The Beano Album – A Classic

July 22, 2014

Shortly after playing the Fairfield Halls in South London as part of the 1963 American Folk Blues Festival Sonny Boy Williamson met the Yardbirds at a gig, around the time Eric Clapton replaced guitarist Top Topham in the original line-up of the band. When the European tour of the Folk Blues Festival was over the Delta blues legend returned to the UK and played with the Yardbirds at Richmond’s Crawdaddy club in early December 1963 (The Yardbirds had replaced the Rolling Stones as the house band). The Yardbirds, with their teenage guitar prodigy Clapton, he was eighteen at the time, and the hard drinking, hard living Sonny Boy were an impressive combination in the hot sweaty club.

The Yardbirds first single in June 1964 was a cover of Billy Boy Arnold’s ‘I Wish You Would’, after which their output was a mix of Blues and straightforward pop material. Amongst their recorded Blues were Howlin' Wolf’s ‘Smokestack Lightning’, Eddie Boyd’s ‘Five Long Years’ and Elmore James’ ‘The Sun is Shining’.

It was the release of their third single, ‘For Your Love’ in March 1965 that was the catalyst for Clapton to quit the band to be replaced by Jeff Beck. Clapton then joined the UK’s premier pure blues outfit, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Mayall was already over thirty years old and having first learned to play the guitar he switched to the piano, inspired by hearing Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons records. By the time he was 17 he was already playing the Blues in Manchester with a group. After enrolling at art school he then served in the British Army in Korea from 1951 to 1954. Back at art school Mayall formed the Powerhouse Four, continuing to play after he graduated. Mayall moved to London, encouraged by Alexis Korner, to take advantage of the capital’s buzzing blues scene.

In 1963 he formed the Bluesbreakers, a band with probably more line-ups than any other in the history of modern music. Spotted by a Decca staff producer, Mike Vernon, who persuaded the label to sign the band. The band’s first single, ‘Crawling up the Hill’ coupled with ‘Mr. James’, was released in April 1964. Playing bass with Mayall was John McVie, and by the time Clapton rejoined the band, having hitch-hiked to Greece during the summer, in October 1965 Hughie Flint was filling the drum stool.

At Clapton’s first session they cut a single for the Immediate label, produced by Jimmy Page. In March 1966 John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers recorded the brilliant album, Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton at Decca’s Studios in West Hampstead, North London. It’s affectionately known as the Beano album as it features Clapton reading the British comic on its cover.

nat-jazz-bck-66The album comprises of band originals, mostly written by Mayall and blues classics and features Clapton playing a 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar and Marshall amplifier, having swapped it for his Fender Telecaster and Vox AC30 amplifier. Among the covers are Otis Rush’s ‘All Your Love’, Freddie King’s ‘Hideaway’, Robert Johnson’s ‘Ramblin’ on My Mind’ and Little Walter’s ‘It Ain’t Right’; Clapton even references the Beatles ‘Day Tripper’ on their version of Ray Charles’s ‘What I Say’.

The album was released on 22 July 1966 and proved the breakthrough that Mayall was seeking when it made No.6 on the UK album charts. Clapton meanwhile had quit the Bluesbreakers even before the album came out, he was replaced by Peter Green, and he and Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce formed Cream and had their first official gig at the 6th annual Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival, despite not even having named their band…the rest is history.

Just above Eric's name is the band Bluesology; at the time this included a young Reggie Dwight in the lineup… better known to us as Elton John.

Click here to follow the 60s Classic Hits playlist, which features other Clapton-related classics such a Cream’s ‘Strange Brew’ and ‘I Feel Free’, along with a host of other classics from the decade.

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12 comments

  1. Rick
    Reply

    I noticed a band called Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, before he was Jimi Hendrix wasn’t he going by the name of Jimmy James?

    1. uDiscover (author)
      Reply

      Different Jimmy James, this one was more of a soul band man. But Rick you are correct JH did go by JJ for a while.

    2. Roger Rushing
      Reply

      In New York’s Greenwich Village, James Marshall Hendrix was fronting a band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, with a very young Randy California (later of Spirit) on guitar.

    3. Mark Arouh
      Reply

      About ‘Jimmy James and the Vagabonds… Yes Jimi played in the US (with Randy California of Spirit) under the name Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. Chas Chandler did not arrange for Hendrix to come to the UK until later in 1966, long after this concert.
      Just read several other comments about Hendrix. sorry for the duplication.

  2. ron beretta
    Reply

    The Bluesbreakers were a huge influence in my early days of learning the blues. The Yardbirds, with Keith Relf on harmonica, as well as Jack Bruce with Cream, were two of the people that got me interested in playing the “harp”. John Mayall kick started a lot of musicians careers, hats off to him for many years of great music and inspiration to a lot of aspiring bluesmen.

  3. Mal Ayre
    Reply

    Terrific ground breaking album. Many Bluesbreakers followers at the time regarded the line-up which recorded the next album A Hard Road,( Mayall, Peter Green, McVie and Aynsley Dunbar) as a better band. Green was arguably as good as Clapton, certainly Mayall seemed to think so, and the rhythm section was tighter probably because the line-up was more settled and because Dunbar was a superior drummer to Flint whose solo on What’d I say is awful.

  4. StBob
    Reply

    And there’s Dick Morrissey before he became just plain Morrissey and formed The Smiths. The rest is history.

    Music history for trainspotters.

  5. Tom Crawford
    Reply

    I was lucky enough to be sitting on the front row at the 6th Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival. Cream were on last, on a calm and quiet night, until Cream came to the stage. Clapton,s solo near the end of their performance was really memorable.

  6. mic
    Reply

    was a young white guy learning rock and blues guitar………. trying to find the real blues feel, fed on fm radio,,,,,,,then heard hideaway, it was as if god said…..HERE TRY THIS…….

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