Blues Breakers: With Eric Clapton – [Record 131]
Blues Breakers is a blues LP recorded in 1966, the first studio album and the second overall credited to John Mayall, who teamed up for the first time in a studio release with ex-Yardbird Eric Clapton (their next and last time will be for six tracks of 1971’s double LP Back to the Roots).
It is also known as Beano because of its cover photograph showing Clapton reading The Beano, a British children’s comic. Clapton stated in his autobiography that he was reading Beano on the cover as he felt like being “uncooperative” during the photo shoot.
1, All Your Love.
3, Little Girl.
4, Another Man.
5, Double Crossing Time.
6, What’d I Say.
7, Key to Love.
8, Parchman Farm.
9, Have You Heard.
10, Ramblin’ on My Mind.
11, Steppin’ Out.
12, It Ain’t Right.
Background: Originally, John Mayall intended for his second album to be also a live one in order to capture the guitar solos performed by Eric Clapton. A set was recorded at the Flamingo Club, with Jack Bruce (with whom Clapton would subsequently work in Cream) on bass. The recordings of the concert, however, were of bad quality and were scrapped.
Recording: With the original plan of a live album now discarded, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers recorded Blues Breakers at Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London in March 1966. The guitar that Eric Clapton used during these sessions was a sunburst 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard with two PAF humbucking pickups. This guitar (whose current whereabouts remains unknown since being stolen in 1966) is also called the “Blues Breaker” or “Beano” Les Paul and a replica of which was reissued by Gibson in 2012. Critics consider Clapton’s guitar tone and playing on this album to be influential in the artistic and commercial development of rock-styled guitar playing.
The band on this album includes Mayall on piano, Hammond organ, harmonica and most vocals; bassist John McVie; drummer Hughie Flint; and Clapton. Augmenting the band on this album was a horn section added during post-production, with Alan Skidmore, Johnny Almond, and Derek Healey (misrepresented on the sleeve as ‘Dennis Healey’).
Songs and song styles: The album consists of blues standards by long-established artists such as Otis Rush, Freddie King and Robert Johnson, as well as a few originals penned by Mayall and Clapton. Most tracks serve as a showcase for the young Clapton’s playing. Although he sang on several Yardbirds’ recordings, “Ramblin’ on My Mind” was Clapton’s first recorded solo lead vocal performance, which Eric had been reluctant to record.
Legacy: In 2003, the album was ranked number 195 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Apart from being one of the most influential blues albums, it also started the now-legendary combination of a Gibson Les Paul guitar through an overdriven Marshall Bluesbreaker amplifier.