This video chronicles an intensely creative and difficult time in the life of Eric Clapton, one of the most...
This video chronicles an intensely creative and difficult time in the life of Eric Clapton, one of the most influential guitarists in history. By 1969 Eric was tired of being a superstar, and decided to step into the background for a time, touring as a sideman with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends.
Clapton became close friends with Delaney Bramlett, who encouraged him in his singing and writing. 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". 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.
Taking over Delaney & Bonnie's rhythm section—Bobby Whitlock (keyboards, vocals), Carl Radle (bass) and Jim Gordon (drums), Clapton formed a new band which was intended to counteract the "star" cult that had grown up around him and show that he could be a member of an ensemble. The band was called "Eric Clapton and Friends" at first, and the name "Derek and the Dominos" was an accident, which occurred when the band's provisional name of "Eric and the Dynamos" was misread.
Clapton's close friendship with George Harrison had 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.
Working at Criteria Studios in Miami with Atlantic Records producer Tom Dowd, the band began recording. Dowd—who was also producing the Allmans—invited Clapton to an Allman Brothers outdoor concert in Miami. The two guitarists met first on-stage, then played all night in the studio and became friends.The album was heavily blues-influenced and featured a combination of the twin guitars of Allman and Clapton, with Allman's incendiary slide-guitar a key ingredient of the sound. Many critics would later notice that Clapton played best when in a band composed of dual guitars; working with another guitarist kept him from getting "sloppy and lazy and this was undeniably the case with Duane Allman." It showcased some of Clapton's strongest material to date, as well as arguably some of his best guitar playing.
Tragedy dogged the group throughout its brief career. During the sessions, Clapton was devastated by news of the death of Jimi Hendrix; eight days previously the band had cut a blistering version of "Little Wing" as a tribute to him which was added to the album. On 17 September 1970, one day before Hendrix's death, Clapton had purchased a left-handed Stratocaster that he had planned to give to Hendrix as a birthday gift. Adding to Clapton's woes, the Layla album received only lukewarm reviews upon release. The shaken group undertook a U.S. tour without Allman, who had returned to the Allman Brothers Band. Despite Clapton's later admission that the tour took place amidst a veritable blizzard of drugs and alcohol, it resulted in surprisingly strong live shows. Then Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971.
Clapton's career successes in the 1970s were in stark contrast to his personal life, which was troubled by romantic longings and drug and alcohol addiction. In addition to his (temporarily) unrequited and intense attraction to Pattie Boyd, he withdrew from recording and touring to isolation in his Surrey, England residence. There he nursed his heroin addiction, resulting in a career hiatus interrupted only by the Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971 (where he passed out on stage, was revived, and continued the show). In January 1973, The Who's Pete Townshend organised a comeback concert for Clapton at London's Rainbow Theatre aptly titled the "Rainbow Concert" to help Clapton kick his addiction.
In 1974, now partnered with Pattie (they would not actually marry until 1979) and no longer using heroin (although starting to drink heavily), Clapton put together a more low-key touring band that included Radle, Miami guitarist George Terry, keyboardist Dick Sims, drummer Jamie Oldaker and vocalists Yvonne Elliman and Marcy Levy. With this band Clapton recorded 461 Ocean Boulevard, 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 #1 hit and was important in bringing reggae and the music of Bob Marley to a wider audience. The excellent "Let It Grow" was widely compared to "Stairway To Heaven", with Clapton later saying he had been inspired by it (or borrowed from it)...