A little while back, George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” topped the Thalia poll of greatest Beatles solo albums.
It’ll come as no surprise that the record has been spinning on the Thalia office turntable since then, and we’ve been reliving the classic album in all it’s glory. But, while listening to the LP’s lead single – “My Sweet Lord” – for the umpteenth time, it struck me that the Harrison original, while near perfectly executed, isn’t my favorite version of the song.
Alright, alright, you can put your pitchforks down! I’m aware that what I’m saying might sound like heresy, especially to the “quiet one’s” most fervent devotees, but hear me out.
Or rather, hear Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood and Dani Harrison and Prince out. Especially Prince.
Back in 2004, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this one-off supergroup teamed up for a tribute to George Harrison.
And what a tribute! Normally, I find these supergroup combinations a bit staid. But, these guys get it. To be fair, you’d expect that from some of them. Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne had a close working relationship with Harrison in Travelling Willburys. Dani is a blood relative – George’s son – you don’t get much closer than that.
The MVP of the whole thing, though, is most definitely the Purple One. The moment Prince comes in with the climactic guitar solo – it’s the 3:28 mark if you want to skip straight to it, though with a rendition this good throughout, why would you? – is utterly transcendent. The first time I heard it, aptly enough given the song’s title, I think I cried.
I’ve always loved Prince’s guitar playing, and I think he deserves more recognition for it. Given the man’s undisputed musical polymath status, his six-string prowess was ultimately obscured by his myriad skills in singing, dancing, arranging, producing and writing. But, my god, when he had that axe in his hand and the solo break came, Prince slayed with the best of them.
And it don’t come better than “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
Why is it so good? Well, for that, I defer you to John Cheese of Cracked.com, who included Prince in his “5 Rock Stars You Won't Believe Are Secretly Musical Geniuses” list back in 2012 (unfortunately, the original article seems to be gone from Cracked, but you can read the Prince section in full here https://prince.org/msg/7/386569)
“…as flamboyant as Prince is, he's one of the few musicians in the world who know how to use subtlety instead of cramming the solo right in the listeners' faces and screaming, "Listen to how f--king good I am!" He uses his talent only as a means of enhancing the song as a whole -- not using the song as a mechanism for showing off his guitar skills. But when he does cut loose ... holy f--k:
That's him playing a tribute of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." And for the first half of the video, he plays a basic rhythm piece so subtle that if it wasn't for his blindingly red pimp hat, you'd hardly know he was there. But then the solo comes around, and he just explodes…
So yeah, behind all the sparkling women's clothing and gyrating f--k-dancing lies one of the greatest guitarists to ever walk the planet.”
Couldn’t have put it better myself. And, 15 years on, that incendiary guitar performance rings out clearer than ever, for my money at least.
Which underrated guitarists do you think deserve more credit? And, which cover versions do you think surpass the originals? Share your stories in the comments.