just my opinion.

As for the acoustic version on Anthology, I love that too. The extra verse The Walrus mentioned adds to that "haunting" feeling of the song.

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25 January 2012
2.31pm
Nepomuceno
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While My Guitar Gently Weeps is a good song, though far from being one of my favorites. I really think the final studio recording is too overloaded and that a more delicate arrangement would have suited the song much better. And, somehow, I don't like George's vocals on the track.
As for the song's meaning, my impression is that for George it was more important to put some meaning into his lyrics than for Lennon and McCartney. And I couldn't have explained better than BornInThe80s what I think the lyrics are about:

 

BornInThe80s said:

 
For me the song is just saying how sad it is that we all, in essence, won't just love each other. How sad it is that the answer lies within all of us and yet many of us just don't (or choose not to) see it. Sometimes the answer is presented to us and we still choose to ignore growth. So many of us are traveling the wrong path and it's a sad thing that life just isn't perfect. Even though we sometimes learn from our mistakes it's still a sad fact that life is hard and the world just keeps on turning.'

20 June 2014
2.30am
Necko
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Hey.  I've got a question about this song.

When, and through what avenue, did it first become public knowledge that Eric Clapton played on this song?  I mean, obviously he wasn't credited on the album itself, so who was first to say that Eric Clapton was on the song?

I ask just out of curiosity.

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20 June 2014
4.44am
Billy Rhythm
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BornInThe80s said 

  
 
So my question is what do you folks think the song is about exactly? Are there any meaning behind the words or just words strung together that end with…'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'?

It appears to be "just words strung together", here's what George himself said about the lyrics circa 1980:

 

"I had a copy of the I Ching-- the Book of Changes, which 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. The idea was in my head when I visited my parents' home in the North of England. 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. Some of the words to the song were changed before I finally recorded it."

 

Had George opened a different book or turned a different page at "that moment" we'd have gotten something completely different...:-)

20 June 2014
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parlance
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I think the fact that it's based on the concept of everything being relative to everything else means that it wasn't a matter of words strung together. The inspiration was seemingly random, but one might argue that George opened the page to the words he was meant to read, and they resonated with him, given the deteriorating state of the band's relationships to one another.

parlance

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20 June 2014
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Linde
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Necko said
Hey.  I've got a question about this song.

When, and through what avenue, did it first become public knowledge that Eric Clapton played on this song?  I mean, obviously he wasn't credited on the album itself, so who was first to say that Eric Clapton was on the song?

I ask just out of curiosity.

I've never thought about that actually, so obviously I have no idea. I think they might have just said it in interviews. 

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20 June 2014
5.30pm
Necko
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Linde said

Necko said
Hey.  I've got a question about this song.

When, and through what avenue, did it first become public knowledge that Eric Clapton played on this song?  I mean, obviously he wasn't credited on the album itself, so who was first to say that Eric Clapton was on the song?

I ask just out of curiosity.

I've never thought about that actually, so obviously I have no idea. I think they might have just said it in interviews. 

That's what I might have guessed.  Either that or it appeared in someone's Beatle book.

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20 August 2014
8.12am
Oudis
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Billy Rhythm said 

"I had a copy of the I Ching-- the Book of Changes, which 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. The idea was in my head when I visited my parents' home in the North of England. 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. Some of the words to the song were changed before I finally recorded it."

Had George opened a different book or turned a different page at "that moment" we'd have gotten something completely different...:-)

Beg to differ. Have you heard of the Jungian concept of “synchronicity”? Karl Jung, who by the way wrote a preface to one of the translations of the I Ching if I’m not mistaken. As Parlance said, “one might argue that George opened the page to the words he was meant to read, and they resonated with him”. I know, pretty New Age –but the idea came to one of the most respected analysts before the expression “New Age” was coined. The song is a masterpiece, probably George’s best during his Beatle period, and the lyrics are very good indeed –perhaps not perfect, but very good in my opinion. He did a great job with just those two words: gently weeps.

20 August 2014
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Atlas
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Necko said

Linde said

Necko said
Hey.  I've got a question about this song.

When, and through what avenue, did it first become public knowledge that Eric Clapton played on this song?  I mean, obviously he wasn't credited on the album itself, so who was first to say that Eric Clapton was on the song?

I ask just out of curiosity.

I've never thought about that actually, so obviously I have no idea. I think they might have just said it in interviews. 

That's what I might have guessed.  Either that or it appeared in someone's Beatle book.

In the Beatles monthly the guitar on the track was credited by Mal I think, to 'Eddie Clayton'. He wrote something like, 'Not the Eddie Clayton from the group (name I've forgotten)….. but another Eddie Clayton.

So even I guessed the 'guest'!!

20 August 2014
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Here's the Mal Q@A for that question in full (Beatles Monthly, February 1969)

wmg.JPG

 

and Mal's note on the track from the November 1968 issue

wmg2.JPG

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20 August 2014
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PeterWeatherby
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Absolutely FAB topic, thanks for bringing it up, @BornInThe80s 

As I've said elsewhere on this site, I would highly recommend Simon Leng's book, While My Guitar Gently Weeps : The Music of George Harrison for anyone who wants to better understand George's spiritual journey and how that directly impacted his songwriting (not to mention what amazing contributions this "quiet Beatle" made to the group as a whole).

At this point in his career, George had adopted the Eastern/Indian/Hindu view of music - that it wasn't just a form of entertainment (god forbid!), but that it was a way of praying, of reaching out and touching the face of the divine. The idea that George was just stringing together random words in this song would seem to contradict his entire understanding of music at the point in his life.

The thematic element of the song - "see the love there that's sleeping," repeated in "I don't know why nobody told you how to unfold your love" - is very much in line with what George had said previously in "Within You Without You": 

"We were talking about the love we all could share ..."
"With our love, we could save the world, if they only knew ..."
"We were talking about the love that's gone so cold ..."

He was apparently very taken by this idea that love could save the world, but that people were too often unaware of how to "unfold your love," letting it lie "sleeping" and going "so cold" while the world continues turning, and floors need sweeping, and "I'm doing nothing but aging."

He understood that this was a process, though, of becoming more and more detached from the mundane in order to see the reality behind "the wall of illusion," and he understood that he himself was still going through this process. He revisited that subject years later in "The Light that has Lighted the World":

I'm grateful to anyone that is happy or free
For giving me hope while I'm looking to see
The light that has lighted the world

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20 August 2014
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No doubt - the best song on White Album. Perfectly produced, tasteful, emotional and captivating. Still, not the best George song IMO. Abbey Road has yet to come.

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