The Beatles’ White Album has been blowing minds since 1968 — but this weirdest of Beatle masterpieces is about to get weirder. The new Super Deluxe Edition, which arrives on November 9th, tells the epic story of the album that nearly tore them apart — including a previously unheard version of the classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” premiering at Rolling Stone. It’s an early acoustic take, as George Harrison tinkers with the ballad that would turn into one of his most powerful statements. Like so many moments on the new box set, it’s the Beatles in full-blast experimental mode — a revelatory listen that makes you hear new mysteries in music you thought you already knew inside out.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (Acoustic Version, Take 2) was recorded on July 25th, 1968, with just George on guitar and Paul on harmonium. It’s a dark and meditative draft of a still-evolving song, as Paul follows along, learning the chords. George tells the Abbey Road crew, “Maybe you’d have to give him his own mike.” (A previous run-through from the same day was on Anthology 3, but this take was just discovered during the research for this project.) George sings original lines he ended up discarding: “I look from the wings at the play you are staging / As I’m sitting here doing nothing but aging.”
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (Acoustic Version, Take 2)
The Beatles didn’t go back to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” until three weeks after this acoustic draft. In the meantime, they toiled over George’s “Not Guilty” — a song that went through 102 takes and still got axed, which sums up the torment of the five-month sessions. (“Not Guilty” didn’t see the light of day until over a decade later, when an understandably traumatized George finally put it on a 1979 solo record.) “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” wasn’t finished until September, when he brought in a special guest on lead guitar — his best friend Eric Clapton. The box has a jam with the full band (and Clapton) rocking out, until George blows it by reaching for a soulful Smokey Robinson-style high note he can’t hit. “It’s okay,” he laughs. “I tried to do a Smokey, and I just aren’t Smokey.”
“Eric played that and I thought it was really good,” George once recalled. “Then we listened to it back and he said, ‘Ah, there’s a problem, though; it’s not Beatley enough.’ So we put it through the ADT to wobble it up a bit.” The White Album sessions were notoriously chaotic, with tempers running wild at Abbey Road. But George knew everyone would behave themselves around Clapton — a classic George power move. As Giles Martin puts it, “It was his way of telling the others, ‘The best guitarist on the planet likes my songs. I’m here.’” The trick worked — in George’s words, “The other guys were as good as gold because he was there.”
It’s a typical highlight from the expanded White Album. (Still officially titled The Beatles, though nobody has ever called it that.) The Deluxe Edition has new mixes in stereo and 5.1 surround from Giles Martin and Sam Okell, plus one of the Beatles’ most legendary grails: the 27-song Esher demos, which they taped in May 1968. The Super Deluxe Edition adds 50 new tracks from the sessions, most unheard (or even rumored) until now.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (Acoustic Version, Take 2) will be released for streaming and download with digital album pre-order Friday at midnight EDT.