Released in 1997, Robbie Williams’ Angels has become a pop standard - a staple at weddings, funerals and everything in between. But it turns out that it could have been even more notable, as producer and co-writer Guy Chambers has now revealed that he asked George Harrison to play guitar on the song.
The revelation came during a TikTok breakdown of the Angels Pro Tools session, in which Chambers reveals that the recording started with just piano, drums and acoustic guitar. “We were very keen to make sure the track had a nice bounce to it,” he recalls. “Some people call it a ‘swing’.”
Then came the electric guitar parts, which Chambers describes as “a bit of nice noodling; it’s not getting in the way of the track but it’s giving it colour… it moves it forward and up, opens the track up.”
Chambers also reveals that a trick he liked to use back them was to have a slide guitar lifting into a chorus. “It creates this sort of tapestry of sound,” says the producer.
And then the big reveal - the opening of 'the Chambers of secrets', if you will: “I originally asked George Harrison to appear on this track, and sadly he declined”.
@guy_chambers (opens in new tab) ♬ original sound - Guy Chambers (opens in new tab)
It’s not hard to imagine Harrison playing the triple-tracked slide guitar solo that soars over Angels’ middle-eight (or 'middle-16’, if you're listening to the full-length album version) but, sadly, it wasn’t to be.
Getting back to what did make it onto the record, Chambers believes that the backing vocals played a crucial role in shaping its sound: “They give it this choir-like, Beatle-like, Elton John-like glow. There’s also a bit of the Beach Boys”.
What really turns Angels into a big-scale, widescreen production, though, is Chambers’ orchestral arrangement. Once this was put together with the rest of the instrumental parts and Williams’ heartfelt vocal performance (“He really did give it everything - it was very moving hearing him sing like that”), it was enough to bring everyone in the studio to tears.
Sadly, though, Harrison’s gently weeping guitar was absent. Shame.
Chambers' video is part of the #behindthesong hashtag challenge, which has so far racked up more than 2.1 billion views and encourages music creators on TikTok to show how music is made.