Monday, 15 February 2010

What Eric did next

First Time I Met The Blues is by no means a history book, but in the course of tracing the career of The Hornets, it does also tell a version of the story of British blues in the 60s and beyond. And, not least because the band’s guitarist, Des, is obsessed with Eric Clapton, old Slowhand plays a leading role in that story.

I’ve already written about the iconic place of Five Live Yardbirds in British blues mythology, and the next LP that Eric appeared on was, if anything, even more important to blues fans. The very fact that John Mayall, one of the godfathers of the blues scene, tinkered with the name of his band (brand?) suggests how important it was to him at the time. He named the album after the band, Blues Breakers, and changed the artist name to ‘John Mayall with Eric Clapton’. You can’t say he didn’t recognise the main attraction for record buyers.

Behind the famous sleeve (it’s sometimes known as ‘the Beano album’, after the kids’ magazine Eric is reading) is an LP that’s less guitar-heavy than you might expect. But Clapton left The Yardbirds for Mayall’s band (with a couple of detours on the way) because he wanted to play proper blues, not pop, and this is certainly a proper blues album, suffused with Mayall’s authentic-sounding vocals, harp and organ as much as it is with Clapton’s guitar.

You can hear that guitar to best effect on the Freddie King instrumental, ‘Hideaway’, and on the monumental ‘Have you heard’, which contains one of my all-time favourite guitar solos, a gut-wrenching effort where Eric gives it everything he’s got.

I won’t waffle on about it any more. If you don’t already own it, go and find ‘Have you heard’ on Spotify and listen for yourself. You might just see why Des was so obsessed.

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