It’s easy to deride Eric Clapton. After all, he has had a chequered career, living off a diluted form of Robert Johnson’s legacy most of his life. He managed to get second billing with John Mayall (not exactly a shrinking violet himself) on his Bluesbreakers album. Thereafter, he became a guitar god playing in the supergroup Cream (a fine band composed of three massive egos all vying for attention, with the resultant splendid moments coupled with acres of boring waffle and nary a Festive Fifty entry to their name). If the endless drum solos and guitar heroics coupled with impenetrable lyrics are not to your taste, maybe the recently available Top Gear sessions, showing their tight, punchy blues style to good effect, are more to your taste, as they are to mine.
Cream, Peel Session 1967-10-24
Eric Clapton Interview/Born Under A Bad Sign/Outside Woman Blues/Take It Back/Sunshine Of Your Love
Cream, Peel Session 1968-01-09
With stardom and wildly unrealistic expectations clouding his judgement, he chose vodka, heroin and cocaine as his companions throughout the seventies. This ensured his collapse on stage and near death, followed by rehabilitation in the 80s and finally kicking his destructive habits. He founded a clinic to help others avoid the same fate. The death of his son was a spur to his creativity, and his recent work has seen him releasing a live album to great acclaim and an album tribute to his muse Johnson that is actually rather good.
Among the many bands he has played with, Derek And The Dominoes is an aggregation that is chiefly remembered for only one song: Layla (FF 1976 #2 and 1978 #31). That killer riff at the start (with notes provided by second ego Duane Allman) has resounded throughout the seventies and beyond, yet most people forget that it’s seven minutes long and breaks down into piano-based lyricism halfway through. It’s still worth it for the visceral excitement of the tune, and the lyrics aimed squarely at getting it on with Patti Boyd, then married to George Harrison but who would subsequently link up with Clapton years later. The double album that the group recorded in 1970 would not gain sales or acclaim for many years to come, and the band split acrimoniously in the throes of attempting a second LP.
Derek & The Dominoes, Layla