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.
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."