Eric Clapton is a pioneer of rock whose legacy is of mythical proportions, a mix of innovation and supreme controversy. Without his work, guitar playing as we know it today would be very different, regardless of how rudimentary his way of approaching may look and sound in contemporary times.
We cannot forget that there was a time when he was the hottest guitar player on the planet, who inspired a generation to take up the instrument and bring us that little bit close to the orgiastic green light of the future. He was once London’s finest guitarist, way ahead of his peers Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck in terms of status.
Additionally, he also was one of the first Westerners to take the lessons taught by the Delta bluesmen of old and repackage them for a new audience. Clapton has his place in music history, and whatever we may think of his views, we cannot forget that.
Notably, Clapton is linked to a number of highly influential outfits. Whether it be The Yardbirds, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, or his supergroup Cream, Clapton has been lucky enough to play with a host of legends who have helped to augment his own work and vice-versa. He’s played with them all, ranging from Ginger Baker to Duane Allman, and his resumé speaks for itself.
However, there is one group that he is also tied to that is more consequential than the aforementioned; The Beatles. Liverpool’s favourite sons are undoubtedly the most important band of all time, and what they did for music was crucial. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. In fact, their contributions to the proliferation of popular music are so manifold that there are university courses explicitly dedicated to them, a truly remarkable fact.
Whether it be aesthetically, musically or intellectually, if you were to delete their work, it is likely that I wouldn’t be here writing this piece. Advancing this point is that if The Beatles were to be wiped from existence, you and I would be completely different people, as all the music we all love was spawned directly or indirectly from what The Beatles did, a point which makes their efforts even more astounding.
Coming back to Clapton, though, it is well known that he was great friends with The Beatles, and famously, he and their guitarist George Harrison were very tight. They were so close, that Clapton was enlisted to play the lead guitar on the timeless Beatles classic ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ from 1968’s The Beatles, which was written by Harrison. Clapton was so respected by the band, that after Harrison briefly quit towards the end of their lifespan, frontman John Lennon wanted Clapton to replace him.
Given that he is so connected to the Fab Four, Clapton has been asked about The Beatles on numerous occasions, to the extent that it’s pretty clear that the curmudgeon is sick of it. However, this hasn’t stopped him from shedding some illuminating light on his old buddies.
During an interview with the late broadcasting legend Larry King, Clapton remembered working with The Beatles on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. He said: “It was an anonymous venture… I think George was struggling with the two big boys in the group, and he needed some backup on one of his songs.” Asked by King if it was “a kick?”, Clapton responded: “Are you kidding? Yeah. I mean, to watch those guys work in those days was pretty inspiring.”
One can only imagine what it was like to have The Beatles and Eric Clapton in a recording studio together, but one thing is sure, it was magic. There’s a reason why ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ has remained a fan favourite all these years, and that is because the combined power of The Beatles and Slowhand is unrivalled.
Watch Clapton discuss The Beatles with Larry King below.