Article 2

Rock On

Slowhand Blues (Clapton, the early days)

(Published in Times of India, Pune on 16th June)

I have always been asked about my primary sources of music influences and a sure shot way of finding that out would be to study the set list of my very first show. One of the bands that seemed to find prominence in my early days in the rock band Velvette Fogg was the surrealistic, acid influenced "Cream" which featured the blues influenced guitaring of the magical Eric Clapton.

The illegitimate son of Patricia Molly Clapton, Eric Clapton was initiated into the emerging blues scene of British Rock by an electrifying performance of Jerry Lee Lewis on television. His enormous love for American R& B developed his obsession for the guitar and he was even expelled from college for playing it in class! He was soon to join a string of British blues bands, the most prominent of which was the Yardbirds, which at one time included the three super guitar heroes of the sixties, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, and Clapton. His love for the blues soon drove Clapton to enter the pure blues environment of the John Mayall’s Blues Breakers. I was lucky enough to possess the solitary album that he made with this band and by then there was no doubt in my mind that Clapton was someone special. He had begun to develop a special guitar technique, the strong string bending, which is said to have resulted in the frequent breaking of his guitar strings! His constant replacing of them on stage while the crowd indulged in slow hand clapping earned him the paradoxical nickname of "Slowhand".

Soon Clapton was on to newer things and he wanted to create music that broke away from the traditional blues format and yet possess its emotions and vitality. He wanted to use the finest musicians around so that he could be surrounded by equals who could inspire each other. This vision resulted in the formation of the "Cream", a music group that would have to be counted as one of the all time greats. This collaboration of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker was to last barely two years but the music they produced, continues to fascinate millions till today. "Sunshine of your love" which features probably the most popular rock riff of all times recently toped the list of the '10 songs that changed the face of rock'. Unfortunately the stupendous popularity of their guitar player, Eric Clapton, may have led to the disintegration of this super group, as by then "Clapton is God" graffiti had already started appearing on walls in London and New York!

Yet there was no stopping the "revered" Clapton and he went on to form another super group "Blind Faith". Consisting of bassist Rick Grech, and Traffic's Steve Winwood Clapton once again united with Ginger Baker resulting in a fabulous album that featured a great Clapton original ‘In the presence of the Lord’. His guitar playing had matured and one could detect his serious approach to the craftsmanship of songwriting. Unfortunately the rigors of Rock Stardom were beginning to take their toll on this great musician and drug and alcohol addiction had begun to get the better of him. What followed was, to my mind, a direction less and uninspired collaboration with Derek and the Dominos. This surprisingly resulted in one of his biggest hits "Layla", a song inspired by what must have been one of the most difficult periods in Clapton’s personal life, his relationship with Pattie, the wife of his close friend George Harrison. (She and Clapton eventually married in 1979 and divorced in 1988). Clapton continued to wallow in this mixture of personal and heroin induced haze in the early seventies and for a while I thought we had lost yet another rock musician to the very excesses of life from which they seem to draw their power. Fortunately, in this case, it was not be. But that’s another story!

Rock on,

Nandu Bhende











What's New