DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Eric Clapton: The 1960s Review (2010)

During the DVD Eric Clapton: The 1960s Review, viewers discover how Clapton attained the pinnacle of rock stardom and where and how got started.

Published on September 14, 2010

Eric Clapton: The 1960s Review (2010)

Eric Clapton: The 1960s Review (2010)

Studio: Sexy Intellectual SIDVD559 [Distr. by MVD]
Video: 4:3 color & B&W
Audio: English DD 5.1, PCM 2.0
All regions
Length: 120:40
Rating: ***1/2

Eric Clapton is synonymous with electric guitar. He stands alongside Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck as a reigning six-string champion lumped into the catchall of classic rock. The questions raised and answered during the two-hour documentary, Eric Clapton: The 1960s Review, is how did he get to the pinnacle and where did he start?

Clapton’s love for American blues music – which has taken him four decades into a continuing musical career – began because of a BBC children’s radio program. During the usual mash-up of kiddy songs the announcer slipped in “Whoopin’ Blues” by Southern blues duo Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry. Clapton’s life was forever changed.

It is that kind of obscure historical footnote that keeps Eric Clapton: The 1960s Review a mostly compelling compendium of facts, figures, interviews, photographs and archival film and video footage. Indeed, the DVD’s first half – which concentrates on Clapton’s term as an art student who learned blues licks off rare records; his days in struggling British r ’n b groups like The Roosters; his short-lived sojourn in The Yardbirds; and his ascension into guitar godhood as a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – is the most illuminating.

Although Clapton does not participate, many people he worked with, or performed with, or who were touched by his passion, sincerity and restless personality are interviewed. Clapton, though, is not absent: there are clips from different eras when he spoke about his background, experiences and influences, but the majority of details come from cohorts, associated artists and well-informed journalists and biographers.

The talking heads constitute a who’s who of British blues and rock, including former Yardbirds Chris Dreja and Top Topham, the aforementioned Mayall, fellow UK blues fanatics such as vocalist Paul Jones (Manfred Mann); Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce; and other, lesser known performers.

The largest DVD section is devoted to Cream, the power trio Clapton created with Baker and Bruce. This makes sense thematically since the threesome laid the groundwork for much of subsequent rock music. It is here where the DVD bogs down, as well-trodden minutiae – how Cream formed, what they accomplished and how they shaped the future of rock music – is trotted out and dissected by engineer Bill Halverson, various writers and so on. There are snippets of Cream’s television and stage appearances, but nothing that has not previously been seen by fans.

The DVD wraps up with brief nod to Blind Faith, the post-Cream supergroup Clapton put together with Steve Winwood, Baker and bassist Rick Grech (Family). The quartet broke up almost as soon as it commenced, but a bit more time could have been given to some of Blind Faith’s finer material.

There are three bonus interview segments Clapton fans will find intriguing. One concerns the difficulties The Yardbirds had when they backed visiting American blues singer Sonny Boy Williamson; there is Paul Jones’ anecdote about Clapton’s nearly mythic pre-Cream Powerhouse studio band; and finally there is Halverson’s tale regarding a stolen Leslie foot pedal that connects Clapton to George Harrison’s first post-Beatles solo album. In addition, there are contributor’s biographical notes that help provide a proper perspective for some of the unfamiliar interviewees.

— Doug Simpson

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