The Beatles (White Album) artworkWritten by: Harrison
Recorded: 25 July; 16 August; 3, 5, 6 September 1968
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Ken Scott

Released: 22 November 1968 (UK), 25 November 1968 (US)

George Harrison: vocals, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, Hammond organ
John Lennon: rhythm guitar
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, bass guitar, piano, organ
Ringo Starr: drums, tambourine, castanets
Eric Clapton: lead guitar

Available on:
The Beatles (White Album)
Anthology 3

George Harrison's most celebrated song on the White Album, While My Guitar Gently Weeps was inspired by the I Ching, and featured his friend Eric Clapton on lead guitar.

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Harrison began writing the music for the song in India, although the lyrics were mostly completed upon his return to England.

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 a 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.

George Harrison

A demo version of the song was recorded by The Beatles at Harrison's bungalow in Esher, Surrey, in May 1968. It featured several lines which were later left out.

I look at you all, see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
Problems you sow are the troubles you're reaping
Still my guitar gently weeps

I look at the trouble and hate that is raging
While my guitar gently weeps
As I'm sitting here, doing nothing but ageing
Still my guitar gently weeps

A solo version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps was recorded at Abbey Road on 25 July 1968, featuring just Harrison on acoustic guitar, with a subtle organ part appearing towards the end. These early versions deploy the fingerpicking guitar style taught to The Beatles by Donovan in Rishikesh.

Recorded in a single take, the June version was later included on Anthology 3, and, with a new orchestral arrangement written by George Martin, on the Love album.

It also included a verse that was dropped from later recordings:

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

Harrison later complained that Lennon and McCartney didn't give the song the attention he felt it deserved. The presence of Eric Clapton on lead guitar, at Harrison's request, made the rest of the group take the song more seriously.

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.

George Harrison

In the studio

Following the 25 July solo demo, The Beatles returned to While My Guitar Gently Weeps on 16 August. They recorded 14 takes with Harrison on guitar, Lennon on organ, McCartney on bass and Starr on drums.

The song was left alone until 3 September, when a series of overdubs were added - the first on Abbey Road's new eight-track recording equipment. Harrison worked alone, spending the entire eight-hour session trying to record a backwards guitar solo.

The next day Harrison recorded two lead vocal parts, and maracas, drums and lead guitar were also added. However, upon hearing a playback of the recording so far, Harrison decided to scrap it and begin afresh.

The remake was started that same day. The Beatles recorded 28 takes; the basic track had Harrison on acoustic guitar and guide vocals, Lennon on guitar, McCartney playing piano and organ, and Starr on drums.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps was completed on 6 September. Eric Clapton, playing a Les Paul guitar, performed his guitar solo, which went uncredited on the album. During the mixing stage the solo was varispeeded to give it more of a 'Beatles sound'.

The same day also saw the addition of a distorted bass part, played by McCartney, some organ by Harrison, and percussion by Starr. Finally, Harrison taped his lead vocals, with backing harmonies from McCartney.