It’s not easy to reach a blasphemous state of genius, just ask John Lennon. But like Lennon, one man was quick to rise up the ranks of guitar hero and become simply known as God. That man was the one and only Eric Clapton.
Clapton didn’t turn any water into wine or feed the five thousand but he did play a mean guitar solo and surely that equates to roughly the same, especially in the sixties. So we’ve pulled together Clapton’s 10 greatest guitar solos of all time.
“Clapton is God” was once spray-painted across a wall in London, it stayed there for a considerable time too. While we’re not accustomed to believing everything we read, on this occasion we will take it as read that Clapton is some kind of guitar deity.
One only needs to look back at his CV to see some divine skills and his work across several different acts such as Cream, Blind Faith and his own solo career has proved time and time again that he’s one of the greatest guitarists to have ever lived.
Clapton can play the blues, can make pop feel like candy, has a way with psychedelic rock and is equipped to cover everything in between. So we thought what better way to showcase it all than gather up 10 of our favourite guitar moments with God, Eric Clapton.
Eric Clapton’s 10 greatest guitar solos:
10. ‘Badge’ – Cream
It’s hard to overstate the importance Cream have in relation to rock and roll and how it unfolded across the decades. The group were a pivotal factor in turning London into the swinging centre of music in the sixties. This contribution to the band’s final album in 1969 was another reason as to why they were destined to split. In short, they were all too good alone to be together.
‘Badge’, co-written with The Beatles’ George Harrison, may well be tinged with the kind of chart-topping noise the Fab Four had enlisted but his 30-second solo is Clapton through and through and is easily one of his best.
9. ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ – Cream
Across the decades, many people have tried to pin down Clapton’s tone, having taken on the nickname of Slowhand you might think it was a laconic style but, in truth, he’s a lot more delicate than that. He always manages to tread the line between chaos and culture and on 1967’s ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ we have the archetypal moment.
The truth is, that only using his “the Fool” SG a Marshall amp and a wah-wah pedal was all Slowhand needed to find his groove.
8. ‘Let It Rain’ – Eric Clapton
With Clapton concentrating on his solo projects in 1970, suddenly the guitarist had the opportunity to open up the taps, and he certainly did. Stephen Stills may take the more mellow lead line but when Clapton grasps ‘Brownie’—his favoured Fender Start—all bets are off.
The final minute of ‘Let It Rain’ sees Clapton bring the sunshine as he creates magical notes that fall like glitter.
7. ‘Have You Heard’ – John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers
Perhaps John Mayall was aware of what was to come or perhaps Clapton had already begun to grow an enlarged ego on this track. Either way Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton from 1966 sees the band offer Clapton as much space as he desired to solo away and he didn’t disappoint.
On ‘Have You Heard’ Caltpon does just that and provides some of his best work on the electrified blues number. Completed with the soon-to-be stolen 1960 sunburst Gibson Les Paul, Clapton was making his mark.
6. ‘Spoonful’ – Cream
On Cream’s cover of Willie Dixon’s originally composed track and Howlin’ Wolf’s first recording, the band not only exercised their musical muscles but opened the gym up to everybody else too. It was a show of dominance that nobody would come close to overthrowing for years.
Clapton’s solo starts at 2:23 and appears to be a lighthearted refrain from the song but 20 seconds later and things get decidedly more serious. It highlights, like a great painter, how well Clapton could play with shadow.
5. ‘Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad’ – Derek & the Dominos
There’s no real rhyme or reason to it but sometimes music just sounds better live. Many a studio technician would disagree but on some occasions, you can really feel the intensity of the moment. That happens aplenty on Derek & The Dominos Live at the Fillmore album.
Performed in 1970 to a stunned audience, Clapton lets rip on ‘Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad’ and appears to take up more than half of the song’s 15-minute run time with his noodling solos. While some may snort in derision at the expansive solo, if you’re a guitar player this is pure gold.
4. ‘Layla’ – Derek & The Dominos
Of course, no Clapton list would be complete without his ode to Pattie Boyd (then the wife of his friend George Harrison), the classic rock number, ‘Layla’. A seven-minute track built upon the foundations that Clapton and Duane Allman lay down on guitar and it is purely magnificent.
There are six guitar tracks on this single and each one plays a hand in creating one of the most memorable guitar songs of all time. One particular moment of joy is the dual solo between Clapton and Allman that may be one of the best-equipped tracks ever recorded.
3. ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ – The Beatles
It’s hard to imagine a musician coming into the studio where The Beatles were recording and have them not only welcome you but bow down to your work. It’s exactly what happened don the George Harrison-penned classic, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, despite Clapton being hesitant to get involved with the Fab Four.
After all, they did have a pretty decent guitarist themselves in Harrison. But the quiet Beatle was adamant that he step aside for this song and it’s hard to argue when hearing the final song. Clapton is everything he needs to be on the song, slow and melancholy, wobbly and woeful, it’s a joyous concoction that put Clapton as a scene-painter.
2. ‘White Room’ – Cream
Taken from the band’s 1968 album Wheels of Fire, if there was one track to pinpoint Clapton’s intensity then it’s ‘White Room’. It’s the song that most people have heard of whenever you mention Cream and there’s a good reason. It’s a fireball of talent and one that singed the name of Cream into everybody’s brain who heard it.
The psychedelic streams that flow through the song may well be entrancing enough but when Clapton takes over proceedings of the final moments of the song is when this trip starts to get really interesting, guiding us through the myriad of wormholes and pitfalls, Clapton squeals away for little over a minute. A joyous minute.
1. ‘Crossroads’ – Cream
Cream’s command of ‘Crossroads’ is about as clear a testament to Eric Clapton’s talent as you’re ever likely to hear. The original Robert Johnson song (‘Cross Roads Blues’) may well have been a well-known track on the club circuit but for those at home in the sixties when Cream performed the track it was their first taste of the legendary guitarist.
Famed for selling his soul to the Devil, Johnson is a marvel on the track, imbuing his instrument with a previously unheard soul. Clapton, though, would somehow make the song his own with one of the most comprehensive lead guitar performances ever put down on record.
It puts God at the top of his game as he bends notes and shapes patterns before powering through with the kind of lead line which could unite Heaven and Hell.