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Out Of The Vault: Eric Clapton – March 30, 2013

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Eric Patrick Clapton, CBE, (born 30 March 1945) is an English guitarist and singer-songwriter. He is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist, and separately as a member of The Yardbirds and Cream. Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time. Clapton ranked second in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".

In October 1963 Clapton joined The Yardbirds, a blues-influenced rock and roll band, and stayed with them until March 1965. Clapton departed from the Yardbirds to join John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in April 1965, only to quit a few months later. In the summer of 1965 he left for Greece with a band called The Glands, which included his old friend Ben Palmer on piano. In November 1965 he rejoined John Mayall. During his second Bluesbreakers stint, Clapton gained a reputation as the best blues guitarist on the club circuit, and gained the nickname "Slowhand". Clapton left the Bluesbreakers in July 1966 (to be replaced by Peter Green) and was invited by drummer Ginger Baker to play in his newly formed band Cream, one of the earliest supergroups, with Jack Bruce on bass (also of Manfred Mann, the Bluesbreakers, and the Graham Bond Organization).  In 28 months, Cream had become a commercial success, selling millions of records and playing throughout the U.S. and Europe. They redefined the instrumentalist's role in rock and were one of the first blues-rock bands to emphasize musical virtuosity and lengthy jazz-style improvisation sessions.

Though Cream was hailed as one of the greatest groups of its day, and the adulation of Clapton as a guitar hero reached new heights, the supergroup was short-lived.  Cream's farewell album, Goodbye, featuring live performances recorded at The Forum, Los Angeles, 19 October 1968, was released shortly after Cream disbanded; it also featured the studio single "Badge", co-written by Clapton and George Harrison. Clapton met Harrison and became friends with him after the Beatles shared a bill with the Clapton-era Yardbirds at the London Palladium. The close friendship between Clapton and Harrison resulted in Clapton playing on Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" from the Beatles' White Album (1968). Harrison also released his solo debut album, Wonderwall Music, in 1968. It became the first of many Harrison solo records to feature Clapton on guitar. Clapton would go largely uncredited for his contributions to Harrison's albums due to contractual restraints. The pair would often play live together as each other's guest. 

Clapton's next group, Blind Faith (1969), was composed of Cream drummer Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood of Traffic, and Ric Grech of Family, and yielded one LP and one arena-circuit tour. The supergroup debuted before 100,000 fans in London's Hyde Park on 7 June 1969. They performed several dates in Scandinavia and began a sold-out American tour in July before their only album was released. The LP Blind Faith consisted of just six songs, one of them a 15-minute jam entitled "Do What You Like". Blind Faith dissolved after less than seven months.

Clapton subsequently toured as a sideman for an act that had opened for Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. He also played two dates as a member of The Plastic Ono Band that autumn, including a recorded performance at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival in September 1969 released as the album Live Peace in Toronto 1969.  On 15 December 1969 Clapton performed with John Lennon, George Harrison, and others as the Plastic Ono Band at a fundraiser for UNICEF in London.

Delaney Bramlett encouraged Clapton in his singing and writing. During the summer of 1969, Clapton and Bramlett contributed to the Music From Free Creek "supersession" project. Clapton, appearing as "King Cool" for contractual reasons, played with Dr. John on three songs, joined by Bramlett on two tracks.

Using the Bramletts' backing group and an all-star cast of session players (including Leon Russell and Stephen Stills), Clapton recorded his first solo album during two brief tour hiatuses, fittingly named Eric Clapton. Delaney Bramlett co-wrote six of the songs with Clapton, and Bonnie Bramlett co-wrote "Let It Rain". The album yielded the unexpected U.S. No. 18 hit, J. J. Cale's "After Midnight". Clapton went with Delaney and Bonnie from the stage to the studio with the Dominos to record George Harrison's All Things Must Pass in spring 1970. During this busy period, Clapton also recorded with other artists including Dr. John, Leon Russell, Plastic Ono Band, Billy Preston, and Ringo Starr.

With the intention to counteract the "star" cult faction that had begun to form around him, Clapton assembled a new band composed of Delaney and Bonnie's former rhythm section, Bobby Whitlock as keyboardist and vocalist, Carl Radle as the bassist, and drummer Jim Gordon, with Clapton playing guitar. It was his intention to show that he need not fill a starring role, and functioned well as a member of an ensemble. During this period, Clapton was increasingly influenced by The Band and their album Music from Big Pink, saying, "What I appreciated about The Band was that they were more concerned with songs and singing. They would have three- and four-part harmonies, and the guitar was put back into perspective as being accompaniment. That suited me well, because I had gotten so tired of the virtuosity—or pseudo-virtuosity—thing of long, boring guitar solos just because they were expected. The Band brought things back into perspective. The priority was the song." Firstly naming the band, "Eric Clapton and Friends", the name "Derek and the Dominos" was a fluke. It occurred when the band's provisional name of "Del and the Dynamos" was misread as Derek and the Dominos. Clapton's biography states that Tony Ashton of Ashton, Gardner and Dyke told Clapton to call the band "Del and the Dominos", since "Del" was his nickname for Eric Clapton. Del and Eric were combined and the final name became "Derek and the Dominos".

Clapton's close friendship with George Harrison brought him into contact with Harrison's wife, Pattie Boyd, with whom he became deeply infatuated. When she spurned his advances, Clapton's unrequited affections prompted most of the material for the Dominos' album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970). Heavily blues-influenced, the album features the twin lead guitars of Duane Allman and Clapton, with Allman's slide guitar as a key ingredient of the sound. Working at Criteria Studios in Miami with Atlantic Records producer Tom Dowd, who had worked with Clapton on Cream's Disraeli Gears, the band recorded a double album.

The album features the hit love song "Layla", inspired by the classical poet of Persian literature, Nizami Ganjavi's The Story of Layla and Majnun, a copy of which Ian Dallas had given to Clapton. The book moved Clapton profoundly, as it was the tale of a young man who fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful, unavailable woman and who went crazy because he could not marry her.  The two parts of "Layla" were recorded in separate sessions: the opening guitar section was recorded first, and for the second section, laid down several months later, drummer Jim Gordon composed and played the piano part.

In 1974, Clapton was finally partnered with Pattie Boyd (they would not actually marry until 1979) and no longer using heroin (although starting to drink heavily). He assembled a low-key touring band that included Radle, Miami guitarist George Terry, keyboardist Dick Sims, drummer Jamie Oldaker, and vocalists Yvonne Elliman and Marcy Levy (also known as Marcella Detroit). With this band Clapton recorded 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974), an album with an emphasis on more compact songs and fewer guitar solos; the cover version of "I Shot The Sheriff" was Clapton's first No. 1 hit and was important in bringing reggae and the music of Bob Marley to a wider audience. The 1975 album There's One in Every Crowd continued this trend. The band toured the world and subsequently released the 1975 live LP, E.C. Was Here.  Clapton continued to release albums and toured regularly. Highlights of the period include No Reason to Cry (a collaboration with Bob Dylan and The Band); Slowhand, which featured "Wonderful Tonight" (another song inspired by Boyd); and a J.J. Cale cover, "Cocaine". In 1976 he performed, alongside a string of notable guests, to pay tribute to the farewell performance of The Band, filmed in a Martin Scorsese documentary called The Last Waltz

For most of the 1970s, Clapton's output bore the influence of the mellow style of J.J. Cale and the reggae of Bob Marley. His version of Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" helped reggae reach a mass market.

In 1981 Clapton was invited by producer Martin Lewis to appear at the Amnesty International benefit The Secret Policeman's Other Ball. Clapton accepted the invitation and teamed up with Jeff Beck to perform a series of duets—reportedly their first-ever billed stage collaboration. Three of the performances were released on the album of the show, and one of the songs was featured in the film. The performances heralded a return to form and prominence for Clapton in the new decade. Many factors had influenced Clapton's comeback, including his "deepening commitment to Christianity", to which he had converted prior to his heroin addiction.  

In 1984 he performed on Pink Floyd member Roger Waters' solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, and went on tour with Waters following the release of the album. Since then Waters and Clapton have had a close relationship.  Clapton, now a seasoned charity performer, played at the Live Aid concert on 13 July 1985.  When offered a slot close to peak viewing hours, he was apparently flattered. As Clapton recovered from his addictions, his album output continued in the 1980s, including two produced with Phil Collins, 1985's Behind the Sun, which produced the hits "Forever Man" and "She's Waiting", and 1986's August.  The 1990s brought a series of 32 concerts to the Royal Albert Hall, such as the 24 Nights series of concerts that took place around January through February 1990, and February through March 1991. On 27 August 1990, fellow blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who was touring with Clapton, and three members of their road crew were killed in a helicopter crash between concerts. Then, on 20 March 1991, Clapton's four-year-old son, Conor, died after falling from the 53rd-floor window of his mother's friend's New York City apartment at 117 East 57th Street. Clapton's grief was expressed in the song "Tears in Heaven", which was co-written by Will Jennings. At the 35th Grammy Awards, Clapton received six Grammy Awards for the single, and his Unplugged album.  On 9 September 1992, Clapton performed "Tears in Heaven" at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, and won the award for Best Male Video.

A recipient of seventeen Grammy Awards, and the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, in 2004 Clapton was awarded a CBE at Buckingham Palace for services to music. In 1998, Clapton, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, founded the Crossroads Centre on Antigua, a medical facility for recovering substance abusers.

 

The Yardbirds – FOR YOUR LOVE- "For Your Love" is a 1965 single written by future 10cc member Graham Gouldman and performed by the British Invasion band The Yardbirds. The song was featured in the 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  From the CD box set – Crossroads, 1988.

John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers – HIDEAWAY – "Hide Away" or "Hideaway" is a blues guitar instrumental that has become "a standard for countless blues and rock musicians performing today".  First recorded in 1960 by Freddie King, the song became an R&B and pop chart hit. Since then, it has been interpreted and recorded by numerous blues and other musicians.  Although "Hide Away" is credited to Freddie King and Sonny Thompson (pianist and A&R man at Federal Records) in an interview, Freddie King said that "Hide Away" came from a Hound Dog Taylor song called "Taylor's Boogie".  Freddie King acknowledged that "Hide Away" has elements of several songs, but arranged in his own way.  From the CD box set – Crossroads, 1988.

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Cream– BADGE – "Badge" is a song performed by Cream, written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison. It was included as a track on Cream's final album, Goodbye. "Badge" was originally an untitled track. During the production transfer for the album Goodbye, the original music sheet was used to produce the liner notes and track listing. The only discernible word on the page was "bridge" (indicating the song's bridge section). Due to Harrison's handwriting, however, Clapton misread it as "badge" — and the song was titled.

Harrison remembered the story differently: "I helped Eric write 'Badge' you know. Each of them had to come up with a song for that Goodbye Cream album and Eric didn't have his written. We were working across from each other and I was writing the lyrics down and we came to the middle part so I wrote 'Bridge.' Eric read it upside down and cracked up laughing-- 'What's BADGE?' he said. After that, Ringo walked in drunk and gave us that line about the swans living in the park."

Cream – CROSSROADS – "Cross Road Blues" is a song by delta blues singer Robert Johnson; released in 1936. Because of the historical significance of "Cross Road Blues", it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.  On March 10, 1968, Cream recorded a live version "Crossroads" from their performance at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. The version was arranged by guitarist Eric Clapton, and included two lines borrowed from Johnson's "Traveling Riverside Blues."

Blind Faith – CAN’T FIND MY WAY HOME - "Can't Find My Way Home" is a song written by Steve Winwood, that was first released by Blind Faith on their 1969 album Blind Faith. Rolling Stone, in a review of the album, noted that the song featured "Ginger Baker's highly innovative percussion" and judged the lyric "Well I'm wasted and I can't find my way home" to be "delightful".

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Delaney & Bonnie – COMIN’ HOME – Written by Bonnie Bramlett, Delaney Bramlett, and Eric Clapton, and was originally released on On Tour with Eric Clapton -- the third album by Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, 1970.  The album features Delaney and Bonnie's best-known touring band, including Eric Clapton, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock, Leon Russell, Dave Mason, and George Harrison under his pseudonym "L'Angelo Misterioso." Many of the players on this album would later go on to work with Clapton on his solo debut. Whitlock, Radle, and Gordon would form with Clapton his band Derek and the Dominoes for Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.

Derek & The Dominoes – BELL BOTTOM BLUES – “Bell Bottom Blues" is a song written by Eric Clapton and performed by Derek and the Dominos. It deals with unrequited love and appears on the album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.  "Bell Bottom Blues" was recorded before Duane Allman joined the recording sessions, so Clapton is the only guitarist on the song. Clapton compensates for this by playing multiple guitar parts, including a sensitive, George Harrison-style guitar solo and chime-like harmonics. The other musicians are Bobby Whitlock on Hammond organ, Carl Radle on bass and percussion and Jim Gordon on drums, including tabla and backwards snare.  Whitlock also sings occasional harmony vocals.  A retrospective of the album in Rolling Stone praised the song as an epic that "feels as if it's going to shatter from the heat of its romantic agony."

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Eric Clapton – COCAINE - "Cocaine" is a song written and recorded by JJ Cale in 1976, but also known as a cover version recorded by Eric Clapton. Allmusic calls the latter "among [Clapton's] most enduringly popular hits" and notes that "even for an artist like Clapton with a huge body of high-quality work, 'Cocaine' ranks among his best."  Glyn Johns, who had previously worked with The Who, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones, produced the Clapton recording, which was released on Clapton's 1977 album Slowhand and as a single in 1980. "Cocaine" was one of several of Cale's songs recorded by Clapton, including "After Midnight" and "Travelin' Light".  From the CD box set – Crossroads, 1988.

Eric Clapton – AFTER MIDNIGHT - "After Midnight" was written by J. J. Cale, which was later successfully covered by Eric Clapton. The laid back boogie feel of "After Midnight" is a prime example of Cale's signature style. Cale had written the song and released a demo version in 1966.  This is the second version of the song that Clapton recorded – and it was also used in a beer commercial – which got Clapton, a publically-recovering alcoholic, much bad press.  From the CD box set – Crossroads, 1988.

Eric Clapton – FURTHER ON UP THE ROAD - "Farther Up the Road" or "Further on Up the Road" is a blues song first recorded in 1957 by Bobby "Blue" Bland. It has been performed and recorded by numerous blues and other artists, including Eric Clapton.  "Farther Up the Road" is credited to Joe Medwick, a Houston-area independent songwriter/broker, and Duke Records owner Don Robey. Eric Clapton has recorded several versions of "Farther Up the Road" over the years, usually calling it after its opening lyrics "Further on Up the Road". Clapton uses the lyrics from the original, but the song is performed at a faster tempo as an unembellished shuffle. The song first appeared on his 1975 live album E. C. Was Here.

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George Harrison & Eric Clapton – WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS - While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is a song written by George Harrison, first recorded by the Beatles in 1968 for their eponymous double album (also known as The White Album). The song features lead guitar by Eric Clapton, although he was not formally credited on the album.

On their 1991 tour of Japan, Harrison and Clapton performed a live version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" with additional background vocals. An edit combining parts of the 14 December and 17 December Tokyo performances of the song is included on the album Live in Japan.