There aren’t many guitar legends who can stand up to the towering presence of Cream, Yardbirds and a whole host of other band’s iconic lead guitarist Eric Clapton. Despite some difficulties in recent years, the perception of Clapton as one of the greatest guitar players of all time holds firm. in fact, there is probably only a handful of people who can hold a torch to Clapton’s iconography with the axe. one such man was the virtuoso player Jimi Hendrix.
The two guitarists would become the best of friends before Hendrix’s tragic demise. Of course, Jimi Hendrix wasn’t just an incredible friend of Clapton’s; he was also competing in the field. Cream offered the American his first performance in London, and the guitarist dutifully got up and blew everybody away from the first notes he played. Keith Altham of The Guardian and famed rock journalist of the time noted the meeting between Clapton and Hendrix, remembering: “Chandler going backstage after Clapton left in the middle of the song ‘which he had yet to master himself’; Clapton was furiously puffing on a cigarette and telling Chas: ‘You never told me he was that fucking good’.” Clearly, Chandler had not only found a gem of an artist but a legitimate contender for the throne.
With that performance, the relationship between one of the most intrinsically talented duos to have ever shared a pint began. Hendrix and Clapton would share jokes, drinks and stages over the next four years, their admiration for one another growing stronger and stronger until Hendrix’s untimely death on 18th September 1970.
It was a rock and roll death that would shake the music scene to its very core and leave a gigantic hole in the industry and many people’s hearts. For once, the rock world felt like it had finally found its saviour, and then, as saviours often are, Hendrix was ripped away from his adoring audience. It left a mark on global society and left many fans bereft, including, most notably, his friend Eric Clapton.
Like all of us, though, Clapton still has the music Hendrix left behind to reflect on his legacy. With such a deep connection to the man behind the music, Clapton’s selection of his favourite Hendrix song was always likely to be an intriguing one. The fact that Clapton chose the song that Hendrix performed when they first met, the song Clapton had yet to master, is a sign of huge respect. Clapton picks Hendrix’s version of ‘Killing floor’ when asked to select his favourite number from the guitar virtuoso by the BBC.
“The first time I met Jimi, he came to see Cream play at an early Cream gig when we were playing universities and stuff like that, and the Cambridge May Ball,” reflected Clapton. “He came to the London Polytechnic, and we were playing there, we got up on stage, and then Chas Chandler came up to us and said, ‘I’ve got this friend who would love to jam.’
“And I thought, ‘Well, yeah.’ And it was funny in those days anybody could get up with anybody if you were convincing enough that you could play. So he got up and blew everyone’s mind. And me too, I just thought, ‘Ah, someone that plays the stuff I love, in the flesh, on stage with me. I was actually privileged to be part of something that no one’s ever gonna be. That incident that night is historic in my mind.”
Listen below to Eric Clapton‘s favourite Jimi Hendrix song of all time.