Cheeky references to their contemporaries occasionally popped up in the work of The Beatles. The cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band includes a doll wearing a fan-made sweater for The Rolling Stones, while ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’ makes a direct reference to the band’s personal assistant, Peter Brown.
Direct shoutouts were rare, however, and more often the band opted to include little references that only the people around them would recognise. Of course, once these references were made in Beatles songs they would become widely known. How else would we have learned that Eric Clapton had a major sweet tooth if not for ‘Savoy Truffle’?
“‘Savoy Truffle’ on the White Album was written for Eric,” Harrison confirmed in 1977. “He’s got this real sweet tooth and he’d just had his mouth worked on. His dentist said he was through with candy. So as a tribute I wrote, ‘You’ll have to have them all pulled out after the Savoy Truffle’. The truffle was some kind of sweet, just like all the rest – cream tangerine, ginger sling – just candy, to tease Eric.”
“‘Savoy Truffle’ is a funny one written whilst hanging out with Eric Clapton in the sixties,” Harrison reiterated in 1979. “He always had a toothache but he ate a lot of chocolates … once he saw a box he had to eat them all. He was over at my house, and I had a box of Good News chocolates on the table and wrote the song from the names inside the lid. I got stuck with the two bridges for a while and Derek Taylor wrote some of the words in the middle – ‘You know that what you eat you are.’”
Harrison and Clapton were close during this time, with Harrison often hanging out with Clapton and even occasionally playing hooky from board meetings to be with his friend. One of those excursions would later inspire ‘Here Comes the Sun’, but during the White Album sessions, Harrison brought Clapton in to guest on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’.
“Paul and John were so used to just cranking out their own tunes that it was very difficult at times to get serious and record one of mine,” Harrison recalled in The Beatles Anthology book. “It wasn’t happening … so I went home that night thinking ‘Well, that’s a shame’, because I knew the song was pretty good.” The solution came from Clapton’s appearance, which caused the rest of the band to focus and, in Harrison’s words, “try a little harder”.
Check out ‘Savoy Truffle’ down below.