Eric Clapton: Six Decades, Six Songs

March 05, 2019 3 min read

Eric Clapton: Six Decades, Six Songs

He’s been slinging his guitar for the better part of six decades now. And, as far as we’re concerned, Eric Clapton is still god.

One of the great guitarists of his generation – if not all time – old Slowhand has built up an immense back catalogue of stone-cold classics during his career.

And, to chart that, we thought it’d be fun to pick out a track for each decade that Eric Clapton has been performing.

Was it an easy task?

Heck no!

While writing this article, debate raged around the Thalia offices as to which tracks were fit for inclusion.

Harsh words were exchanged, a not insignificant amount of blood was spilled and a surprising number of windows were broken in the process. But, finally, we’ve compiled our list, and we’re (mostly) happy with it.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in! 

 

The 1960s – “Crossroads” (Cream)


Clapton’s impact on the ‘60s British rock scene was nothing short of seismic. Evidence of his phenomenon status, “Clapton is god” became the graffiti of choice for self-respecting music connoisseurs across London during the time.

And, if you want evidence of Clapton’s deity-like prowess on the six-string, you need only listen to “Crossroads” from Cream’s 1968 album “Wheels of Fire.” Recorded live at the Fillmore, Eric takes the work of Robert Johnson, electrifies it, and makes it entirely his own. In a word: spectacular.

 

The 1970s - “Layla” (Derek and the Dominos)


Really, was there ever any doubt?

Eric Clapton released many classic recordings during the 1970s, but nothing can top his signature riff. Eric’s declaration of love for Patti Boyd – then wife of the Beatles’ George Harrison – didn’t set the charts alight upon release. It was only two years later, in December 1972, that the track finally made its mark. Since then, it’s gone on to become an anthem, and an enduring showcase for the guitar work of both Clapton, and guest slide player Duane Allman. 

 

The 1980s - “The Shape You’re In”


Clapton’s shuffling guitar on this track – taken from 1983’s “Money and Cigarettes” – is a Bo Diddley-inspired masterclass that reminds you just how deep Clapton’s knowledge of the blues goes.

Credit also has to be given to Albert Lee on this one. Playing second guitarist on the track, he propels Slowhand’s playing, providing some tasty guitar dueling that will have the blues faithful enraptured.

 

The 1990s – “Before You Accuse Me”


Eric Clapton’s 1992 “MTV Unplugged” Session stands out as one of the show’s all-time highlights. Given his association with amplified rock, it’s easy to forget just how consummate an acoustic guitarist Slowhand can be, but “Unplugged” proves that he’s not just an electric warrior.

There are many highlights across the album – the acoustified “Layla” and the heartbreaking “Tears in Heaven” to name but two. But, for our money, it’s Clapton’s version of Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me” that comes out on top.

He’d done it before, electrified on ‘89’s “Journeyman” album. But, the raw, stripped back version on offer here is the superior version – it’s simply stellar.

 

The 2000s – “Riding With the King” (with BB King)


Clapton has duetted with some phenomenalguitarists during his lifetime. Heck, we’ve already highlighted two such performances on this list. But, “Riding With the King” - his 2000 album with B.B. King – pushed things into wet dream territory for blues aficionados.

Some critics at the time said “Riding…” wasn’t the sum of its parts. Some said it sounded too polished. But, listening back to it with the benefit of hindsight, what comes through more than anything, is two of the world’s best blues guitarists having a blast riffing off each-other. It’s joyous, and nowhere is that conveyed more clearly than on the album’s title track.

 

The 2010s - “Rockin’ Chair”


Clapton’s 2010 album – titled simply “Clapton” – was a re-affirmation of old principles for a new decade. Slow burning blues and New Orleans jazz collide across a series of standards that feel fresh and vibrant, yet unmistakably, well… Clapton. There are plenty of highlights, but the version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Rockin’ Chair” is the standout, going down smooth like a mellow scotch and fitting like an old, cozy overcoat.


What are your favorite Eric Clapton moments? And what are your memories of his music over the past six decades? Share your stories in the comments.



Also in Fingerboard Stories

Master of Puppets: Revisiting Metallica’s Masterpiece
Master of Puppets: Revisiting Metallica’s Masterpiece

October 21, 2021 3 min read

“When I saw two kids who worked there in London wearing T-shirts of a local San Francisco band, I knew I was onto something. When I heard their record, I knew they were the one band that could sell to both mainstream and underground metal audiences.”
The Story Behind Willie Nelson’s “Trigger” Guitar
The Story Behind Willie Nelson’s “Trigger” Guitar

October 15, 2021 3 min read

In the early days of his career, Willie Nelson went through a variety of guitars. Nelson was signed to RCA records, and that meant that plenty of guitar manufacturers were lining up to gift him instruments to test. Willie started out on Fenders, experimenting with Telecasters, Jaguars and Jazzmasters, before switching to Gibsons. Then, in 1969, the Baldwin Company offered Nelson one of their 800C Classical Acoustic-Electrics, complete with a Prismatone pickup and amp.
What is the Best Pink Floyd Album?
What is the Best Pink Floyd Album?

October 07, 2021 2 min read

And all of those eras have standout albums. Barrett’s first, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, remains much cherished to this day. Atom Heart Mother and Meddle, with their bold, side-filling progressive suites, are rightly regarded as prog rock landmarks. And I don’t need to extol the virtues of Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and the Wall to you. The countless column inches already devoted to those landmark albums in the annuls of rock journalism tells you everything you need to know.