McCartney and Clapton: Two from the Concert for George

September 2, 2020 • 2:30 pm

They don’t build rock musicians—or songs—like these any more.  Here’s a cast of all-stars, featuring McCartney and Clapton, doing two songs at the Concert for George (Harrison), held in 2002 at the Royal Albert Hall.

The first is the Beatles song “Something“, written by Harrison. McCartney starts it on the ukulele before the electric guitars and drums (four sets, with Ringo on one) kick in. Note that the song, according to Harrison, was likely written for his first wife Pattie Boyd, who divorced him and married Eric Clapton (the song “Layla” is about her). Multiple ironies, but a great song and a great performance.

One of Harrison’s best songs, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Three of the four original people on the released recording: McCartney, Starr, and Clapton (uncredited on the album), are there again, while Harrison’s son Dhani (who looks freakishly like his dad) plays acoustic guitar with pickup.

Isn’t it a pity. . . . you won’t find anything like this in modern rock or pop. Nothing even comes close. But all things must pass.

40 thoughts on “McCartney and Clapton: Two from the Concert for George

  1. To *innovate* like these musicians – to make their own new sound built from their own listening and not just make throwback sounds – it’s hard to find, or even recognize. I’d put in a vote for Jacob Collier – found by Quincy Jones, who, by the way, arranged the original Fly Me To The Moon recording. I thought it was Basie.

  2. It’s too bad Paul wasn’t playing bass on Something…I love this bass part on that (though apparently George found it annoyingly busy). It’s very difficult to play, though… ;-p

  3. Perhaps they don’t make music like this any more. But there are still good guitarists around. John Mayer is as good as Clapton. Clapton said so himself.

    1. It’s an awfully high bar to ask people to make music like The Beatles, after all. It’s a bit like expecting some individual physicist to suddenly make contributions that match Einstein or Newton.

      1. They don’t have to make music like the Beatles; they could make it like Steely Dan, the late Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac, etc. It’s a brave person who would argue that the average quality of rock music today is as good as it was during the era of the Beatles, and I’m averaging across all songs now.

  4. Here’s another version two years later, with Dhani Harrison looking distinctly more grown up. No Clapton, but Prince instead, who completely steals the show.

    1. …And of course stealing the show under such circumstances, on a Beatles classic, with a guitar solo that builds on Clapton’s original by tearing it to shreds and adding a bunch of stuff is pretty impressive! Dhani seems especially happy with it, and the usually laid back Tom Petty can’t help but get into it too.

      1. And seeing Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne on stage together reminds me what a great group the Traveling Wilburys were. Not too many left now

      2. Yes, he raises it a level without losing the basic thread of the song. Speaks to he great musicianship.

        I am not a huge Prince fan; but he was one helluva musician and guitar player.

        I do like this though:

    2. Prince steals every show. I am fortunate to have seen him three times. The first was in 1981 at the Park West in Chicago – capacity 1,000. Great hardly begins to describe it.

      He performed an outdoor show in Chicago in 2013 at Promontory Point on Lake Michigan, not far from PCC(e). It was for George Lucas’ wedding.
      One description of the event:
      June 29, 2013—Promontory Point
      Prince plays a set at Hyde Park’s beautiful peninsula-esque park district locale Promontory Point, rocking the South Side for the wedding of local-gal-made-good Mellody Hobson to aspiring museum curator George Lucas. Although the concert is limited to the A-listers and aliens in attendance (including Rahm, Jesse Jackson, Mork and Luke Skywalker), the loud, funky big band is audible to the Prince-loving peasants who line the perimeter.

  5. I think the breakup of the Beatles was good for Harrison. He made some great music once he was out of the shadow of Lennon and McCartney.

    Harrison was only 17 when the Beatles were formed. Lennon was 20 and McCartney 18. May not seem like a big aged difference but at that age it is. I always get a kick out of the Beatles being seen as the nice boys while the Rolling Stones were rebels. The Stones were all middle class guys from the greater London area. Jagger was a student at LSE. The Beatles were working class from Liverpool.

    1. It was all about the image. The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, had to clean up their image–wearing suits, bowing at the end of each number, etc.–to make them acceptable to the bigwigs who ran British show business at the time. (Paul later said something like “Rock & roll was still ‘show business’ when we started.” They once appeared on a children’s TV show with a ventriloquist.)

      Andrew Loog Oldham, the Stones’ manager, deliberately gave them a seedy, violent image to make them stand out from the Beatles. He said that the Beatles were a group that your mum & dad could enjoy, but there were plenty of teens who wouldn’t want a group that their parents approved of. Hence, the bad-boy persona. Mick Jagger once said, “The Beatles were as disgusting as we were, honestly.”

      Ironically, Oldham started out working for Epstein and the Beatles before taking on the Stones. He took what he learned from Epstein and reversed it.

    2. Sore to bust this myth. John Lennon may have written ‘Working Class Hero’ but he was brought up in a very middle class area of Liverpool unlike McCartney who really did come from a working-class background

      1. When Paul met John, he was impressed to learn that John had a cousin who was a dentist. Paul didn’t have anyone like that in his family.

  6. British record engineer and producer Glyn Johns claims in his autobiography, Sound Man,i to have recorded two songs inspired by Pattie Boyd: a demo of George Harrison playing “Something” (in Johns’ version, George was too shy to play it in front of the other Beatles) and Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight”. His younger brother Andy, who was involved in recording four of Led Zeppelin’s albums (II through to Houses of the Holy after Glyn himself had been involved with their first album) was later married to one of Boyd’s sisters.

  7. In the UK, the Rock Against Racism movement was founded in part after Clapton’s racist remarks on stage in 1976. I appreciate that he was going through a lot of personal problems / addictions back then, but for a guy inspired by the Blues and black musicians it’s hard to understand what he was up to, and his later statements about immigration don’t help: Luckily for him, his fans aren’t part of the Cancel Culture generation, I suppose. It doesn’t detract from his musicianship, but I certainly don’t share his political views.

  8. Hello all, thanks Jerry Coyne for finding the video on YouTube. I want to start by saying I know nothing about playing music or arranging songs, but I do like listening to excellent music, I also like watching magic and I’m not interested at all how they “do”the trick. So I want to ask the group if anybody knows Why there were three or four sets of drums playing during this song, especially when one of the drummers was Ringo! Just curious.

    1. Because they can and because it was Ringo and Clapton and McCartney and the rest of the really great musicians in that band for just one night.

  9. Please forgive the long comment: but It’s interesting to think about:

    • composer / writer
    vis a vis
    • performer

    I think the stature of Clapton, McCartney, and Harrison is on par for their genre as Mozart, Beethoven, etc. is for theirs. They established and added to their repertoires.

    But that breaks down somehow at some point.

    “Classical” music audiences are required to listen to modern performances of the quintessential composers (Mozart, Beethoven) – starting from the first recordings to current live performers. As such, there is no shortage of performers covering the repertoire.

    Jazz : sort of the same thing. New performers, old repertoire.

    here, the composers are also the performers, though sadly, Lennon and Harrison are gone. But I think the audience wants to see Clapton playing Clapton, McCartney playing McCartney – Wilson playing Wilson.

    But otherwise, audiences seek out amazing performers of the repertoire. Who is that for rock, pop, even metal?What is the future going to bring? I think cover bands are fun, but I’m not sure musicians want to be known as a cover band. I think they’re looking for a new sound.

    What explains the discrepancy in performance between “rock”/pop music and classical/jazz?

  10. Another great performance from the same concert: Paul McCartney singing “All Things Must Pass,” with Clapton on acoustic guitar.

  11. In watching “While My Guitar gently weeps” I need point out that I looked at the surrounding and supporting personnel. The stagehands, the guitar techs, background singers and roadies. Many times these folks repair to the wings and wait for the show to be over but with such an amazing array of talent they are all just upstage of the band and dialed in to watching and listening.

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