On July 20, 1974, Eric Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard entered the Billboard album chart and on August 17 his creative and personal comeback was complete. The record moved to No.1 on that date, giving “Slowhand” his first chart-topping US LP. It went on to stay there for a full month.
In the US in 1974, Clapton could do no wrong. This album confirmed that he had well and truly overcome the troubles that had disrupted his life in the early part of the 1970s. He was no doubt helped along the way by his indelible cover of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “I Shot The Sheriff.” It eventually reached No.1 in the United States. Recorded at the suggestion of band member George Terry, the song features backing vocals by Yvonne Elliman, and would later be voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Towards the end of the year, Eric’s remake of the Johnny Otis rock ‘n’ roll chestnut “Willie And The Hand Jive” was also released as a single, hitting the American top 30.
The core 461 band was composed of players who were either already Clapton diehards or would become so, including Carl Radle (bass), Dick Sims (keyboards), George Terry (guitar), and Jamie Older (drums). The album, produced by studio master Tom Dowd, also featured backing vocals and harmonica by a young woman called Marcy Levy, later to co-write “Lay Down Sally” and other songs with Clapton, before finding fame in the 1990s as Marcella Detroit in Shakespears Sister.
The house featured on the album’s cover was, indeed, 461 Ocean Boulevard, in the town of Golden Beach, Florida. Eric lived there while making the album. (Bill Gates and Ricky Martin have also owned homes in the upscale community.) He recorded 461 at famed Criteria Studios between April and May 1974, where, in 1970, he had recorded Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs with Derek and the Dominos.