That Time Eric Clapton Recorded with The Beatles

“Oh, no – I can’t do that. Nobody’s ever played on a Beatles record,” exclaimed Eric Clapton when close friend, George Harrison initially pitched him the idea of playing  guitar on his latest track for the Beatles highly anticipated record, the White Album. Clapton’s shocking response was something most anyone could relate to, thrilled at the proposal, but frightened by the possible repercussions.

The Beatles in the late 1960’s were untouchable, a foursome that could not be tampered with, and no one, not even the celebrated Eric Clapton, wanted to risk being the individual who could potentially rock the beloved Beatles boat. Oddly enough, the truth was, the boat had already begun rocking far before Harrison’s gutsy proposition.

For a multitude of reasons, possibly a debate for a different day, the fab four weren’t behaving so fab towards one another. These interactions left Harrison under the distinct impression that his latest tune, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” wasn’t being taken seriously. He spoke of this issue in the Anthology when he stated, “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.” Unwilling to settle for what he believed to be a less than impressive version of his song, Harrison took matters into his own hands.

While driving around London with close friend and fellow guitarist, Eric Clapton, Harrison decided to make what would become a historic proposal, “Why don’t you come to the studio and play on this song for me?” Shocked yet flattered, Clapton initially turned him down. Harrison, refusing to allow the Beatles’ status to deter his mate and leave his latest tune unfinished, stated, “Look, it’s my song and I’d like you to play on it.” Whether it be the determination in George’s voice, or the obvious once in a lifetime opportunity, Clapton agreed to play, and rerouted the vehicle in the direction of Abbey Road Studios.

When Clapton entered the studio that day, the mood is said to have instantaneously lifted. This shift in atmosphere may be credited to the new and impressive talent in a room that typically discouraged outsiders. Or, perhaps, the understanding that another musician would be witnessing their recording process brought the boys back in line. Whatever the reason may be, Clapton’s presences eased the tension and brought importance back to Harrison’s, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” leaving this tune as one of the White Album’s  most highly regarded. With much praise being directed at the eerie and emotional wails that emit from the lead guitar.

Oddly enough, this random and rare studio occurrence began somewhat of a trend. After their unfortunate break-up, Clapton continued to record with each of the Beatles individually, appearing on several solo recordings by Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr since 1967. Despite the indifference and hurt feelings that prompted Clapton’s arrival to Abbey Road Studio’s, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” transformed into what Harrison had always envisioned, and realigned the drifting Fab Four, even if only for a short period of time.

–Victoria Shaffer


Fanelli, Damian. “Hear Eric Clapton’s Isolated Guitar from ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’” Guitar World, 21 Nov. 2016,
Papoiu, Alexandru, et al. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” The Beatles Bible, 26 Oct. 2017,



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