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Music

Listen to George Harrison's acoustic demo of 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'

Released on 1968’s The White Album, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ is perhaps the most celebrated of all the songs George Harrison contributed to The Beatles‘ ninth studio LP. Here, we take a look at the stunning acoustic demo recorded in George Harrison’s Esher home.

Harrison began writing ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ when he was still in India. It wouldn’t be until his return to England, however, that he would complete the lyrics. By this time he was fascinated by all manner of Eastern philosophies; an interest that found its way into many of the songs he wrote during this period. “I wrote ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ at my mother’s house in Warrington,” Harrison recalled.

Adding: “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.”

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So, while Harrison’s track might, at a first glance, seem like just one of the many love songs he wrote in his career, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ can also be regarded as an extension of this concept. According to Harrison, the song “was a simple study based on that theory,” he explained, before adding: “I decided to write a song based on the first thing I saw upon opening any book – as it would be a relative to that moment, at that time. I picked up a book at random, opened it, saw ‘gently weeps’, then laid the book down again and started the song”.

Once Harrison finished the track, he took it to Kinfauns, his home in Esher, Surrey, where he recorded the demo version that you can listen to below. Not only is it much more minimalist in its arrangements (featuring little more than a couple of acoustic guitars and some double-tracked vocals), it also features lyrics that don’t appear in the version Harrison later recorded at Abbey Road. For example, we hear Harrison sing: “I look at you all, see the love/ there that’s sleeping/ While my guitar gently weeps/ Problems you sow are/ the troubles you’re reaping/ Still my guitar gently weeps”.

While the track released on The White Album features Eric Clapton’s evocative electric guitar, I’ve got to say I much prefer this demo version because it seems truer to George Harrison in some way. Without the orchestral arrangments and twiddly guitar, we’re able to focus on the true strengths of Harrison’s style: his elegant chord progressions, powerful lyrics, and gentle fingerstyle guitar playing – all the things that made him great.