Eric Clapton's While My Guitar Gently Weeps solo was laid down on this day in 1968 because, says George Harrison, "I worked on that song with John, Paul and Ringo, and they were not interested in it at all"

6 September 1968 wasn't memorable for everyone involved in the recording of the Beatles' White Album. 

"Another day in the office"

Ken Scott in 1977

(Image credit: Mark Sullivan/Getty Images)

Abbey Road engineer Ken Scott on recording The Beatles

When we quizzed him for details on the session earlier this year, engineer Ken Scott demurred "I was at the session, but It was just another day at the office so it didn't mean anything at the time. 

"It's become part of history, but I don't remember anything about it. Chris Thomas, who was George Martin's assistant, remembers nothing about it. John Smith, my assistant engineer, remembers nothing about it." 

Luckily, George Harrison himself is on record with better recall of the day he drafted in Eric Clapton to put the gloss on one of his key Beatles tracks, While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

In the Beatles Anthology, Harrison recalls the song's birth as an exercise in randomness: "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. I picked up a book at random, opened it, saw ‘gently weeps’, then laid the book down again and started the song."

They weren’t taking it seriously and I don’t think they were even all playing on it

George Harrison

Not untypically, it seems John Lennon and Paul McCartney weren't overly enthusiastic when recording - the Beatles' first on 8-track - commenced in earnest in September 1968. "I'll tell you, I worked on that song with John, Paul and Ringo one day, and they were not interested in it at all."

"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."

So, a full day's labour at EMI Studio 2 on 5 September ended with 44 half-hearted takes in the can (including 17 earlier passes), and George still unhappy with his own attempts at a solo. 

Engineer Brian Gibson says in The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, "George particularly wanted to get the sound of a crying guitar but he didn't want to use a wah-wah pedal, so he was experimenting with a backwards guitar solo. 

"We spent a long night trying to get it to work but in the end the whole thing was scrapped and it was around that time that Eric Clapton started to get involved with the song."

Indeed, it was the very next day that Harrison called in back-up in the form of friend Eric Clapton, both to sort out the troublesome solo and to bring Lennon and McCartney to heel for one last push on the track.

Eric came in and the other guys were as good as gold, because he was there

George Harrison

"The next day, I was with Eric, and I was going into the session, and I said, “We're going to do this song. Come on and play on it,” he told Guitar Player in 1987.

"He said, “Oh, no. I can't do that. Nobody ever plays on the Beatles records.”

"I said, “Look, it's my song, and I want you to play on it.

"So Eric came in and the other guys were as good as gold, because he was there. Also, it left me free to just play the rhythm and do the vocal."

In Anthology, Harrison says, "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."

"It left me free to just play the rhythm and do the vocal. So Eric played, and I thought it was really good," Harrison remembers.

But one last layer of polish was required. "We listened to it back and he said, “Ah, there's a problem though. It's not Beatle-y enough” – so we put it through the ADT to wobble it a bit."

Harrison would later say, “What happened when Eric was there on that day, and later on when Billy Preston  - I pulled in Billy Preston on Let It Be - it helped. Because the others would have to control themselves a bit more. John and Paul mainly because they had to, you know, act more handsomely.”

Clapton himself hasn't discussed the session much over the years, but did say "I knew George was happy, because he listened to it over and over in the control room."

Job very much done.

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Will Groves

I'm lucky enough to be MusicRadar's Editor-in-chief while being, by some considerable distance, the least proficient musician on the editorial team. An undeniably ropey but occasionally enthusiastic drummer, I've worked on the world's greatest music making website in one capacity or another since its launch in 2007. I hope you enjoy the site - we do.