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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Deconstructing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"

One of the most beloved and interesting songs in The Beatles catalog is George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." The song not only marked the first time that a non-Beatle played on their recordings (Eric Clapton played the solo, although session drummer Andy White played on one of their first recording sessions), but also used an interesting technique of a six string bass doubling the four string bass (this was called "tic tock" bass in Nashville). This is described in engineer Ken Scott's new memoir Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust as follows:
"The 4-string bass was sometimes doubled by a 6-string bass on some songs. By this time Paul had acquired a Fender Jazz bass which he used in lieu of his Rickenbacker, and a Fender Bass VI was always around the studio. What possibly happened was that the band had heard German orchestra leader Bert Kaempfert double an upright acoustic bass with a 6-string bass when they were in Germany, and decided to give it a try with electrics. Although they might not have known at the time, the practice was also used in Nashville on a lot of country songs and heven had a name: “Tic-toc bass.” You can hear it on “Piggies,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Glass Onion,” and “Rocky Racccoon.” The two parts were always played together and never overdubbed individually."
There's a complete section describing the recording and mixing of song in Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust if you're interested, but in the meantime, enjoy this breakdown of the song (which mostly likely came from tracks from the band's Rock Band game).


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Unknown said...

there also is a 12 string doubling the bass/6-string bass, during the middle eight ("i don't know why.."). you can hear it on the isolated tracks.

Anonymous said...

Cool, thanks! The Clapton section is awesome - I've never noticed some of the more subtle parts that he's playing in the song. Any idea what guitar he's using? Was it an SG as suggested by the video?

Isaac said...

Hi Bobby--love this breakdown, of course it's such a wonderful song.

However it's a bit hyperbolic to say it's the only time a non-Beatle had played on their recordings.

Even their first single, "Love Me Do", originally had drums by a different drummer, other musicians played strings and horns on "Yesterday", "Penny Lane" and many others, and of course George Martin had played piano on many of their tracks.



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