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Posts tagged ‘Eric Clapton’

I’m so glad, I’m so glad…to be a music fan: Skip James, The Cream and “Passing it On”

I’ve never been hit by lighting, but today, out of nowhere, I felt a jolt of ‘lectricty run all down my arm. 

Sometimes you think you know something. Sometimes you think you’ve got a handle on things. Sometimes you think you’ve got it all worked out. You think you do…and then something happens…something that makes you start the fuck over. 

I was walking to The Tube this morning to go to work. I had my iPod shuffling through one of my fave playlist that I made: Blues with a Feelin’.  It’s a bow-down list of front-row tunes from my fave musics: blues, country (Waylon & Willie country, not today’s bullshit country) and good ol’ southern Stax and Shoals R&B and soul…and a few other bits and pieces thrown in for good measure. 

The something that happened today was something that never happened before. Today teacher and pupil went toe to toe courtesy of the all mighty shuffle. One of the bits and pieces in this playlist is “I’m so glad”, by Cream. I am not a big Cream fan, but I like this song…mostly because its a Skip James tune. Skip James did the original version as far back as 1931.  Cream released their version in 1966.   

I listened to the Cream version. I like the “rolling” feel of the track. The guitar travels along as Jack Bruce bellows out a thick, leathery vocal. At about 1:25 in the song, the EC Express leaves the station and roars on down the tracks. Not bad…not great.

At this point I walked through the turnstile and made my way to the Piccadilly line to catch my train to work. On my way down the escalator, Skip James came on to play his (the) version of “I’m So Glad”. 

I guess I wasn’t paying attention, because I didn’t realise that the same song was playing; however, it wasn’t the same.  This version was in black and white. There were hisses and pops and snaps and crackles…but it had that familiar rolling guitar riff in it. “Oh, shit…that’s Skip James”.  I clicked nine o’clock on the iPod’s wheel and started ‘er over. I had heard this before, but hearing James’ original juxtaposed with Cream’s version was what caused the jolt. I’m no purist, but I couldn’t get over how thin and frail the Cream version sounded next to James.  

Cream, Clapton in particular, tried so hard on their version. They could never have matched the believability of James’ original and I’m sure they knew it. It must have been so frustrating to have been the caliber of musician as those guys were and to know that they were never going to be as good as Skip James…or anyone else of that ilk and era. The thought of knowing that after hearing James and Johnson and Honeyboy and House, everything you did, no matter how grandiose and inflammatory you may play it, you were never going to be able to touch the truth in that old black man’s burden. 

The important thing is that they listened.  They listened to what James did and how he did it and they did their best to deliver the goods. They were influenced. 

As a music fan, you know that influence is the lifeblood of “passing it on”.  It is how a song from a black and white 1931 finds it way from the juke joints of Mississippi to London’s Royal Albert Hall in the technicolor 1960’s. If you break the joy of being a music fan into three parts, a third of it is listening to music, a third of it is learning about music and a third of it is about sharing the music and those learnings with other music fans.  This is what Cream did, the Stones did, the Grateful Dead did, what early Fleetwood Mac did, what Gram Parsons did…what Bob Dylan is still doing on each of his last four brilliant studio albums.  

Shit, this is why I am a fan. I can’t play a lick, but I can sure appreciate one. I love the listening, the learning and the lending of my knowledge accumulated through a passion for music. After today, I decided that this weekend I am going to go back and listen to a few paired up classic then and now’s and see how the wannabe’s learned from the old timer’s. 

I’ll be sure to share what I find out…

p.s. if you have any suggestions of song pairings, serve ‘e, up in the comments. Cheers.


The first tix of my Spring Gigs have arrived! Clapton & Winwood, 21st May @ Wembley Arena


Ah…Clapton & Winwood. I’ve seen Clapton twice and once was on his Blues tour supporting the “From the Cradle” album.    

I have the recent Clapton/Winwood MSG live set. I was surprised how good it was. Actually, I was surprised how good Clapton was. In my opinion, Clapton now needs someone to push him…push him to play to his abilities…not God-like, but guitar-hero like.  In recent years, the “push” has brought him to Claptonian peaks: Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary, Clapton & Jeff Beck, Clapton & Winwood, Clapton & The Allman Brothers, Clapton and Derek Trucks, Clapton and Buddy Guy…

Looking forward to this go-round with Winwood.  Winwood knows Clapton and what buttons to push and knobs to turn. He does it from behind the organ and from behind the guitar. Winwood can play, dammit. His six string work is phenomenal. I ask you, if you are unfamiliar with Winwood’s guitar playing, to watch this eight minute Traffic vid from 1972. Hot Damn!

My good mate, The Kingfish (owner of Mojo Music in Sydney…my fave record shop), sold me this entire set on DVD. We watched it three times straight over a couple dozen beers. This isn’t the beers talking…Winwood takes flight.

Speaking of Clapton needing a push…here are two songs from Clapton’s guest spot with the Allman’s at last year’s Beacon run. Little Wing is jaw-drop material and wait until you hear him solo’ing in the middle of a Trucks/Haynes Fret Sandwich. Extra mustard, please.  
Go to this link and download them. Oh what fun it is to be triple-whammied by the Clapton/Trucks/Haynes Trilogy…picking out who’s who is the fun part.  Tell me what you think: 
Here is the entire Clapton part of the set list from that show:
  • Key to the Highway (Clapton vox)
  • Stormy Monday 
  • Dreams
  • Why Does Love Have to be so Sad
  • Little Wing
  • Elizabeth Reed (you will be paralytic after this)
  • Layla (Clapton vox)
If you want the set, let me know and I will upload it. 

Valentine’s Day in Paris, the Big Mistake and Secret Subterranean Blues…

Ah, Paris. The city of love…a perfect place to take your wife for Valentine’s day. How could a guy go wrong?  I’ll tell you how: He invites one of his best friends to just happen to show up and join the fun.

In 2002, my first year of marriage, I did just that. My wife and I were living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I decided to orchestrate a Valentine’s Day three-day weekend in Paris. It was a special trip: our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple. I knew The Wife would be happy. She had been to Paris before and talked about how much she loved the city. I had never been to Paris and was looking forward to it. 

I organised a great first night (which was the actual Valentine’s Day). I bought two tickets to the midnight showing at the Moulin Rouge.  That was the first of the two “Big Surprises” that I kept telling The Wife I had for her on the trip. That one went over very well. First night in Paris was an epic success and quite a romantic evening. 

Day Two was when “Big Surprise #2” was expected. After the Moulin Rouge, The Wife was expecting Big things. I was confident that she would love Big Surprise #2. Even before the trip I thought it was going to be a hit. In hindsight, I may have thought this because Big Surprise #2 was a surprise I would have loved to have sprung on me!

I fucked up. Capital-R, Royally. This was Valentine’s Day…in Paris…as newlyweds…for only three days…just the two of us…or so she thought. I invited my good buddy, The Rouster (name changed to protect the guilty) to surprise Julie by showing up at the Louvre at the same time we were there (what a coincidence!).

Let me repeat: I invited one of my best friends, drinking buddy, trouble-making twin, to surprise my wife while she was on a romantic holiday weekend with her husband in Paris. What was I thinking? What THE HELL was I thinking?!?

I remember telling my old man about my plan. When I did, he just stared at me with pupils the size of manhole covers. “Are you stupid?”, he asked. “She is going to hate this idea”.  

I was dumbfounded. She liked The Rouster. She really enjoyed all the times we went out together and had said so often. Like me, she hadn’t seen him since he moved to South Korea two years earlier. Why wouldn’t she want to see him? He was coming back to the States for a visit anyhow, so a rendezvous made sense. 

“Judd”, my old man said to me as he fixed that you’ve really done it this time stare on me, “do you really think (The Wife) wants to be surprised by one of your craziest, beer swillingest friends…in Paris…on Valentine’s Day?”

“Oh, shit!?  What have I done”, I said to myself. 

Long story short: Big Surprise #2 blew up in my face. The Wife was not all too happy to be sharing time with The Rouster that could have otherwise been spent on L’Amour with L’Wife.

It took some tears and beers, but I smoothed things over and we carried on with our Paris fun. Like I said, The Wife and the The Rouster are good friends. There was no option but to act like the true Champions of Fun that we knew each other to be and get on with getting down. 

We decided to have a red hot go at the Latin Quarter on our last night. We went out for sushi and sake and then searched the streets to find the pulse of the city…and a bit of live music. We were walking down a busy street and heard blues music coming out of a small pub. We looked inside and couldn’t see where the band was. The pub was small (maybe 20 ft by 40 ft) and packed with people.  Where the hell was the band?

We went inside and had the barkeep pull a few pints for us. I was about to ask where the band was when I saw a closed circuit TV hanging from the wall with musicians playing on it…but  where the hell were they.  In the back of the pub there was doorway.  That doorway led to a staircase down to the cellar. Ah! That’s where the band was!

We struck gold. The cellar looked like someone went down earlier that day with a jack-hammer and banged out a cave big enough for a stage and a makeshift bar.  There were two rooms. In the main room there was the stage and assorted chairs, tables and church pews strewn about. The other room was smaller, but important…it was where the beer taps were. 

The scene was fantastic. The timing was spot on. We were Pros.  We were professional subterranean scene seekers and we just hit the mother-load. I spent a lot of my youth reading about the days of yore when the R&R got it’s passport and spent time traipsing Europe. Stories of scenes such as this one seem to be the norm, each one hipper than the last.  True underground…that’s where we were and that’s what we were.
(The stage in the cellar)

It was a Sunday night.  Sunday night was (and still is) the open Blues Jam night. Ah, the Jam. Everybody loves a blues jam, right?  Drums, piano, harp, guitars…as many as the stage can hold. They all lurch out  in a  crude and chaotic cacophonic stupor, stalking each other until they find the communal groove.  

(me and The Rouster, 2002)

Who knows what can happen when the Jam is on…sparks strike and legends are born.  The crowd thought we had a birthing right there and then. There was this young kid…he must have been 15 if he wasn’t 12. he jumped up on stage with the “house” band and strapped on someone’s guitar. Oh man! We were knocked out loaded once he started to play!  

He was tearing frets and slamming the slide and seemed to do it with the wisdom of a guitar god.  The floor was littered with jaws.  This kid could play and the crowd let him know it. People were screaming out, “Le Petite Clapton”.  Hot Damn!  What a night. 

We left around 2am. The Wife and I had to catch a few winks for our 8am flight back to the US. The Rouster stayed on in Paris to carry on the V-Tine’s Day celebration for a few nights with a new sweetheart he met at the hostel.  No love lost in Paris that Valentine’s Day.  

This past weekend, The Wife and I took the train to Paris for the day.  Almost eight years to the day, we visited that bar. We hoisted beers and toasted to Big Surprises, good friends and the sweet joy of serendipity. 


(me, returning to the Scene of the Crime this past weekend)

(The Sunday night Blues Jam lives on)

The name of the joint in question is: Le Caveau des Oubliettes (check link for details).  Here is a snippet from a National Geographic  travel blog on the pub:

In medieval times, Le Caveau des Oubliettes, which translates to “the cave of the forgotten,” held prisoners awaiting the guillotine. The tight door and thick stone walls masked the prisoners’ wails and howls. Iron handcuffs on the walls, chains along the staircase, and a barred window remind listeners of the room’s past and give the intimate club an uniquely eerie feel. 

Funny, I think I saw a couple of those guys there that night…
Speaking of the Blues Jam & Eric Clapton, here is a jam from the anniversary edition of Layla.

It’s not what you play, it’s how you play it: live music puts a tiger in my tank

“Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.” 

That is a quote by one of my heroes: Hunter S. Thompson. Hunter…I miss your honesty, your true grit and your wisdom. Oh, your wisdom; the wisdom found in this statement prances and preens like one of your precious proud peacocks. I can’t agree more with what Hunter is saying here: Music = Fuel.

I want to take that one step further.  If music is indeed fuel, then live music is super-unleaded; high-test; moonshine.

I’ve been heavily into the live portion of my collection as of late. Great live albums/songs are touchstones to me. If I need a pick me up, if I need to be jolted or if I just need a cheap thrill…I can always turn to some fave live music. 

Case in point…I am trolling the back catalog lately in anticipation for three purchases that will happen in the next two weeks: all of them live. 

I love this time of the year. Record labels are putting out lush box sets hoping to hook holiday gift buyers and solo splurgers. I am a

record company’s chum; sharks sniff me out and attack and rip me…and my wallet…to shreds. Bring it on. These sets tend to be grandiose with a price tag to match.  It is not that I have money to burn…if I did I would be an arsonist…but I know what I like and what I gots-ta have.

The three sets I am pacing the floor for are:

The Rolling Stones: Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out [40th Anniversary Deluxe Version]. This is the proud black panther crawlin’ up and down my hall. As far as live music goes, this may be the best show of ’em all: a flat-out, hands-down, sure-bet live masterpiece. This set has the whole kit and caboodle: Three LPs, three CDs, one DVD, books, posters and a lock of Mick’s pubic hair. Go HERE to check out this magnificent booty.

This album may contain my fave live tune EVER: “Little Queenie“. This song has it all: Mick teases the home crowd with a shout out (“You talk a lot New York City….”), it is a cover tune and it takes that cover tune and turns it into a stone cold monster…a raunchy, only when the moon is full, full-tilt, evil-twin version. It also has multiple guitar solos in it. “Little Queenie” sets the standard for what live rock and roll can be. All this and it has Keef Richards playing some of the his best riffs ever. Dirty.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: quot; target=”_blank”>The Live Anthology. Four CDs of live TP & The HBs from way back to right now. Everything I hear about this positions it as bow-down material. I think I have to go BluRay version for this.

Tom Waits: Glitter and Doom – Live. I’m going for vinyl on this one. When ever I get done with a Tom Waits listening session I am unsure whether or not red means stop and green means go. Tom Waits swims against the current.

Live music…it is going to be my fuel for the holidays. I want to share a few fave live tunes with you. There is NO WAY I could begin to put together a  list of ALL of my faves…not possible. What I have for you here are ten front-burner faves that I always can turn to when my gage reads “E”.  

Normally I like to embed a playlist here in this post; I couldn’t find all the songs I wanted to share. Instead, I am gifting them to you in a download.  Tis the season, eh?  Here is what you will find in the playlist, including a bit of twitter’esque commentary on each:
  • Everyday I have the Blues (BB King – “Live at the Regal”): this is the first song on the album. The crowd is in BBs hand before Lucille’s second solo rings out.
  • Live Wire (AC/DC – “Bonfire”): This takes place in a radio studio with a small live crowd. How do they strike sparks this fast?!  Combustible music.
  • Mean Woman Blues (Jerry Lee Lewis – “Live at the Star Club, Hamburg Germany”): Pure, unadulterated raw power. The Killer is on fucking fire here.
  • Walk It Talk It (Lou Reed – “American Poet”): Again this one is recorded live in a radio studio. Lou Reed is a rock and roller on this one…it has a definite Chuck Berry sound. 
  • Cowgirl in the Sand (Neil Young – “Live at the Fillmore”): Neil covers the spectrum of his guitar playing abilities on this: intense. Listen to Jack Nitschze’s haunting piano: creepy.
  • Little Queenie (Rolling Stones – “Ya-Ya’s”): Like I said, this is unmatched R&R.
  • Don’t Think Twice Its Alright (Eric Clapton – “Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Special”): “Bobfest”, as dubbed by Neil. This might be Clapton’s last great performance. The second guitar solo makes your head shake involuntarily. Whew. And…its a cover song.
  • Emotionally Yours (The O’Jays – “Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Special”): Wow…this song has that rising power that takes you soaring with it. Emotional, indeed…
  • Caravan (Van Morrison – “Last Waltz”) – Another qualifier of live greatness: the all-star jam. Van takes this one over the top with a handful of crescendos…and with a crazy purple spandex outfit [yikes!]
  • You Don’t Know Like I Know: (Sam & Dave – “The Complete Stax Singles, Disk 4”): Arguably two of the greatest live performers ever. Listen to the fun and excitement in this one. You can’t help but move to it. 
Download the “Live Moonshine” playlist HERE.

“So Russell… what do you love about music?” Share Your Almost Famous “Everything” Moments

William Miller: “So Russell … what do you love about music?”
Russell Hammond: “To begin with … everything.”

Exactly! This is the last bit of dialogue we hear before the end of the movie, “Almost Famous”. It is the scene where William finally gets his interview with Russell. It is a moment that induces head nods and knowing grins from all serious music fans. I (we) know exactly what Russell means. Everything means, well, everything

It is not any thing about the music; it is everything about the music: the songs, the vocal and musical nuances, the inspiration for the song, the actual recording of it, where they recorded, the band, the guest musicians, the album cover, the naysayers, the promoters, the stories and all of the tall tales associated with the music…everything.

Here is a bit of  “everything”: 

On Bob Dylan’s 2001 release, “Love and Theft”, drummer David Kemper tells a revealing tale about the “training” Bob put them through initially. Rehearsals for the new album started nearly a year before recording it. Kemper said that one time, for a period of three days straight, Dylan had the band play only Dean Martin songs(?!). Dylan would have them do this with many other early legendary and unheralded American recording artists. The band would rehearse these songs over and over and then never play them again once Dylan had heard what he wanted to hear. 

A year later when they began the recording process, Dylan would introduce a new song such as, “Summer Days”.  He would instruct the band to play it in the style of Dean Martin or one of the other artists they had practiced. Dylan had been training the band (a year in advance!) for the sound he wanted the album to have.  Kemper said it was like going to the “School of Americana, as taught by Bob”.  That gives me a whole new perspective on the album each time I put it on. You can’t go back and have a listen and not think about this. 

Everything does not have to be a legendary tall tale either. There is a scene in the director’s cut of “Almost Famous” where Russell give us a hint at what he means by everything. Right before Stillwater plays their first gig, Russell is talking to William about the significance of the “littlest details in songs”.  Russell said that these little details are the ones that people “remember the most”.  Russell uses the “first whooo” in Marvin Gaye’s, “What’s Happening Brother” as an example (I included that in the Tune Tags playlist below. The “whooo” shows up at 2:15 … and the first one is the memorable one).

Russell (Cameron) is right. These are the unplanned, down to the bone, in the groove moments that can make bad songs good and great songs legendary. They are real moments of inspiration and emotion that collide and combust from within the musicians…because they are feeling it. That is what makes the songs special. That is why we like these little moments.

You must have a few of these yourselves. I know I do. In the spirit of Russell’s “everything” and “littlest details”, I am offering up ten songs that strike sparks for me.  I have included a bit of twitter’esque detail on each “little moment”.  Feel free suggest some of your favourites and I will add them to the playlist for others to put their ears to. 

  • Neil Young – “Cinnamon Girl“:  Here is another “whooo” for you and it happens at 2:09.  The “whooo” coincides with this guitar solo that launchs out of the heavy-duty muck n’ mire rhythm that Crazy Horse is laying down. 
  • Derek and the Dominoes – “Little Wing“: Clapton and Duane Allman trading licks on a Jimi Hendrix song.  I’d shout out “whooo” too if I was Clapton (1:55)
  • The band (w/The Staple Singers) – “The Weight“:  This is from The Last Waltz and it is all about Mavis Staples.  There are two bits in here that make this a bow-down track for me. This is such a “breath-y” performance.  You get the feeling she is stirring something up inside and getting ready for the pay-off (an example at 1:03). That pay-off comes at 1:26.  It is a this from the gut “unh-huh” that brings me to my knees each time I hear it. 
  • Rod Stewart – “Every Picture Tells a Story“: I love this song. It always make me feel like traveling…on a whim. I think it is Rod’s best penned song (with help from Ronnie Wood). At 2:35, Rod lets off a rather rowdy Whooo! (another “whooo”!). It might have something to do with Kenny Jones thundering away, Ronnie starting in with this galloping acoustic and the female back singer firing off an inspired backing vocal. Whoo indeed. (by the way, this one is on the Almost Famous soundtrack)
  • The Rolling Stones – “Prodigal Son“: A two for one! One of my “little moment” here comes at the end…but the entire song is needed to make it happen. Keef is strumming the hell out of his acoustic. You think he was enjoying himself? If the abrupt and ramshackle “heeyaay” is any indication…yes. The other one is a Mick moment. At 1:55, Mick drawls off a “mercy” that almost makes you feel like he means it. 
  • Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Shadow of a Doubt“: Another two for one. At 2:03, Tom puts this inflection on the end of “kid” that starts to rev me up…and himself, too.  The tension starts there and builds up until Tom shouts out “aaaaiy” at 2:42. The song doesn’t slow down from there. 
  • Drive-By Truckers – “Sink Hole“: One of my favourite “new” bands.  The Truckers tell a good story and this one by Patterson Hood is no exception. There is passion here, because it is most likely a true story.  The song moves like a stock car driver frantically trying to come up from the back of the pack. By the time Patterson gets to 3:12 and delivers that “eeeoouuuaaagh” you know he damn well means it. 
  • The Animals – “The Story of Bo Diddley“: Eric Burden spends five minutes and fifteen seconds telling us Bo’s story. By 5:16 he has worked himself into a tizzy and squelches off a “eeehaaaaayy Bo Diddley” that came from the soles of his feet. This is a long song, but I always find the payoff worth it. 
  • Warren Zevon – “The French Inhaler”:  What a GENIUS song.  The lyrics are truly a gift to the listener.  Apparently this was about his wife (word is she was “ending up with someone different every night“). At 3:28, Zevon makes a kissing sound into the mic (the great kiss-off, perhaps). I have listened to numerous other studio takes of this track and have not heard that anywhere else. My guess is that this was a timely improve…and it works. 
  • The Rolling Stones – “Casino Boogie“: Ah, Keith. The master of the perfect anti-harmony vocal. On “Exile on Main St.” he was in rare vocal form. There are so many Keef moments on this album that it is hard to choose. This one always makes me smile: check out Keef’s squealing of “understaaaand” at 00:46.

OK, your turn. I’ll add them to the playlist…



I am a bonafide nut over Almost Famous. I love the story and the romantic notions of a life as an outsider on the inside of this cool scene that was/is Rock and Roll.  Cameron Crowe did a brilliant job recreating the times and telling his own story. Here is a funny story of my own: 

Circa 2003 I was living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My wife had gone to the Florida Keys with some girlfriends for the weekend. I came home on Saturday after a night of drinking and carousing with my buddies. I decided I was going to watch Almost Famous in its entirety…which I surprisingly did considering my state of being at the time. 

About three weeks after this night I got a package in the mail…from Cameron Crowe?! Well, it wasn’t Cameron himself, but someone on his behalf. This is where things get fuzzy. Apparently, after I finished watching the movie, I went on Crowe’s website. At the time they were selling screenplays from the movie with a handwritten, personally addressed note from Cameron…complete with coffee stain on the cover. I bought one. I didn’t even remember that I did it. But, there it was, at my doorstep. It was nicely bound and was printed on heavy stock paper…complete with the note from Cameron.

Wow.  My wife was just shaking her head and laughing at me. I think it cost thirty or forty bucks. The funny thing is, I probably would have bought it sober. I still have it, but it is on the open sea on the way over from Sydney, Australia along with the rest of our belongings. When it gets here, I will post a picture of it and the handwritten note. 

I found a free copy online and have attached it here for reading or downloading.

Cameron Crowe’s
Download this file

Tune Tags

The Goods

  • Cameron Crowe’s website
  • Almost Famous Wikipedia Page (lots of great insights and factoids here)
  • Almost Famous IMBD page 
  • Check out Bill Simmons’, The ESPN Sports Guy, use of Almost Famous in one of his recent columns about the offseason for the NBA (well worth the read just for the AF reference alone) 
  • Podcast that talks about the recording of “Love & Theft”
  • Untitled“: director’s but/bootleg of Almost Famous (this is suberb…better than the original theatre cut)