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The cream of Clapton


Mike Hall, the man behind the Classic Clapton tribute

RETRO is king. Exactly a week after the previously-reviewed Elvis Presley tribute by Garry J Foley at the Bandra Fort Amphitheatre, we had Mike Hall doing an Eric Clapton tribute.

This was on January 17, when the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana, Santa Cruz, was packed to capacity. Part of the MLA Ashish Shelar Neighbourhood Winter Festival, the event ‘Classic Clapton’ was coordinated by Dereyk Talker.

Guitarist-vocalist Clapton has had thousands of followers in India. After all, he has done some great work over the years, right from bands like the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith and Derek & The Dominos, to almost four decades of solo work.

Well, why are we repeating what everyone knows? Let’s suffice it to say that Hall, who hails from Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, did a stupendous job. His guitarwork was first-rate throughout, and though his vocal timbre was slightly different from the legend’s, he had the crowd singing along.

Hall had come to Mumbai in 2009. But while that was at Bandra’s St Andrew’s Auditorium, the open-air environment of WCG gave a completely different feel. It was a half-seating, half-standing arrangement for a mixed crowd, with people of all ages. While the youngsters just listened to and admired the ongoings, the middle-aged and even older people sang along and danced.

The previous day, this blogger missed Hall’s performance at Phoenix Marketcity in Kurla. At WCG, after the opening act Rebecca Nazz, he came on and did a string of Clapton hits. One of his early numbers was JJ Cale’s ‘After Midnight’, which had the audience on their feet. Other gems included the brilliant ‘Lay Down Sally’, the Willie Dixon-penned and Muddy Waters-popularised ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, George Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (Clapton played guitar on that, uncredited on the original album) and the Freddie King classic ‘Hideaway’.

The Cream masterpiece ‘White Room’ was done perfectly, specially the famous wah-wah coda. On a more romantic note came ‘Wonderful Tonight’, which Clapton had written for ex-wife Pattie Boyd. Other electric numbers were Bob Marley’s ‘I Shot The Sheriff’, Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’ (which Clapton had covered) and the Cream version of Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’.

The show also had an unplugged set, including Bo Diddley’s ‘Before You Accuse Me’, the acoustic version of ‘Layla’, and ‘Tears In Heaven’, which Hall dedicated to the late David Bowie – the song was originally written by Clapton for his four-year-old son Conor, who died after falling from the 53rd floor.

Extra-popular songs like JJ Cale’s ‘Cocaine’ and the electric version of ‘Layla’ were kept for the latter part. All in all, the fans were thrilled by the fabulous selection, the quality of musicianship and the sheer liveliness of the show. For those who’ve had ‘blind faith’ in bluesbreaker Clapton, this was his ‘cream’.

See also


The Slash experience/ Guest column by Ramon Ryder



Ramon Ryder with Slash

A former colleague at EMI Music India, Ramon Ryder has been a huge Guns N’ Roses and Slash fan for years. He has a vast collection of their tees, and knows even the newer songs well. Best of all, he was lucky to meet Slash in a meet and greet session.

I personally didn’t attend the show, and going by the feedback, know I missed something great. So felt it would be ideal to ask Ramon to write a guest column in this blog. He agreed immediately and has described his meeting with Slash, besides reviewing the concert. Ramon’s account:

It’s still not sunk in, but November 7 2015 will be a memory I will never forget for sure. The wait was over… the longing to watch Slash play live in Mumbai was finally a reality.

Around 20 days back I woke up to an early morning Whatsapp message from a friend from Delhi. It was a screen shot of MTVixtreme saying Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators would play in Mumbai. Sleep was lost after that. The next few days were the most exciting as I waited eagerly for time to pass, doing a countdown on Facebook and Twitter 15 days before the show.

I also shared some links of Slash’s appearances on TV shows and movies including some behind-the-scenes gig footage. I took part in many contests by MTV on Facebook and Twitter and managed to win a ticket to the show. I had already bought mine online, just in case I didn’t win.

I paid around Rs 1300 inclusive of taxes for the early bird ticket. I bought an extra one at the venue which cost Rs 1824 inclusive of taxes. The promotion for this show was mainly done on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I didn’t see any print media besides a few Billboards.

Tried a lot to win the meet and greet with Slash, but I guess I just wasn’t good enough to be chosen. On the day of the show I got a call at 8 in the morning from an MTV rep saying that they have selected me for the meet and greet with Slash since they found me to be a really dedicated and diehard fan of Slash.

Everything changed after that. I reached the venue – Jio Gardens at Bandra Kurla Complex – at 11:30 am as requested. There I met the remaining nine contest winners. It was an instant connect and we spoke like we knew each other for really long.

By around noon we were taken backstage and got to see the complete 45-minute sound check. Goose bumps just didn’t leave me. We were briefed by MTV that we were not to ask Slash any personal questions or talk about Guns N’ Roses. When he finally came out we all just went blank. Just managed to tell him the sound check was super and I can’t wait to see him perform later in the evening. While saying bye I ended up saying Thanks for Being Slash. Which really felt weird later.

By the time we got out the lines had really got real long and were stretched all along the road around Jio Gardens. Gates finally opened at around 5 and everyone stormed in rushing for the fence in front of the stage.

The three bands that opened for Slash were Gingerfeet from the North East, Them Clones from Delhi and Thermal and a Quarter from Bangalore. While Gingerfeet got a good response, Them Clones was a bit quiet. Thermal and a Quarter did a brilliant set and got the crowd going.

By this time the venue was fully packed and the pushing was getting violent as we almost fell three times due to the pushing. By the time Slash was on stage it was uncontrollable as it became impossible to stand. We were pushed and squashed, resulting in a girl and boy passing out. They were pulled over the fence by the security and taken aside. Next person to pass out was me.. I was helped by a few guys back on my feet and every one made way for me to go out of the crowd.

Immediately I requested the head of security to help me pull my two friends out also who were visibly suffocating and on the verge of passing out. It took us a good 20 minutes along with four Red Bull drinks each and two bottles of water to come back to normal. I wish the crew had more security lined in the front to control the crowd. I kept telling the security to get one of the crew members to please make an announcement to control the crowd, but they just refused.

Anyway we enjoyed the rest of the show from the side of the stage which had more space and fewer people. The band put on a super show and were super-tight. Slash was fantastic and so was Myles. Superb vocals. He was hitting all the high notes without any effort. Slash did a brilliant 20 minute solo during ‘Rocket Queen’. I looked around and people were just staring in awe as to what was happening. Most of them were just nodding their heads in disbelief. This was the moment every fan at the venue was waiting for. All of them had a sudden jolt of energy in them after that.

The set list was dominated by songs from Slash’s solo album and ‘’Apocalyptic Love’ and ‘World on Fire’ with Myles Kennedy. Some songs they did were ‘Back From Cali’, ‘You Could Be Mine’, ‘Starlight’ and ‘World on Fire’.

Bassist Todd Kerns did vocals on ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ and ‘Dr Alibi’ and was very impressive. ‘Anastasia’ and ‘Rocket Queen’ being the ones with great Slash solos. ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ saw the crowd go berserk and everyone sang as loud as possible. The encore and final song was of course ‘Paradise City’ which had the crowd jumping like crazy. Drummer Brent Fritz was brilliant throughout.

Slash was visibly overjoyed by the crowd’s response and said he was extremely happy to finally perform in India, and showed eagerness to be back again next year.

All in all, it was a concert that will be talked about by rock fans for the next few days to come. Besides the violent crowd, I’d say that it was very well managed and a excellent venue. I may just go for the Bangalore gig also. If only I can manage leave from work.

Set list

1 You’re a Lie
2 Nightrain
3 Avalon
4 Standing in the Sun
5 Back from Cali
6 Wicked Stone
7 Too Far Gone
8 You Could Be Mine
9 Doctor Alibi
10 Welcome to the Jungle
11 Beneath the Savage Sun
12 Starlight
13 The Dissiident
14 Rocket Queen
15 Bent to Fly
16 World on Fire
17 Anastasia
18 Sweet Child o’ Mine
19 Slither
20 Paradise City

Happy 70th Birthday, Eric Clapton


WHEN I first heard Eric Clapton, he was 35 years old, exactly half his current age. The year was 1980, and my first exposure came through the songs ‘Lay down Sally’, ‘Layla’, ‘I shot the sheriff’ and ‘Wonderful tonight’ over the radio. The following year, ‘Cocaine’ was played at every college festival in Delhi. Soon, I was hooked to the live album ‘Just One Night’, tripping on newer favourites like ‘After midnight’, ‘Tulsa time’, ‘Setting me up’ and ‘Blues power’ once my ear slowly got trained into appreciating those gorgeous guitar parts.

Clapton, who turns 70 today, has been regular on my playlist since the early 1980s. After the initial exposure, there was an effort to listen to his earlier stuff, beginning with his work for the groups Cream and Derek & The Dominoes, and his solo albums. His contributions to Blind Faith, Yardbirds and John Mayall’s Blues Breakers came later in my life, and at the same time, I tried to keep in touch with his latest releases.

While the initial admiration was more for his guitaring, I slowly began grasping the beauty of his raspy voice. Still, though he became one of my favourite musicians ever, I had two
complaints. One, many of his most popular songs were actually written by others. Even though he gave a completely different twist to his cover versions, only a handful of songs written by him were hugely successful.

Secondly, Clapton has had a fair share of erratic and average albums, specially in the 1980s and early 2000s. While his work till the mid-1970s was memorable, his later efforts were not always consistent, despite some excellent albums now and then. In the latter part of his career, the collaborations with greats like BB King and JJ Cale were brilliant, and so were some of his blues tributes. His rendition of Gary Moore’s ‘Still got the blues’, from his 2013 album ‘Old Sock’ was first-rate. But efforts to write his own stuff were namby-pamby.

These flaws notwithstanding, nothing could stop me from getting back to Clapton after regular intervals. I may have spent months away from other favourites like Pink Floyd, Doors, Jethro Tull and Santana, but Clapton, like the Beatles and Bob Dylan, always kept returning. To pep up one’s mood, nothing seemed better than a live album of Clapton – ‘Just One Night’, ‘Unplugged’, or his tie-ups with Steve Winwood and jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

The admiration of the man increased after I read his autobiography, where he not only talks of his music and influences, but about his various romantic interests (including the one with George Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd), his battles with drugs and alcohol, his subsequent attempts to help addicts, and the tragic death of his son Conor, which led him to write the brilliant ‘Tears in heaven’ in ‘Unplugged’.

Clapton has been on the scene for nearly five decades, and released some incredible stuff over the years. To join in his 70th birthday celebrations, here’s my list of favourite Clapton studio albums culled from various phases of his career. Not an easy task, of course, but here goes, in chronological order of their release:

Blues Breakers – John Mayall with Eric Clapton: This 1966 recording was fronted by British blues great John Mayall, who does lead vocals and plays piano and Hammond B3 organ. Clapton joins on electric guitar, with John McVie (later of Fleetwood Mac) on bass and Hughie Flint on drums. Popular songs are ‘All your love’, ‘Hideaway’ and ‘Rambling on my mind’.

Disraeli Gears – Cream: The second studio album of rock supergroup Cream, featuring Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker. The 1967 record, also recognised for its psychedelic cover artwork, features classic Cream numbers like ‘Tales of brave Ulysses’, ‘Sunshine of your love’, ‘Strange brew’, ‘We’re going wrong’ and ‘SWLABR’.

Blind Faith – Blind Faith: Released in 1969 with a controversial cover, this was the only album by the legendary line-up of Clapton, keyboardist-vocalist Steve Winwood, bassist-violinist Ric Grech and drummer Ginger Baker. Classic cuts include ‘Had to cry today’, ‘Can’t find my way home’, ‘Well all right’, ‘Presence of the lord’ and ‘Sea of joy’.

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs – Derek & The Dominoes: One of Clapton’s best works to date, this 1970 release features the memorable ‘Layla’, which Clapton wrote for Pattie Boyd. Super-guitarist Duane Allman appears on 11 of the 14 songs, which also include ‘Bell bottom blues’, ‘Have you ever loved a woman’, ‘Nobody knows you when you’re down and out’ and a version of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Little wing’ Bobby Whitlock does a great job on piano and organ.

461 Ocean Boulevard – Solo: Clapton’s second solo studio album, released in 1974, was an indication of the style he was to follow for many years, using laidback pop-infused rock songs laced with blues influences. Hits here included a version of Bob Marley’s reggae hit ‘I shot the sheriff’, ‘Let it grow’ and ‘Willie and the hand jive’.

Slowhand – Solo: The title of this 1977 record was based on the nickname given to Clapton. The first three numbers became classics – namely ‘Cocaine’, ‘Wonderful tonight’ and ‘Lay down sally’. The album was to reach No 2 on the Billboard 200 charts.

From the Cradle – Solo: Released in 1994, this was Clapton’s marvelous tribute to old-school blues, as he played a selection of standards in his own style. On the list were Willie Dixon’s ‘Hoochie coochie man’, popularised by Muddy Waters, Tampa Red’s ‘It hurts me too’, Lowell Fulson’s ‘Sinner’s prayer’ and Leroy Carr’s ‘Blues before sunrise’.

Riding with the King – With BB King: Clapton fulfilled his dream of collaborating with one of his heroes in this 2000 album, which also featured great talent like guitarists Andy Fairweather Low, Jimmie Vaughan and Doyle Bramhall II, keyboardist Joe Sample, bassist Nathan East and drummer Steve Gadd. The version of Big Bill Broonzy’s ‘Keys to the highway’ is brilliant.

Me and Mr Johnson – Solo: Another blues tribute, this time dedicated to the legendary Robert Johnson, with Clapton exclusively playing his compositions. Released in 2004, it contains Clapton’s versions of favourites ‘Milkcow’s calf blues’, ‘Love in vain’ and ‘Kind hearted woman blues’.

The Road to Escondido – with JJ Cale: Clapton had over the years popularized two Cale songs ‘Cocaine’ and ‘After midnight’. In this 2006 collaboration, he teams up with his idol on songs like ‘Sporting life blues’, ‘Hard to thrill’, ‘Don’t cry sister’ and ‘Ride the river’. The guests include guitarists Derek Trucks and John Mayer.

Andy Fraser, Free and the great ‘earlier’ bands of the stars


Andy Fraser of Free

THE week gone by has been rather sad for rock music, following the death of three outstanding musicians – Toto bassist Mike Porcaro, Free bassist/ pianist Andy Fraser and Twisted Sister drummer A J Pero. While each of them was incredibly talented, they were at their prime in different periods – Fraser in the late 60s and early 70s, Porcaro in the early to mid-1980s, and Pero in the late 1980s.

Followers of good old ‘classic’ rock would remember Fraser’s group Free not only for its rock staple ‘All right now’, but also because it was the earlier band of super-vocalist Paul Rodgers, who made waves in the mid-1970s with Bad Company. In fact, Rodgers is considered one of the greatest rock vocalists ever, but there again, much of his success and memorable songs are due to Bad Company.

On its own, Free was one of the most popular bands on the British circuit, shuffling between early hard rock and blues-influenced rock. It released six studio albums, including the successful ‘Fire and Water’, ‘Highway’ and ‘Heartbreaker’. Besides Rodgers and Fraser, who passed away at age 62, it had the incredible talents of guitarist Paul Kossoff and drummer Simon Kirke (who also joined Bad Company), and later featured keyboardist John Rabbit Bundrick and bassist Tetsuo Yamauchi.

Yet, barring those who followed Free as part of the late 1960s and early 1970s British rock scene, a large number of people outside the UK and US knew it primarily as Rodgers’ earlier band. Thus, the work of Fraser and Kossoff was somewhat overlooked during their hey days, but recognised only much later, specially when people saw footage of their performance of the 1970 Isle of Wight festival. In many cases, Bad Company fans became Free admirers later.

FREE is a classic example of the earlier band of a rock superstar (in this case Rodgers). And come to think of it, there are quite a few examples of such outfits, which were on the one hand admired by a select set in its performing days, but became even more famous because one or two of its members became superstars later.

Here, let’s take a look at 10 such names. This isn’t a complete list, but an ideal starting point for those who want to follow the larger repertoire of the more famous artistes we have idolised over the years.

Yardbirds: An extremely popular group on its own, this also was a launch pad of sorts for guitarists Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, and rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja. Hits included ‘For your love’, ‘Heart full of soul’ and ‘Over under sideways down’.

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers: Mayall was one of the biggest names in the British blues scene in the 1960s, and his group Bluesbreakers included guitarists Clapton, Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac and Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones, and bassists John McVie of Fleetwood Mac and Jack Bruce of Cream.

Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated: Like Mayall’s group, this outfit launched many stars, including drummers Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones and Ginger Baker of Cream. Jack Bruce played with both Bluesbreakers and Blues Incorporated, and he and Baker played with Graham Bond Organisation, before they attained superstardom with Cream, along with Clapton.

Mott The Hoople: Best known as the band featuring guitarist Mick Ralphs, who later made it big with Bad Company. The group also featured guitarists Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson, best known for his collaborations with David Bowie.

The Byrds: Hugely popular in the mid-1960s with hits like ‘Eight Miles High’, ‘Ballad of Easy Rider’ and its cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ and Pete Seeger’s ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’, it also was the earlier group of David Crosby, part of the legendary Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Buffalo Springfield: The earlier group of Stephen Stills and Neil Young of Crosby Stills Nash & Young, it also featured Jim Messina who later formed country-rock group Poco and earned fame with the group Loggins & Messina. Interestingly, Poco also featured Springfield’s Richie Furay and bassist Randy Meisner, later of the Eagles.

Flying Burrito Brothers: The earlier group of Eagles founding member and multi-instrumentalist Bernie Leadon and singer-songwriter Gram Parsons.

The Jeff Beck Group/ Faces: Super-singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood, later of the Rolling Stones, were an integral part of guitarist Jeff Beck’s group, before they formed the Small Faces, which later became the Faces. Interestingly, the Faces also had keyboardist Ian Maclagan, who toured and recorded often with the Stones.

Spencer Davis Group: Best known because it featured keyboardist, guitarist and vocalist Steve Winwood and his brother Muff. The group is best known for the songs ‘Gimme some lovin’, ‘Somebody help me’ and ‘Keep on running’. Steve later played a leading role in the groups Traffic and Blind Faith, before embarking on a solo career.

Them: A hugely successful Irish band in the mid-1960s, Them featured vocalist Van Morrison, who became a solo legend in his own right. The band was best known for its anthem ‘Gloria’, and was also a huge influence on the Doors.

AS we said, besides Free, we have cited the examples of 10 such bands which featured future greats. For those interested in the earlier work of these phenomenal musicians, it would be a good idea to check out their songs from their early career. There are a lot of unknown gems left to discover.

Flying with the Eagles


SOME time in the early 1980s, my first exposure to the Eagles came through the radio. Strangely, it wasn’t with their super-hit ‘Hotel California’, but with two other gems ‘Lyin eyes’ and ‘One of these nights’, both of which impressed me instantly. Those days, I was just getting into rock, but by tastes were quite strong on pop and country. As the Eagles used a bit from all these genres, I loved their sound.

Memories of my early and subsequent exposure to the Eagles came alive again on Saturday, January 17, when I attended the performance by Scottish tribute band Hotel California at the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana in Santa Cruz, Mumbai. Almost 20 years ago, I had seen another tribute band whose name I don’t remember, at the Sophia Bhabha Hall. Needless to say, I enjoyed both shows thoroughly, but one of my regrets is not seeing the original band live.

On Saturday, the Scots played many of the popular songs, right from ‘Seven bridges road’, ‘Peaceful easy feeling’, ‘New kid in town’, ‘Take it easy’, ‘Desperado’, ‘Lyin eyes’, ‘Best of my love’, ‘Witchy woman’, ‘Already gone’, ‘Tequila sunrise’, ‘One of these nights’, ‘Life in the fast lane’, ‘Take it to the limit’, and ‘Hotel California’, to some solo numbers like Don Henley’s ‘Boys of summer’ and Joe Walsh’s ‘Rocky Mountain way’. They also omitted a lot of favourites, like ‘Heartache tonight’, ‘Pretty maids all in a row,’, ‘The long run’, ‘Doolin-Dalton’, ‘Love will keep us alive’, ‘Get over it’, ‘Victim of love’, ‘In the city’, ‘I can’t tell you why’, ‘Waiting in the weeds’ and probably because they didn’t have a saxophonist, ‘The sad café’.

The tribute band definitely provided many moments of nostalgia, and musically, they excelled with their crisp vocals and tight guitars, with Jim Bowie producing some amazing slide and wah-wah riffs. The strong point of the Eagles music was their vocal harmonies, and the duplicates blended them well, though at times, one felt they never went as effortlessly high as the originals. One guesses they should have been given more time, shortening the performance of opening act Silvia, who buoyantly sang some bubbly pop and disco hits, but whose music wasn’t really in sync with what was in store. Another four or five songs by Hotel California, and it would have been perfect.

THAT much about the tribute. A bit more on the Eagles influence.

To me, the Eagles is one of the three American bands to release relatively fewer albums, and yet consistently produce sing-along anthems. The other two bands I am referring to are Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) and the Doors featuring Jim Morrison. If one excludes the two Doors albums without Morrison and includes their ‘An American Prayer’, which posthumously used recordings of his vocals and spoken words, all these three bands released seven studio albums of fresh material.

The Doors released their first six albums between 1967 and 1971, when Morrison died, and ‘An American Prayer’ was out in 1978. CCR released their seven albums between 1968 and 1972, the year in which the Eagles came out with their self-titled debut. The latter released six great albums till 1979, and then after a really long gap, came out with ‘A Long Road Out of Eden’ in 2007. Their songs continued to be played, and there was a sudden Eagles wave in 1994 when they released ‘Hell Freezes Over’, essentially a live album with four new studio recordings thrown in.

The Doors, CCR and the Eagles thus released very few albums. But their consistency with whatever they released was too high. The only other band which arguably beat them in the frequency of widely-known hits was the Beatles, despite releasing more albums. And if one includes the pure pop world, Swedish group ABBA were probably equally high in consistency over eight studio albums.

With such a perfect record, it’s no surprise that the Eagles are one of the world’s most popular groups. And the best thing about them is that had could attract rock fans, pop fans and country fans. They had what is called a ‘four quadrant appeal’, in that they were loved equally by young people, old people, males and females. That’s what makes them the largest selling American band, and the fifth largest selling musical act, in history, with figures exceeding 150 million records.

MY own experience of listening to the Eagles can be divided into many phases. First came the radio phase, with ‘Lyin eyes’ and ‘One of these nights’ followed by ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Take it easy’. Those were the days I enjoyed the basic melodies and sound. From their accents, it was obvious they were an American band, but for many years, I had no clue they represented the southern California sound.

This was followed by the compilations phase, when I heard cassettes of ‘Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)’ and ‘Eagles Greatest Hits Vol 2’, discovering gems like ‘Peaceful easy feeling’, ‘Tequila sunrise’, ‘Desperado’, ‘The sad café’, ‘I can’t tell you why’ and ‘Life in the fast lane’.

Naturally, I began exploring the studio albums, first buying vinyl copies of ‘Hotel California’ and ‘The Long Run’. This introduced me to the individual contributions of vocalists-guitarists Don Felder, Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh, drummer-vocalist Don Henley and bassist Randy Meisner and his successor Timothy B Schmidt. I read in a magazine that singer Bob Seger did the back-up vocals on ‘Heartache tonight’ but didn’t get any credit, and that jazz saxophonist David Sanborn played the remarkable solo on ‘The sad café’.

After listening to earlier studio albums like ‘Eagles’, ‘Desperado’ and ‘One of these nights’, I also began appreciating the work of vocalist-guitarist Bernie Leadon. I discovered that Jackson Browne co-wrote ‘Take it easy’ and Jack Tempchin penned ‘Peaceful easy feeling’. The one album I have never heard completely is 1974’s ‘On The Border’, and was thus clueless of the Tom-Waits-written ‘Ol 55’, which the tribute band played the other day.

Barring ‘On The Border’, I heard the albums repeatedly, but like is the case with many bands, there was a temporary stoppage as far as the Eagles were concerned, the only exception being the song ‘Hotel California’, which was covered by half the bands on earth. There were some small forays into the band members’ solo albums, like Don Henley’s ‘The End of the Innocence’ and Joe Walsh’s ‘Got Any Gum?’ but most of the solo recordings were not available in India, and they didn’t sound as great as the band anyway.

In the mid-1990s, the release of the live album ‘Hell Freezes Over’ marked the return of the Eagles phase. The acoustic version of ‘Hotel California’ was stunning, the newer songs ‘Get over it’, ‘Love will keep us alive’, ‘The girl from yesterday’ and ‘Learn to be still’ had the Eagles class, and the live renditions of ‘Tequila sunrise’, ‘Wasted time’, ‘Take it easy’, ‘I can’t tell you why’ and the Henley solo ‘New York minute’ was all superbly executed.

By this time, the way one appreciated music also changed. If I initially liked the songs more for the melodies and hooks, I now got deeper into the lyrics and the harmonies. The Eagles songs have such intricate vocal harmonies, and hearing them closely offered a completely new perspective. So I would hear all the old favourites again, but with special focus on the harmonies. I would appreciate the guitaring patterns in greater detail, and also the drumming of pieces like ‘Heartache tonight’ and ‘New kid in town’. One also started identifying more with the southern California sound they represented, and that added to the listening pleasure.

After another short pause, the DVD phase arrived. The ‘Hell Freezes Over’ DVD was out in the late 1990s, but the real masterpiece was the ‘Farewell Tour 1-Live from Melbourne’ double set released in 2005. Besides the popular hits, it had the Walsh solo ‘One day at a time’, which celebrated his recovery from cocaine and alcohol addiction. The 2013 documentary ‘History of the Eagles’ also makes for perfect viewing for fans.

The last album ‘Long Road out of Eden’, released in 2007 after a 28-year gap, had some great numbers too, specially ‘Waiting in the weeds’, ‘Busy being fabulous’, ‘No more cloudy days’ and ‘How long’. Sadly, many old-time Eagles fans didn’t get too deeply into it, even though it did commercially well, and was the highest selling album of that year.

As with the general trend, the past few years have involved discovering some rare Eagles footage on YouTube, including some fantastic live sessions from 1977. Now, after the recent tribute concert, another Eagles phase has begun. Of course, the immediate priority is to give a closer listen to ‘On The Border’.

For its part, the band has had some well-received tours since 2013. Though the shows continue today, Henley has indicated their performances may soon come to an end. The fact, of course, is that the Eagles have released enough great music which fans can relish forever. Even after 35 or 40 years of listening to them, one finds something new. That’s precisely why they are so special.

The Glenn Cornick years at Jethro Tull


Glenn Cornick

IT might not be far-fetched to say that only hardcore fans of legendary progressive rock group Jethro Tull would be aware of the role of bassist Glenn Cornick. Most people identify the band with its charismatic vocalist and flautist Ian Anderson, and many of them recognise its long-standing guitarist Martin Barre.

Cornick, who passed away at age 67 on Thursday, August 28, certainly had an important role to play in the band’s early development. After all, he was with the band since its inception in December 1967, and stayed with them for three years, before leaving or being asked to leave, depending on which story one may have heard. He formed Wild Turkey in 1971, and later played with the groups Karthago and Paris.

With Tull, Cornick appeared on the albums ‘This Was’, ‘Stand Up’ and ‘Benefit’, was part of what was later released as the ‘Living In The Past’ compilation, and appeared on the famous Isle of Wight festival concert in 1970. Along with drummer Clive Bunker, who left after the 1971 album ‘Aqualung’, he’s played important portions of such classic Tull numbers as ‘Bouree’, ‘Teacher’, ‘A New Day Yesterday’, ‘A Song For Jeffrey’, ‘Nothing Is Easy’, ‘To Cry You A Song’, ‘Living In The Past’, ‘Sweet Dream’, ‘We Used To Know’, ‘Witch’s Promise’ and ‘Nothing to Say’. He even played concert versions of the famous song ‘My God’, but had quit by the time its studio version was released in ‘Aqualung’, where he was replaced by Jeffrey Hammond.

Again, only a true-blue Tull fan will understand the true value of each song mentioned. Because of them, the band evolved into a sound that they later successfully endorsed in the albums ‘Aqualung’, ‘Thick As A Brick’, ‘Songs from the Wood’ and ‘Heavy Horses’. Of course, Anderson was singularly responsible in creating and singing those songs, besides giving them a unique flute voice, and that’s why the world by and large equates Jethro Tull with him.

In the history of rock music, there have been quite a few bands where the frontman hogged most of the attention and fame. Jim Morrison of the Doors, Freddie Mercury of Queen, Steve Winwood of Traffic and Paul Rodgers of Bad Company are four examples. But all these bands have had steady line-ups, and the other musicians had their cult following too. Guitarists like Queen’s Brian May, Doors’ Robbie Krieger and Bad Company’s Mick Ralphs have had their set of admirers, whereas Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek has always been considered to be the man who gave the Doors sound its own distinct flavour.

With Tull, it was different. Anderson has been there from the beginning, and Barre for most of the time. But otherwise, musicians came and went, with many playing only on an album or two. Guitarist Mick Abrahams appeared on the debut album ‘This Was’, only to be replaced by Barre subsequently. Cornick and Bunker played on the early albums, but eventually made way for Jeffrey Hammond and drummer Barriemore Barlow.

Later bassists have comprised John Glasscock, Dave Pegg, Jonanthan Noyce and David Goodier. Drummers have included Mark Craney, Gerry Conway, Paul Burgess, the long-standing Doane Perry, Dave Mattacks and Anderson’s son James Duncan. And the list of keyboardists consisted of John Evan, David Palmer, Eddie Jobson, Peter John Vetesse, Don Airey, Martin Allcock, Andrew Giddings and John O’Hara.

These are besides numerous musicians who have played with Anderson on his solo projects, or have been guests with the band on tours – like guitarists Tony Iommi and Joe Bonamassa in 1968 and 2011 respectively, and drummer Phil Collins, who played only one gig with Tull in 1982.

Needless to say, the constant alterations in line-up haven’t affected the group’s sound a bit, as it was all the brainchild of Anderson. So while Barre had his distinct guitar, even the ever-changing bassist, keyboardist and drummer had a sound that went well with the band’s overall music. And that music has primarily been Anderson’s flute driven blend of rock, blues, folk, classical, you name it. So much so that Anderson recently gave a hint that he would release all future albums under his own name, hinting that the name ‘Jethro Tull’ is now a part of history.

Though Cornick has played in only three of the 21 studio albums released by Tull, he has played in those three that shaped the band’s sound. The 1968 debut ‘This Was’, which had the songs ‘A Song for Jeffrey’, ‘My Sunday Feeling’ and ‘Some Day The Sun Won’t Shine For You’, had more of a blues flavour.

The follow-up ‘Stand Up’, with the tracks ‘Bouree’, ‘Reasons for Waiting’, ‘A New Day Yesterday’, ‘We Used To Know’, ‘Fat Man’ and ‘Nothing Is Easy’, marked the beginning of the Tull sound as one later recognised it. The instrumental ‘Bouree’, based on a piece by German classical composer JS Bach, is primarily known for Anderson’s flute, but here, Cornick’s bass is a song by itself.

The third album ‘Benefit’, released in 1970, is considered by the more serious fans as one of the best Tull albums. It featured keyboardist John Evan, and had the songs ‘To Cry You A Song’, ‘Inside’, ‘Nothing To Say’, ‘Sossity, You’re A Woman’ and ‘With You There To Help Me’. While the UK release had ‘Alive and Well and Living In’, the US record featured ‘Teacher’, a concert favourite which had a trademark bass back-up by Cornick.

‘Living In The Past’, released in 1972, had many early singles featuring Cornick. These included the title song, which used a distinct 5/4 rhythm structure, ‘Love Story’, ‘Christmas Song’, ‘Sweet Dream’, ‘Witch’s Promise’ and ‘Teacher’.

In a 1996 tribute album ‘To Cry You A Song – A Collection of Tull Tales’, Cornick was joined by former Tull musicians Clive Bunker, Mick Abrahams and Dave Pegg, on the songs ‘Nothing Is Easy’, ‘To Cry You A Song’, ‘A New Day Yesterday’, ‘Teacher’ and ‘Living In The Past’. One doesn’t know whether the album was released in India.

Today, one can check some of Cornick’s appearances with Tull on YouTube. What strikes one most is his appearance of a hippie showman. Bearded and slim, he had an animated stage presence, matching Anderson’s movements perfectly. And yes, he formed part of what many consider the classic Tull line-up that also had Anderson, Barre, Bunker and for some time Evan. Rest in peace, Glenn Cornick.

The great guitar codas


Alternative band Wilco

IF there’s one song I’ve been tripping on over the past few days, it’s ‘Impossible Germany’ by American alternative rock band Wilco. What I love most about this number, which is part of the 2007 album ‘Sky Blue Sky’, is the lengthy three minute, 20-second twin guitar burst that concludes it. Featuring axeman Nels Cline, this is clearly one of the best guitar codas I’ve heard in a long time.

Over the years, one has heard many great guitar intros, guitar solos and even entire songs played on the guitar. But there’s something about a guitar ‘coda’ or ‘outro’ – the portion concluding the song – that makes it special. Whether they simply fade out or end abruptly, they leave you on a high. Who would imagine the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ or Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’ without their glorious climaxes?

Sadly, not many bands use an extended coda in today’s times. At least most of the memorable codas were played in the 1960s and 1970s, and a few groups like Guns N’ Roses used them later. But there have been some classics, and ‘Impossible Germany’ tempts me to list my all-time favourite 10.

I am excluding ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Comfortably Numb’ as, despite being path-breaking songs which I have grown up on, both suffer from being overheard. And besides these 10, there will also be others, which readers can write in about. Here goes:

1) Dear Mr Fantasy – Traffic:
This was the song that really got me into the coda craze. Though guitarist Dave Mason was part of the group in this 1967 number, the solo here was played by Steve Winwood, who also sang lead vocals. Traffic also had a great coda on ‘Heaven Is In Your Mind’.

2) Time Waits for No One – The Rolling Stones: From the 1974 album ‘It’s Only Rock N’ Roll’, this boasts of one of the cleanest coda riffs. While Keith Richards plays guitar for most of the song, the extended solo is actually by Mick Taylor. And talking of Stones codas, we also have the brilliant ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’ from the 1971 album ‘Sticky Fingers’.

3) Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd: Easily one of the best guitar codas ever produced, with Allen Collins playing lead guitar and Gary Rossington on slide and rhythm guitar. It was released on the band’s 1973 debut, and has since been one of the most covered live songs in rock.

4) Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits: It took me a while to appreciate the coda of this song, simply because the entire piece is so uniformly good, and Mark Knopfler’s voice and guitar enchants you from the beginning. But slowly, the outro began sinking in – it’s simple, straight and yet so sublime.

5) White Room – Cream: The psychedelic rock gem released in 1968 by supergroup Cream, featuring guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker. Here, Clapton played guitar with a wah-wah pedal to get a talking effect.

6) Moonage Daydream – David Bowie: First written in 1971, it was used a year later on the album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’. The memorable guitar coda is played by Mick Ronson.

7) Pigs (3 Different Ones) – Pink Floyd: We’ve already mentioned ‘Comfortably Numb’, but this masterpiece from the 1977 album ‘Animals’ has an ending that takes you into another zone. While guitarist David Gilmour dazzles, Roger Waters chips in with rhythm guitar.

8) Layla – Derek & The Dominoes: One of guitar god’s Eric Clapton’s best-known compositions, written for his ex-wife Pattie Boyd. However, both the intro and guitar coda for this gem is played by the great Duane Allman, formerly of the Allman Brothers Band. The wailing guitar riff in fact merges with the famous piano climax which acts as the second part of the song.

9) Black Dog – Led Zeppelin: The opening track of the album ‘Led Zeppelin IV’, this has one of the most instantly recognisable intros in rock. However, the coda just completes the song beautifully, with guitarist Jimmy Page producing one of his most famous stretches.

10) November Rain – Guns N’ Roses: The power ballad for ‘Use Your Illusion 1’, this became one of the most popular GNR songs. Slash, equally known for his memorable riff on ‘Sweet Child O Mine’, come up with an incredible guitar coda on this one.

My coda: Well, these are 10 of my personal favourites, but there are surely many more, like Jimi Hendrix’s short coda on his version of Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ or Randy Rhoads’ great work on the Black Sabbath song ‘Mr Crowley’. Which are the other great guitar codas you’ve heard. Do drop in a line to add to the list.

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