Strange Brew
Book Review By Willard Manus

Fans of John Mayall and Eric Clapton (and British blues in general) will love STRANGE BREW--ERIC CLAPTON AND THE BRITISH BLUES BOOM 1965-1970, published by Jawbone, a new imprint of the Backbeat/Thunder Bay publishing group. Researched and written by Christopher Hjort, a Norwegian author and musicologist, the slick 350-page tome follows the lives of Clapton, Mayall, Peter Green and Mick Taylor in day-by-day progression through the pioneering days of rock 'n roll.

"No music is created in a vacuum, and this becomes apparent when the chain of events unfold with a frequently amazing parallel development, more often closely linked than not," Hjort comments in a foreword. "I find the day-by-day format is well suited to put things in perspective. Many of the quotes, interviews, comments and reviews suddenly take on a new significance once they are put in a context of the times."

The book opens with a section detailing the 1965 gig the 20-year-old Clapton played with The Yardbirds. "Inspired by the crossover success of the Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds actively searched for a hit single to take the group from the clubs to the charts," writes Hjort.

STRANGE BREW'S final diary entry, dated Fri. 18, 1970, reads, "The Stones throw a birthday party at Olympic studio in West London for Keith Richard and Bobby Keys, who not only share the same birthday but were both born in 1943. Eric Clapton joins the party and so does Al Kooper, who is in town recording his own album at London's Trident Studio with British musicians. During the night, a steaming version of the as-yet-unreleased Jagger-Richard song "Brown Sugar" is taped, with Clapton on slide guitar. Richard considers this version so strong that it is initially scheduled for release, but in the end another version taped at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, is put out instead."

STRANGE BREW is packed with juicy anecdotes like that, culled from reviews, radio/TV appearances, first-hand accounts and recollections. The book offers a treasure trove of information, especially about Mayall and Clapton. The latter's jaundiced view of the music business is worth quoting: "The people around you with contracts can only make you believe you're not free. Being a musician should be the freest life anybody could wish for. You don't really have any ties to anything or anybody. Except for your music."