George Harrison said he wrote “This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying)” about being down, not out, on his 1974 American tour. The former Beatle’s first solo tour did not go as well as he’d planned.
‘This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying)’ is a sequel to ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’
During a 1987 interview with Timothy White at Musician Magazine, George explained that he just liked songs about guitars.
“Concerning my ‘Guitars’ songs, if you are a guitar player, guitars have a genuine fascination and it’s nice to have songs about them,” George said. “I recently saw a guitar program on the TV in England and it got into how it’s phallic and sexual. Maybe that’s so.
“I don’t know in my case, but ever since I was a kid I’ve loved guitar and songs about them, like B.B. King’s ‘Lucille.’ But the sequels in this case had to do in large part with me not enjoying ‘Guitar Gently Weeps.’ I love what Eric did on guitar for the original, but versions I did live are better in some respects.
“See, in The Beatles days, I never liked my singing. I couldn’t sing very good. I was always very paranoid, very nervous, and that inhibited my singing.”
“This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying)” allowed George to make the song he really wanted to make when he recorded “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” The tune also allowed George to vent about his 1974 Dark Horse Tour.
George Harrison said he wrote the song about being down, not out, on his 1974 American tour
The former Beatle always vented about things in his songs. After his copyright infringement lawsuit in the early 1970s, George wrote “This Song.” When he couldn’t stand John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s whining anymore, he wrote “Wah Wah.” “This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying)” was no different.
He told White, “‘This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying)’ came about because the press and critics tried to nail me on that 1974-1975 tour, got nasty.”
George added, “I had no voice on the road and I was shagged-out, knackered. I had a choice of canceling the tour and forgetting it or going out and singing hoarse. I always think people will give others more credit than they do, so I assumed they’d know I’m in bad voice but still feel the music’s plentiful and good.”
He concluded, “I wrote that song about being stuck on a limb, and being down, but not out.”
The press shredded George on his American tour, but he never gave up.
George never gave up on his 1974 American tour
Before George started his Dark Horse tour in 1974, he did a lot of recording. That’s what wore out his voice. However, George wasn’t a quitter.
“That was the problem in 1974, when I toured America,” George explained to Rolling Stone in 1979. “I’d done three albums before I went on the road, and I was still trying to finish my own album as we were rehearsing, and also we’d done this other tour in Europe with these classical Indian musicians. By the time it came to going on the road I was already exhausted.
“With the Beatles we used to do thirty minutes onstage… Suddenly to have to be playing two and one-half hours for forty-seven gigs, flying all round, I was wasted.
“But I had that choice of canceling the tour and getting everybody uptight, or going through with it. So I decided, ‘Sod it, it’s probably better to do it.'”
George also had laryngitis. Rolling Stone wrote, “He had a nasty case of laryngitis, and snorting mountains of cocaine didn’t exactly make his voice any sweeter. By the end of the tour, his voice was absolutely shredded.”
George had to constantly gargle with a mixture of honey, vinegar, and warm water to soothe his aching throat. However, it didn’t soothe crowds. Fans and critics were upset by George’s voice, the long Indian music sessions, and the absence of Beatles tunes.
George got through his American tour. When he arrived home, he collapsed in his garden, physically and mentally worn out. He didn’t tour again until 1991. It’s understandable. At least he got to vent about the tour on “This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying).”