While My Guitar Gently Weeps –Prince with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne

The above is from a tribute the 2008 vh1 Hall of Fame ceremony.

Wow, and I thought Prince was just going to go through the motions and join in on the sing-along. I knew he could play guitar but he blew all those other musicians away, considering they are only song writers singing from a predefined script. Well, Jeff Lynne arranges and produces and the Washington Times labeled him the best record producer of all time). Even so, Prince does everything –he’s a song writer as well as being a virtuoso on guitar, self-produces, arranges, and plays a plethora of instruments (bringing to mind Roy Wood of ELO). I say this despite that I haven’t really liked much of his stuff since Purple Rain and the sort. I wished Prince would have played more guitar (back when I used to like his music and played guitar myself).

Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne (singer to ELO) work well in this Beatles song. They should, considering ELO made a career ripping off (or building on) the Beatles sound, and Petty with his “sedated sound” is heavily influenced (as can be noticed in “Learning to Fly” with its George Harrison feel) –although the Beatles were so much more than a band with a “drug sound”.

Side note #1: The dope feel was evident on some of the early material in his early days, when with the Heart Breakers –as can be noted in the single “Mary Jane”. Of course, some would say that Tom Petty is more than just a singer that sounds as if he’s on downers or dope, especially when considering his hits from his more rhythmical days in the (Tom Petty and the) Heart Breakers band –but those days are behind him as he’s settled into slow grandpa mode.

Side note #2: Sting (who did not participate in the song above) is another (that comes to mind) who has slowed down to composing songs snails and sloths could dance. Sting’s 1991 single “All this Time” (about the death of his father) had a Police feel and (not surprisingly) put him in the pop spot light again (reaching the top 10 on the US pop chart) –until he went back to doing whatever he does now.

Back to Prince’s performance, judging from the reaction of Prince’s band-mates –they didn’t have a clue what he was going to do. I wouldn’t doubt it if these musicians didn’t practice together and probably winged it after only one sound testing the night before. Even then, they probably only sent techs to sound test their set-ups. Still, the performance wasn’t bad, despite some problems with the harmonies.

At the end, Prince certainly looked pleased with himself –this, after throwing his guitar up in the air. I just hope it didn’t land on someone’s head.

Maurice Cepeda

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22 thoughts on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps –Prince with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne

  1. Hi Maurice,

    I was wondering if you knew who the other lead guitarist was, on this version. Poor bloke was kinda bad to start with and Price did not help either.

  2. No I don’t know who that is. He looks familiar, though, maybe from late night talk shows. Letterman or SNL from many years ago?

    I haven’t heard the original version in a while but it sounds as if the first lead guitarist learned the original solos by heart, sticking to the script. And that’s what he was hired to do. If he would have tried to do what Prince did, he would have more than likely been accused of “over playing” and found less gigs afterward. Hendrix had that problem –of being ousted for ad libbing. Contrary to the first lead guitarist, Prince has the pull to get away with that –easily attributable to eccentricity– and even having it hailed as genius –so, I wouldn’t pounce on the first lead guitarist for doing his job. He did it well.

    Yeah, it’s easy to shine when you’re last in line to finish a song (or gig), but then again, it isn’t a competition. What Prince had going is that it didn’t take away but added to the song –mostly. Prince also has a better guitar sound than the first guitarist. There were a few bits that I would not do myself, such as the flanger? with the thumb on the neck. It’s easy to get a excessively thin and even tiny sound out of the Fender line, especially with maple fret boards.

    I guess part of what Prince does is that he plays it with such ease and grace whereas Clapton doesn’t seem to anymore, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3ixBmDzylQ&feature=related) although at one time he did,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ITrQXES8kU&feature=related.

    In the link above you see some call and response work between the two guitars but this is more interesting in
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7qpfGVUd8c

    There is one other noteworthy version and that is Jeff Healey’s version. I loved the way he played guitar in general and his sound (if I recall he played cheaper version Fenders with a transistor based Ibanez distortion pedal, believe it or not), although I never liked his band –the way the drums and bass worked with his guitar playing. It was like as if the rest of the band purposely played dummied down to show off their fantastic guitar player –and don’t get me started on the sound of their individual instruments –having all the tonal qualities of instruments worthy of head-bangers.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJh3KaIKDAw&feature=related

    Enjoy.

  3. I’m at a loss.
    A wikipedia article only lists the following players. (Steve Ferrone is the drummer)
    “In 2004, George Harrison was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was played in tribute by fellow inductee Prince, along with Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Ferrone and Dhani Harrison (video).”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/While_My_Guitar_Gently_Weeps

    The rhythm guitarist looks like Dhani Harrison, though.

  4. Dan Mullis :
    The other guitarist is Stevie Winwood. (whi is excellent)

    Winwood is playing the hammond b-3. Looks like Scott Thurston playing lead, stepping in for a missing Mike Campbell?.

  5. whats the big deal? I mean i loved the solo prince did but!!!! All it was was an “a pentatonic scale all the way “! it isnt like he knew he could play from the “c major” scales which is the same as A minor pentitonic scale – but what he did was play his very simple “A minor pentitonic sacle” tasty!! with taste thats is “very well done with a nice guitar tone. BUT thats all he did some of my 10 year old students can copy what he did in 3 minutes

    • i agree john, sure the solo was great, and prince did have some energy, but he wasnt the only one that did well there, and they have to had practiced before hand or it would’ve all went wrong.

      • @John & @Nathan: I’m sure East Indian sitarists would say the same thing about your playing, “Whats the big deal? All it was was a western octave based scale all the way! No micro-tones!!”.

        To put it another way, in my youth I was told ‘It’s not about what you play but what you don’t play”. Now after almost 30 years of playing guitar, I realize that’s true. To put it in my terms, “Music is about space, the empty space between the sounds, not about sound in of itself, and certainly __not__ about how many notes your scale has”.

        __It’s not a male measuring contest!__

        You said it yourself John, “taste”. And I’ll go on a limb and say that Prince is a virtuoso on the guitar and that’s what gets me, although I think he realizes that guitar virtuosity does not make good songs, is not an end to itself.

        As for young kids outplaying us older players, that’s not news, but athleticism (as much the number of notes in a scale) is not what it’s about. Nor is it about copying what others have done like a virtual photocopier –another thing young kids are good at.

        Personally, I am not impressed by 10 year olds that can play circles around us. Do you know why? Put them on the spot and ask them to write a good song, let alone a hit, and they fail miserably. But that’s “cut and paste” culture that grew up knowing little more than magazine provided tabs and computers for you.

  6. exactly right marro. i suck at guitar but i play and play constantly. it’s easy to mimic but difficult to create. Harrison banged this out some time ago and it is as awesome today as it was the first day it hit the street.

  7. Just came across this article and comments…better late than never but I just had to reply : Jeff Lynn voted best record producer of all time ? He managed to have Tom Petty, the travelling Wilburys, the “new” beatles song and everything else he touched sound just like ELO : no depth 13 in a dozen american FM rock with the accompanying flat drum beat.
    A producer should bring out the best in a band, not have all of them sound like he did…

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