Although he already had quite a following for his work in The Yardbirds since 1964, it was 1966’s John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers album Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton that really introduced Clapton to the world at large.
Also known as The Beano Album because Clappers is reading a copy of Beano on the cover, it’s an album of blues standards and Clapton/Mayall originals that continually shows up in ‘top albums of all time’ lists.
In celebration of the album’s 50th birthday a dedicated group of musicians will come together to perform the album at The Thornbury Theatre on Friday August 26.
“I didn’t see anyone else putting together a show to celebrate it so I decided to do it,” says Leigh Maden from Palace Of The King, a die-hard Clapton fan who wanted to pay tribute to his hero.
For Maden, the Clapton connection goes way back. “I picked up guitar when I was 12 or 13,” he explains. “The following year the guitar teacher at school was showing me a few chords when he said, ‘Oh you should learn this song Hideaway’,which is track two on the Blues Breakers record. It’s just great, spirited guitar playing. It really opened up the guitar for me and showed me how to link up different pentatonic licks and phrases. I discovered the rest of the album after that.”
From there Maden started to connect with other fans who also had their lives changed by the record. “It was the start for me, and the more people I talk to about this show, the more have a similar story,” he says.
The lineup assembled for the evening includes heavy hitters of the Australian blues scene. “We’ve got Chris Wilson playing harmonica and singing. We’ve got Jimi Hocking singing and playing some guitar. I’ll be playing some of Clapton’s licks and a bit of rhythm guitar as well behind Jimi. We’ve got a great horn section lined up, and of course myself and Sean from Palace of the King.”
“This kind of music doesn’t get a lot of airplay in Australia so often the only way to discover it is for someone to turn you onto it,” he says. “The other thing that motivated me to put this together was that the Clapton lineup of the Bluesbreakers only existed for 12 months. I looked for footage of them playing and there is none. When you think about it only a couple of thousand Londoners in the ‘60s would have seen them play. If we can give even a taste of that visual, that’s good as well.”
Much of Clapton’s appeal lies in his encyclopedic knowledge of the blues in its various forms from folk blues to blues rock and the variations that come out of Chicago, Texas and the Mississippi. Whatever your preference, there’s a Clapton album that pays tribute to it.
“If you look to his later career he’s gone way back and done all that Robert Johnson stuff,” Maden says. “You could say this concert is a celebration of 50 years of Clapton in a way, because this was his breakthrough record. If you look through his entire career he’s had so many different ways of presenting the blues. And he was only 21, which is so young to be coming up with that kind of stuff.”
BY PETER HODGSON