Time Out rounds up the greatest musical milestones from the British guitar legend’s remarkable 50-year career ahead of his gigs in Dubai and Bahrain. Words Peter Feely
When British guitar superstar Eric ‘Slowhand’ Clapton takes to the stage on Thursday March 6 in Dubai Media City, and two days later at the Bahrain, we’re set to experience one of the finest guitarists that’s ever set foot on this planet. A man whose career was an integral part of introducing the blues to a wider, white audience, Clapton is consistently considered alongside BB King, Robert Johnson and Jimi Hendrix as one of the greatest of all time. The 68-year-old’s remarkable career has seen him collaborate with pop and rock royalty, ranging from The Beatles to Blues legend BB King.
This seminal band had a huge influence in terms of pushing the sound of modern blues forward, by incorporating feedback and distortion into their recordings. Clapton, who was a blues purist at the time, quit in 1965 in protest at the commercial song ‘For Your Love,’ which had a pop sound that was inspired by the success of The Beatles.
Listen to: ‘For Your Love’.
The 1966 album Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, which was made with acclaimed British blues guitarist John Mayall, is also known as Beano, because Clapton is pictured reading the kids’ comic on the sleeve. It’s widely considered to be one of the most influential blues albums of all time as a result of its pioneering combination of a Gibson Les Paul guitar and a Marshall Bluesbreaker amplifier.
Listen to: ‘Ramblin’ on My Mind’ – Clapton’s first lead vocal recording.
This blues and rock psychedelic outfit produced a string of legendary rock classics including ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ and ‘Crossroads’. Consisting of Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums, the group inspired the likes of Led Zeppelin and is also recognised as one of the innovators of the term ‘super group’ because of the established reputations of the musicians involved before Cream.
Listen to: ‘Sunshine of Your Love’.
If you’re as good as Clapton, you tend to gravitate towards similarly talented geniuses, which explains his mesmerising guitar solo on The Beatles’ 1968 masterpiece The White Album. ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, penned by close pal George Harrison (Clapton would eventually end up with Harrison’s girlfriend Patti Boyd), regularly features in lists for the greatest songs of all time.
Listen to: ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’.
Following the collapse of Cream, Clapton (along with his drummer Ginger Baker) started a group in 1969 with the hugely influential British musician and founder of the Spencer Davis Group, Steve Winwood. The collaboration spawned a number of classic hits including ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’ and ‘Sea of Joy.’
Listen to: ‘Presence Of The Lord’.
Derek and the Dominoes
This chapter in Slowhand’s career, which started in 1970, inspired his most recognised track and arguably one of the most recognisable guitar riffs of all time, ‘Layla’. The song was a response to Clapton’s (at that point) unrequited love for Patti Boyd and also the classical work of Persian literature by Nizami Ganjavi, called Ganjavi’s The Story of Layla and Majnun.
Listen to: ‘Layla’.
The Last Waltz
Martin Scorsese’s 1978 critically acclaimed film documentary about Canadian and American roots group The Band, which was advertised as the musicians’ farewell show, featured guest appearances from the biggest names at the time, including Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters and Joni Mitchell. Clapton had his own memorable role in this milestone, with his guitar strap coming loose during his performance, which resulted in
The Band’s Robbie Robertson picking up the riff without missing a single beat.
Listen to: ‘Further on Up the Road’.
Though not strictly a collaboration, Clapton is credited on the 30 million-selling 1980s behemoth of an album, Brothers in Arms by British rockers Dire Straits. Slowhand leant his friend Mark Knopfler the Fender guitar the musician played on the album.
Listen to: ‘Walk of Life’.
Mexican American musician Carlos Santana’s 17th album Supernatural was a collaborative affair with the likes of Lauryn Hill, fellow Fugee Wyclef Jean and Eagle-Eye Cherry in the credits. The highly successful record, which went on to shift over 30 million copies, also features an appearance from Slowhand himself, on the track ‘The Calling’. Santana subsequently became the first Hispanic artist in history to win a Grammy for Record of the Year.
Listen to: ‘The Calling’.
The 88-year-old American musician BB King is considered one of the most influential blues artists ever and is widely regarded as having pioneered the string- bending, polished resonance of modern electric blues. Naturally for Clapton, the blues man has been a key figure in has musical life and back in 2000, he collaborated with his idol on the critically acclaimed album Riding with the King, which contains vintage numbers from the ’50s and ’60s and some covers, as well as modern compositions.
Listen to: ‘Three O’Clock News’.
Eric Clapton plays Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, March 6. Dhs350-1,450. www.timeouttickets.com.
He also plays at Arad Fort, Muharraq, Bahrain on March 8, 8.30pm, as part of the Spring of Culture 2014. More here.