Over the course of their careers, George Harrison and Eric Clapton worked together on a number of musical projects and possessed a close relationship. Harrison enjoyed that Clapton, who switched from The Yardbirds to Cream and dominated the psychedelic rock scene, was a free agent in the English music scene even though he had been a part of Beatlemania for the first half of the decade. Despite The Beatles’ penchant for isolation, Clapton worked with the group on some of Harrison’s best songs.
None of The Beatles wished to interact with one another during the infamous recording sessions for The White Album. Harrison was beginning to gain favor with the Lennon/McCartney songwriting machine as the band had been straying in various artistic directions. While on a meditation retreat in India with the Maharishi, Harrison composed “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” one of his contributions to the album.
Harrison thought the song was great, but none of his bandmates seemed to be giving it a fair chance. Harrison invited Clapton to join the ‘Fabs’ on the recording session and added that he could play one of the Les Paul guitars Clapton had given to him a few months earlier because the guitarist knew he wouldn’t accomplish anything with the four of them in the same room. He even talked about it in The Beatles Anthology,
“I don’t even think they were all playing on it. So I went home and was like ‘well that’s a shame’ because I knew this song was pretty good.”
The song came together as soon as Clapton (who was using the alias Eddie Clayton) entered the room, with Paul McCartney providing a lovely piano intro and John Lennon controlling the low end on a six-string bass.
Harrison was aware that although Clapton’s assistance at the time made things easier, he ought to pay it forward. Harrison wrote “Badge,” one of Cream’s biggest successes, for Clapton to use when they tried their first pop hit attempts. Ringo Starr added the passage about swans in the park, which helped Harrison’s lyrics even though Clapton added his own signature to the song.
Harrison also revealed, “I helped Eric write ‘Badge,’ you know. Each of them had to come up with a song for that Goodbye album, and Eric didn’t have his written.”
The Beatles reached the lowest point in their existence as the musical back-and-forth continued. They put their back-to-basics project Get Back on hold in order to work with Abbey Road to create one last record while they were still at loggerheads. Harrison detested having to attend business fallout meetings while The Beatles dealt with all the stress. Harrison criticized his appointments at Apple Corps after attending far too many meetings with accountants.
He then went to Clapton’s home and began playing acoustic guitars. Harrison’s song “Here Comes the Sun” fell out of his hands, as Clapton recounts in the documentary Living in the Material World. He said: “It was a beautiful spring morning. George was just walking around the garden and just started singing. Started to sing ‘Here Comes the Sun’”.
Harrison would frequently jam with Clapton despite their friendship becoming strained after the affair with Pattie Boyd. On the album’s lead single, “Cloud Nine,” he also collaborated with Clapton; four years later, they embarked on a joint Japanese tour.