Revisiting George Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ Sequel
"This Guitar (Can't Keep From Crying)" simultaneously recalled one of George Harrison's greatest moments with the Beatles, even as it bid that era a definitive goodbye. Released in December 1975, this would serve as the final single from Apple Records.
Dig deeper into its narrative, however, and "This Guitar (Can't Keep From Crying)" speaks to something far more timely: Harrison's bitter resentment at the way he'd been treated during a difficult 1974 North American tour, the first of its find by a former member of the Fab Four.
He was stung by criticism – principally from Rolling Stone – that he hadn't payed more attention to his legacy with the Beatles, instead crafting a set list with touring partner Ravi Shankar that blended rock, jazz, funk and world music. Worse, Harrison had run himself down preparing a last-second album and then honoring a tour schedule that featured a string of physically demanding two-a-day concerts. His voice faltered badly, and that only increased the scrutiny.
Unfortunately, "This Guitar" didn't suffer a much kinder fate, drawing predictably unfavorable comparisons to its more famous, similarly named counterpart, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" from the Beatles' White Album. In reality, however, this track – though again powered by dueling solos, this time from Harrison and regular solo Beatles collaborator Jesse Ed Davis – has little in common with "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," beyond the title. Instead, its clear sense of angry post-tour depression does a better job of looking forward than back, offering lasting insight into the Harrison's next period – which saw him slowly recede from the public eye.
Listen to George Harrison Perform 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' in 1974
Writing during a holiday in Hawaii, Harrison later told Musician in 1987 that "This Guitar (Can't Keep from Crying)" "came about because the press and critics tried to nail me on the 1974–5 tour. They got really nasty." Harrison gave as good as he got, adding the lyrics, "Learned to get up when I fall, can even climb Rolling Stone walls. ... Thought by now you knew the score, you missed the point just like before. While you attack, create offense, I'll put it down to your ignorance."
That set the tone for Extra Texture (Read All About It), George Harrison's darkest, most downbeat record. In fact, bassist Klaus Voormann – a friend from Harrison's mop top days and another regular solo Beatles collaborator – is reportedly missing from "This Guitar (Can't Keep from Crying)" because he tired of the bad vibes surrounding these sessions. Harrison instead overdubbed a keyboard bassline, completing a song that also featured David Foster on piano, Gary Wright on an ARP synth that offers a feel very similar to his contemporary hit "Dream Weaver," and Jim Keltner on drums.
Alas, "This Guitar (Can't Keep from Crying)" became the first Harrison single to fall short of the Billboard Top 40. In fact, it didn't even chart. Thus began a lengthy period of disengagement, as Harrison refused to tour again for some 17 years. When he finally returned, Jim Keltner would be on hand again, collaborating with Harrison on the platinum-selling Cloud Nine and Traveling Wilburys projects in the late '80s.