The Beatles' Revelatory White Album Demos: A Complete Guide

We delve deep into the 1968 home recordings that planted the seeds for the band's classic self-titled double LP

Load Previous

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps"

George Harrison's soaring guitar showdown with Eric Clapton began as a comparatively gentle meditation drawn from his reading of the I Ching, an ancient Chinese divination text. "In the West we think of coincidence as being something that just happens ... but 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," he explained in the Beatles Anthology documentary project. Harrison sought to test the theory while visiting his parents' Cheshire home in the spring of 1968 by using a melody written during the India sojourn. "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," he recalled. Grabbing a volume off the shelf at random, he likely opened up to Coates Kinney's 1849 poem "Rain on the Roof," which contains the couplet: "And the melancholy darkness/Gently weeps in rainy tears."

The lines provided a lyrical starting point, but Harrison still had some tinkering to do when he presented the song to his mates during the Esher session. The first verse contains the soon-to-be-deleted line, "Problems you sow are the troubles you're reaping," while the final verse is completely different from the White Album version: "I look at the trouble and hate that is raging/While my guitar gently weeps/As I'm sitting here doing nothing but aging/While my guitar gently weeps." As Harrison backs himself on a double-tracked acoustic guitar, the ferociously scrubbed descending figure gives the song a flamenco air in this early state, despite the somber B-3 organ hits on the bridge – played by McCartney, who can be heard emitting an enthusiastic "Cool!" as the song wraps at just two-and-a-half-minutes.

An early version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" recorded at EMI Studios on July 25th retained the acoustic sensibilities of the Esher demo. While this rendition would have fit nicely alongside "Julia" and "Blackbird" as one of the delicate "unplugged" gems of the White Album, Harrison later opted for the well-known hard-driving arrangement featuring the full band plus Clapton.

Back to Top