[Slowhand] Eric Clapton 1965
kevinwilson at telkomsa.net
Sat Jul 4 06:47:17 EDT 2009
Below is an article from 1994 on which the recent links published on the
Digest expand (specifically on the sale of the amp and speaker).
Note too that the date of the Juniors gig referred to in the 30 April 2009
article should be Sunday, 24 October 1965, as per the explanation in Chris
Hjort's "Strange Brew...", page 27.
Of interest, note in the note of authorisation by Bernie Greenwood that he
spells "authorize" using US spelling.
Harry Shapiro - Mojo - March 1994 - "The Odyssey: The Making of Eric
Of all the legends of the land of Greece, few are as epic and ill-starred as
the tale of Eric Clapton, his five mates and a dodgy motor called the
It was August 1965 and Eric was into his fifth month with John Mayall's
Bluesbreakers. He'd been dossing down at the flat of poet Ted Milton, 74
Long Acre in Covent Garden, above the fruit wholesaler Mash and Austin. Also
taking up floor space was his old friend from The Roosters, pianist and
artist Ben Palmer; a trumpet-player Bob Rae; Bernie 'Tunes' Greenwood, a
qualified doctor and sax player with Chris Farlowe's Thunderbirds; and John
Baily, a singer and psychology student who'd been at Oxford with Bernie.
"John and I had this band at Oxford called King Cobra & the Rattlesnakes,"
recalls Bernie, "and we'd always had the idea of a band on the road to go
round the world."
They put the plan to the Long Acre crew, who being unemployed or otherwise
at a loose end decided it sounded like a laugh plus a chance to earn sonic
folding. Bernie moved into action. First he was going to get a bus, then he
bought a 1953 Ford Fairlane, a nine-seater American car. "I bought it and
three miles up the road, the big end went." While Bernie and Ben Palmer got
it sorted, John Baily went ahead to Athens where he said he had a friend who
could get them work.
By late September they were ready. But at the last minute Ted Milton, who
was to be the drummer, dropped out. Hughie Flint was asked, but family
commitments kept him at home. So Ted called his brother Jake, then a student
on vacation: "I didn't have the faintest idea what this was all about. I was
a be-bop drummer recruited to play in a blues band." The Glands (named by
Bernie) were off.
The journey proved to be 'eventful'. Jake recalls: "It took an awfully long
time to get down there. We kept being diverted by incidents on the way. The
car kept going wrong and on one occasion we stopped at this petrol station
and there was this Alsatian dog there. I think it was Bernie who decided to
go and pat the dog, and there was this sign in German that none of us could
read saying something like, "Look at this dog at your own peril". So Bernie
patted the dog and virtually lost two fingers. Then we had to drive off very
rapidly to hospital and we'd left all the passports and everything on the
car roof. So we had to retrieve those from all over the place. Things like
that just kept on happening."
That was not the only mishap. "I was so young and naive then," says Jake,
"and I was appalled at all the arguing and wind-ups and baiting that was
going on, the absolute lunacy of having people like that all thrown together
on the road with a very vague idea of destination and what was going to
Bernie: "I was getting flack from Ben and Bob for being a stuck-up ex-Oxford
git while they were older than me and had the edges knocked off them." But
he seems to have given as good as he got. "Jake has a very clear memory of
seeing Bob on Athens beach, gathering together bits of driftwood to make a
raft and get home because he was so sick of what had happened on the way."
By the time they got to Munich things were so bad that Jake and Eric nearly
left. "We were both at the railway station with tickets in our hands."
Bernie and Bob came to blows at the Munich Beer Festival, an event which
Jake describes as "madness, complete madness. They had these huge marquees
with two or three brass bands in each, all playing different tunes at the
same time. There were tables in long rows, everyone drinking litre pots of
this devil's brew and getting completely legless. Every so often tables
would go over and people would start fighting - and so did the band. Eric
and I were pacifists and we just wanted out." According to Bernie, "Eric was
very abstemious. He didn't drink too much, didn't smoke; he was very nice
and sweet the whole time."
Eventually, via Germany and Yugoslavia, they got to Athens, but for Jake it
was all too late. "I was two weeks overdue at college and panicking about
paying back grants and stuff. So I went back and never got to play." [Later
Jake joined Quintessence.] He was replaced by a Greek pilot called Makis who
kept missing gigs because he got stuck at various airports across Europe.
Meanwhile, during truce times with Bernie, Bob Rae learned the rudiments of
While The Glands had been fighting their way across Europe, John Baily had
set up a solo spot for himself at the Igloo Club in Athens and, as Bernie
remembers it, arranged that The Glands (now renamed The Faces for the
purpose of public performances) would play support to a Greek band, The
Juniors. They passed the audition doing "Johnny B. Goode" and a deal has
struck - room and food at a local hotel, paid for by the club, but no cash.
For their sets they played Stones songs, Chuck Berry, Everly Brothers and
loads of R&B standards for hours on end. "The waiters had us in a vice-like
grip," remembers Ben Palmer. "They felt they understood the rather expensive
Greek clientele and would suddenly tell us, mid-song, to speed up or slow
down. Can you imagine it? We had this trick, usually in The Kinks' "You
Really Got Me": one sharp rimshot from the drums and we'd repeat the same
phrase over and over, pretending we were a record that'd got stuck. The
audience assumed it was part of the song. Eric loved it. You had to do stuff
like that to stay sane."
Then tragedy struck. The Juniors were involved in a serious road accident -
one member was killed and another seriously injured. The club was going to
close, until Eric stepped in and offered to play with the band to keep them
in work. This meant he was playing from 7 pm to 7 am and very soon was
completely exhausted. But he felt he couldn't let them down because The
Juniors were nice guys and their friend had been killed.
Matters got worse when a rival club owner grassed them up to the police for
not having work permits, and the hotel manager came calling for the money
that the club was supposed to pay him, but hadn't. Meanwhile, when Eric
started to play some Yardbirds numbers, it began to dawn on the club owner
that this was the Eric Clapton in their midst and, as such, an asset worth
holding on to. Things were heating up.
The club owner was taking care of Eric, but everyone else was in deep
trouble. They decided to make a run for it. But first they had to find a way
to retrieve all their gear - the club owner was intent on keeping it because
it included the same type of Vox amp that The Beatles used. According to
John Baily they managed to get everything back except Eric's Gibson. Ben and
Eric went to the club in a taxi and, on the pretext of getting the guitar
re-strung, walked out with it.
Bernie recalls eventually getting all the gear away following a triumphant
gig in a local cinema. The concert was packed and 'The Faces' went down very
well, which wound up the local constabulary to near fever pitch while Eric
was physically prevented from leaving and had to talk his way out of a
potentially nasty situation. With the gear strapped to the roof, they weaved
through the back streets of Athens ending up at the railway station where
Bob, Ben and Eric boarded the train. "Once they had gone," says Bernie, "we
laid low for a few weeks, sold most of the gear and headed off East." Bernie
and John went on to complete their world trip.
The moment the ferry docked in Dover, before they boarded the London train,
Eric said he had to make a telephone call. "I lent him the money," recalls
Ben Palmer. "He went straight to the nearest phone-box and rang John Mayall
and got his old job back. It just struck him as perfectly natural - he was
back in England and should be back in the band. It never crossed his mind
that Mayall might have said no."
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