When George Harrison finally began to find his feet with songwriting on The Beatles White Album, he was heralded for his spirituality and all-encompassing sound, which managed to feel warm, emotional, and engaging at the same time. However, some songs he still reserved for a bit of irreverent fun, one track even saw him poke fun at his friend and part-time collaborator Eric Clapton.
Clapton had been a huge figure of importance in Harrison’s life. While John Lennon and Paul McCartney undoubtedly lit the way with their impressive repertoire, Harrison patiently watched the duo compose many tracks in the studio. But it was Clapton who truly gave Harrison the impetus to write his own songs; it was he who helped raise Harrison’s confidence to feel capable of competing with the magnitude of Lennon-McCartney.
The duo famously worked together on ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and Clapton even performed the guitar solo on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps,’ two of Harrison’s most fondly thought of songs arguably two of the best written under The Beatles name. However, underneath it all, Harrison and Clapton weren’t just musically linked, they were friends and one thing friends always do—tease each other.
The track is ‘Savoy Truffle’ and sees Harrison poke fun at his old pal and the controversial Clapton’s newly fixed teeth. “‘Savoy Truffle’ on The White Album was written for Eric (Clapton). He’s got this real sweet tooth and he’d just had his mouth worked on. His dentist said he was through with candy.
“So as a tribute I wrote, ‘You’ll have to have them all pulled out after the Savoy Truffle.’ The truffle was some kind of sweet, just like all the rest— cream tangerine, ginger sling— just candy, to tease Eric.”
The song fits the bill too as Harrison takes the song’s swirling sonics, filled with bongos and trumpets and other delightful ditties into a lighthearted and jovial place, the kind of place which had felt so comfortable for the band. So joyful is the track that most fo the lines were taken straight from a box of Mackintosh’s Good News chocolates, as Harrison picked out flavours of chocolates that worked within the song. However, Cherry Cream and Coconut Fudge were Harrison’s own inventions.
It’s a theory confirmed in Harrison’s autobiography I, Me, Mine, the guitarist wrote: “‘Savoy Truffle’ is a funny one written whilst hanging out with Eric Clapton in the ’60s,” writes the Quiet Beatle. “At that time he had a lot of cavities in his teeth and needed dental work. He always had a toothache but he ate a lot of chocolates— he couldn’t resist them, and once he saw a box he had to eat them all.
“He was over at my house, and I had a box of ‘Good News’ chocolates on the table and wrote the song from the names inside the lid. I got stuck with the two bridges for a while and Derek Taylor wrote some of the words in the middle— ‘You know that what you eat you are.'”
Apart from the track’s conception, the song is also notable for a couple of other points. It didn’t feature John Lennon at all, with session musicians filling in where needed following his disposal, while Paul McCartney played the bongos—naturally. It is also one of two tracks to reference another Beatles song on the album. While ‘Glass Onion’ pays homage to ‘I Am The Walrus’ as Lennon sings “The walrus is Paul”, ‘Savoy Truffle’ nods to ‘ ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ with a wry smile.
George Harrison may well have been famed for being both the quiet and spiritual Beatle but on this song he clearly let the good vibes take over. He used his uncanny tone and his smirking smile to add a touch of sparkle to this irreverent number. The fact it allowed him to make fun of his friend Eric Clapton, was just an added bonus.