Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Great Concerts Revisited: Blind Faith in Hyde Park 1969


Blind Faith in Hyde Park, June, 1969

by Stuart Penney

On June 7, 1969, Blind Faith played their one and only British concert before an audience of 120,000 in London’s Hyde Park.  Our man in the tie-dye t-shirt, paisley bandana and velvet dungarees was on the spot to witness it all. As the 53rd anniversary of that show approaches Stuart Penney tells the fact-packed tale of the concert, the band, the music, and the extraordinary brouhaha surrounding their controversial album cover, plus a whole lot more. 

Supergroup: noun: a rock group made up of prominent former members of other already successful rock groups.

Announced with unprecedented fanfare Blind Faith was one of the most eagerly anticipated supergroups of the 60s.  But, against all expectations the band fell apart within months, playing only 28 concerts over 78 days - including a solitary show in their UK homeland - and recording just one album.  More than half a century later few remember those live shows, several of which were marred by crowd violence and riots.  Yet, despite being dogged by controversy (some of which continues to this day) their only LP is now acclaimed as one of the greatest rock albums of the decade. 

In recent years the term “supergroup” has been hijacked (notably by American Idol style talent shows) and devalued to the point where it’s now used to describe virtually any popular, big-selling band, regardless of pedigree, musical style or, indeed, technical ability.  But it wasn’t always thus.  Way back in the 1960s, if I may employ an Incredible String Band song title, “supergroup” had a very different and quite specific meaning. 

As established in the dictionary definition above, the key to this are the words “already successful.”  So, by that token we’re talking about revered groups such as Cream; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; the Mahavishnu Orchestra; Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Humble Pie and, more recently, the Traveling Wilburys.  The individual members of these ensembles generally came together from established bands to form arguably bigger and better groups (although with George Harrison’s membership of the Wilburys we can probably make an honorable exception).  These are undoubtedly the true supergroups. 

All-star collaborations were nothing new in the jazz world, of course, where they had been happening for decades.  But in rock circles the trend probably began with the album Super Session featuring Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills.  This is the record which opened the floodgates for the entire “supergroup” concept of the 60s and 70s.  At the time of recording in May 1968 Kooper had recently departed Blood Sweat & Tears while Bloomfield, previously with the Butterfield Blues Band, was about to quit his current band the Electric Flag.  Stills, meanwhile, would shortly leave Buffalo Springfield to form Crosby, Stills & Nash.  Kooper and Bloomfield had also both featured heavily on Bob Dylan’s landmark 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited.


In December 1968 came the Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus which included a stellar jam session by The Dirty Mac, a one-off band comprising John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Mitch Mitchell.  This was followed in March 1969 by the film Supershow.  Sub-titled “The Last Great Jam of the 60s” it starred a host of big names including Stephen Stills, Buddy Guy, Led Zeppelin, Colosseum and the Modern Jazz Quartet.  One of the more memorable all-star jams in the film saw Eric Clapton, Roland Kirk, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Jack Bruce and Jon Hiseman together onstage.


The Powerhouse

Way before any of this, however, there was the snappily named Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse.  Clapton and Steve Winwood had been friends since their days in the Yardbirds and Spencer Davis Group respectively and in March 1966 they recorded with producer / A&R man Joe Boyd in the short-lived band The Powerhouse. 

Joe Boyd had come to London in 1965 to set up a UK branch of Elektra Records and he was looking for an un-signed British blues band for the label.  It was Paul Jones who suggested the hastily assembled line-up of Clapton - guitar, Winwood - vocals (billed as “Steve Anglo”), Jones - harmonica (billed as “Jacob Matthews”), Jack Bruce - bass, Pete York - drums (billed as “Peter Howard”) and Ben Palmer - piano.  

Winwood and York (Spencer Davis Group) and Jones (Manfred Mann) were still contracted to their respective groups at the time, hence the pseudonyms.  Jack Bruce was also fleetingly a Manfred Mann member around that time.  Ben Palmer was a close pal of Clapton’s from way back in their Kingston Art College days and in 1963 they played together in the Roosters.  He later became Clapton's personal roadie for the Cream and Blind Faith tours and in 2017 Eric’s documentary film Life in 12 Bars was dedicated to him - "In memory of my dear friend and mentor ROBIN BENWELL PALMER 1937-2017".  Significantly, Ginger Baker was initially invited to play drums with the Powerhouse but for reasons unknown he was unavailable.  

Boyd recorded four tracks, three of which were issued on the 1966 US Elektra LP What’s Shakin’ (issued in the UK under the title Good Time Music).  Credited to Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse the released tracks were “I Want To Know”, “Crossroads” and “Steppin’ Out.”  These were later reissued on the 2008 Jack Bruce CD box set Can You Follow?  The unnamed fourth track remains unreleased.


Paul Jones’s Powerhouse alias “Jacob Matthews” was taken from the names of his two sons, Jacob and Matthew.  In 1966 Jones was married to Sheila MacLeod which also happens to be the writing credit on “I Want To Know.”  In 1967 this song was covered by Ten Years After on their self-titled Deram debut album. 

It’s thought the Powerhouse tracks were cut at the original Olympic Sound Studios in Carton Street near Baker Street in central London (before the studio moved to its more famous location south of the river in Barnes) but according to Pete York, interviewed in Dave Thompson’s book Cream: How Eric Clapton Took The World By Storm (Penguin 2012), the recordings took place on the other side of Regents Park at Cecil Sharp House, the home of English traditional folk music. 

Only weeks after the Powerhouse recordings were made Jack Bruce was visited by Ginger Baker with an invitation to join a new band.  All of which brings us neatly to Cream.





The Boys In The Band

They may not have been exactly household names prior to forming in July 1966 but Eric Clapton (ex-John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers), Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker (both ex-Graham Bond Organisation), were certainly recognised by their peers as the best UK instrumentalists in their field and Cream was surely a true supergroup, even if the term was not yet in common usage.  Despite massive success in America the trio lasted barely two years and even before they played their two farewell concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall in November 1968 Eric Clapton was formulating plans to team up with Steve Winwood once again.  

Although Clapton had harbored visions of bringing Winwood into Cream to act as a buffer between the incessantly warring Jack and Ginger, it was not to be.  Instead, Steve remained with the Spencer Davis Group until April 1967 when he formed Traffic with fellow Midlanders Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason and Chris Wood.  The band stayed together for three albums before breaking up (or, more accurately, it was put on hold) for the first time in early 1969.


At this point the pair resolved to finally put their own band together.  They adjourned to Winwood’s secluded rehearsal cottage in the remote village of Aston Tirrold, then in Berkshire, where a year or two earlier Traffic had been “getting it together in the country” (to coin a popular hip phrase of the time).  But within days Ginger Baker had tracked them down. He turned up unannounced in his 7.2 litre Jensen FF sports car (pictured below), sat behind Jim Capaldi’s kit and declared himself to be the drummer of this new band.  It was the last thing Clapton had in mind just weeks after Cream had split up but, as he later admitted, he simply wasn’t assertive enough to say “no” to Ginger and was eventually talked into letting Baker join them by an unsuspecting Winwood.  

Footnote: the tiny village of Aston Tirrold (population: 373, according to the 2011 UK census) was in the county of Berkshire (pronounced: “Bark-shurr”) until the boundary changes of 1974 when it became part of Oxfordshire, where it remains today.  The track “Berkshire Poppies” on the debut Traffic album Mr. Fantasy was inspired by the flowers growing in the fields surrounding the band’s rehearsal cottage.

 

I Heard The News Today

News of their plans soon began to leak out and on February 8, 1969, Melody Maker ran a story headed “Clapton Delay.”  It read “Plans by Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood to record (exclusively predicted in Melody Maker on December 7) were delayed this week by lack of studio time.  The ex-Cream and Traffic stars need to use an eight-track studio, and none were available in London this week.  Ginger Baker may join the group when a date has been set, but no other musicians have been chosen.”

In March Melody Maker warmed to its theme with the headline “Clapton, Baker, Winwood Plans.”  The story continued “The supergroup will probably make its British debut at a free open-air concert in London’s Hyde Park on June 7 and there may also be other British appearances.”  

The free concert rumours gained momentum when Melody Maker ran a short news item in the March 22 issue.  Under the headline “Free Clapton Concert?” it read “Eric Clapton, Stevie Winwood and Ginger Baker are recording their album in strict secrecy, but news leaked in London of their doing a possible free concert in Hyde Park on June 7 afternoon.  This would inaugurate another in the series of concerts successfully launched by Blackhill Enterprises as a kind of ‘Service to hippies, by hippies’ last year when top groups performed without fees, on the first Saturday of each month.”

On April 19 the Melody Maker front page headline screamed “Clapton And Co Set For Newport.”  This was the news that the Clapton, Winwood, Baker trio had been invited to perform on the last night of the prestigious Newport Jazz Festival on August 10.  Referring to their upcoming US tour, MM’s American correspondent Ren Grevatt reported from New York “The asking price per concert for their tour is reported to be twenty thousand dollars against percentages of each gate.  This could be a multi-million dollar tour and the first to feature a true supergroup.”  All this and they were still without a bassist or a band name.  Spoiler alert: the Newport appearance was cancelled.

On May 3 the bass player was confirmed by New Musical Express to be Ric Grech (often spelled Rick) from Leicester art-rock band Family.  Although a virtual unknown compared to the other three, Family were rising stars on the underground rock circuit and Grech was well regarded as a bassist.  He also played decent electric violin and could sing.  He’d appeared on the classic early Family albums Music In A Doll’s House and Family Entertainment before breaking the news that he was quitting during their first American tour in April 1969.  This didn’t go down too well with his bandmates and with emotions running high, those early US Family shows were, by all accounts, drink-fueled disasters, receiving terrible live reviews.


  
On May 10 the Melody Maker front page revealed the band’s name in dramatic fashion.  In giant typeface the MM trumpeted “Blind Faith - The New Supergroup,”  The story (penned by trusted Cream insider Chris Welch) continued, “Blind Faith has been chosen as the name for the Clapton, Baker, Winwood Supergroup.  The title was given exclusively to Melody Maker by the Robert Stigwood Organisation in New York at the weekend.  It was chosen by the group at Winwood’s Berkshire cottage last week and telephoned to managers Chris Blackwell and Robert Stigwood who are in America finalising details of their tour.” 

In the issue dated June 7, the day of the concert (but on sale two days earlier) Melody Maker splashed a photo of the band on their front page above the headline “Together at last - Blind Faith.”  The story went on “Here they are, Blind Faith, the new supergroup fans all over the world have been waiting to hear.  Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Ric Grech are shown together for the first time in an exclusive Melody Maker picture.  An estimated 50,000 fans will be able to see and hear them at their debut appearance at their free concert in London’s Hyde Park on Saturday afternoon.”  There was more in similar vein with MM expressing surprise that “fans will be coming from all over Britain” and that (gasp) some were even expected “from France and Poland!”  The front-page photograph showed the band in their rehearsal room at Clapton’s house, Hurtwood Edge in Ewhurst, Surrey, one of several similar shots which appeared at the time, variations of which made the inside gatefold of the UK Blind Faith LP and the front cover of the US version. 

Footnote: Two days after the Blind Faith concert the (now defunct) London Evening News made an almighty gaffe by describing the event as “Cream’s Farewell Concert.”  

Parklife

At the time of writing, tickets for the Rolling Stones’ Hyde Park concert due to take place in June 2022 are selling for upwards of £200 each for regular economy class seats.  But for those who want the full VIP treatment with everything that entails be prepared to shell out £1,000 or more.  Absurd as it sounds that’s the kind of money you’ll pay to attend a full-scale rock concert by a major band today.  But it wasn’t always the case.  Back when musicians made their living from physical record sales live shows were simply another way of promoting their latest release and concerts were inexpensive or sometimes, even, free.  From San Francisco to Stonehenge free concerts flourished in the late 60s / early 70s and London’s Hyde Park saw some of the greatest of them all.  Oh, did I mention that the bands also played for free at these events?

Blackhill Enterprises, the rock management company founded by Peter Jenner, Andrew King and members of Pink Floyd, staged around a dozen free concerts in Hyde Park between 1968-1971 averaging three a year.  All but a few took place on the banks of the Serpentine Lake in a natural amphitheatre known as The Cockpit (actually a disused gravel pit dating back to the 17th century) and because the shows were free to all they required no fences and presented few problems with security.  Later concerts were moved to a location close to Park Lane on the eastern edge of the park.

The early shows were comparatively small with crowds not much exceeding 15,000.  All this changed in 1969 as the concerts dramatically increased in scale and notoriety and on June 7 an estimated 120,000 turned up to see Blind Faith.  The stage was relatively basic without any kind of backdrop.  This afforded fans a clear (if somewhat distracting) view past the musicians and the Marshall stacks, out across the Serpentine crowded with rowing boats, to the distant 33-storey Hyde Park Barracks tower, then still under construction.  Compared to the much larger and more elaborate stage used by the Rolling Stones a few weeks later, the Blind Faith presentation seemed a little low budget for such a major group.  All the Hyde Park concerts and other large events of the era, including the Isle of Wight festivals, used WEM (Watkins Electric Music) PA systems with their familiar black columns and distinctive red logos.

Despite being totally at odds with the utopian peace and love vibe of the late 60s it had become briefly - not to say bizarrely - fashionable in the US to hire Hells Angels’ members to act as security at large outdoor rock shows, ostensibly to protect the stage and equipment.  And where America went the UK inevitably followed, especially back then.  Being Britain though, our version of the Hells Angels was more Dad’s Army than Easy Rider and, with scarcely a chopper between them, the Hyde Park chapter of the London bikers appeared to have little idea why they were there, other than to drink beer and glower menacingly at anyone who passed by.  They were not nearly as numerous or as visible as the swastika-bedecked goons we saw at the Stones’ concert a few weeks later, but it was still unsettling to see them swaggering around the park with an air of thuggish entitlement. 

In his book My Life In Rock and Out promoter Bill Graham says this about the UK bikers: "There was a chapter of real Hell's Angels in London. But there were also these other ones who had just written "Hell's Angels" in chalk and whitewash on the back of their leather jacket or done it in studs. It was just a style. They were riding around on mopeds."

The Support Bands

By the time my girlfriend and I arrived in the early afternoon Hyde Park was getting mighty crowded.  Thousands had camped out overnight to secure a decent vantage spot and the Cockpit and surrounding area was already full to overflowing.  We eventually found a suitable patch of grass on high ground some distance from the action just as the Third Ear Band took the stage at 2:30.

Third Ear Band

 
Although their debut album Alchemy (Harvest SHVL 756) was still a month or so from release the Third Ear Band were old hands at events of this kind.  They also played at the Rolling Stones’ free concert a month later and were billed to support Pink Floyd at Hyde Park in July 1970, but for reasons unknown they pulled out of that one.  Their soothing raga style instrumental music utilising violin, cello, oboe and percussion was never likely to get the crowd up and dancing (much less idiot dancing) but it was perfectly suited to a balmy afternoon in the open air and it was always good to hear their hypnotic, trance-like improvisations.  As a matter of fact, it still is.


Next up were the Third Ear Band’s Harvest label stablemates the Edgar Broughton Band.  Both acts were signed to Blackhill Enterprises where they were managed and produced by Peter Jenner.  Their first LP Wasa Wasa (Harvest SHVL 757) was still unreleased at the time but a debut single “Evil” / “Death of an Electric Citizen” (Harvest HAR 5001) had gone on sale the day before the Hyde Park concert.  

With Edgar on guitar / vocals, brother Steve on drums and Arthur Grant bass / vocals, the magnificently hirsute trio made a fearsome - if somewhat chaotic - sound and their performance brought the first sprinkling of idiot dancers to their feet. Never a pretty sight even back in the day, the antics of those wildly gyrating fools now appears ever more unedifying with each passing year.

The Broughton's set included “Apache Drop Out” a bizarre mash-up of the 1960 Shadows’ hit and Captain Beefheart’s “Drop Out Boogie” which would later be released as their fourth Harvest single in 1970.  Edgar’s semi operatic vocal technique (incorporating more than a hint of Beefheart), as employed by the likes of Arthur Brown and others, was definitely an acquired taste.  But, like it or not, he was in full voice at Hyde Park.  

The highlight of their short set was undoubtedly the anthemic “Out Demons Out” during which Edgar attempted to whip up the crowd with some half-hearted revolutionary sloganeering along the lines of “You’ve got the power, what are you going to do with it?”  Although unreleased on record until the following year “Out Demons Out” became arguably the EBB’s biggest song and the one by which they are most fondly remembered.

Footnote: Just as this piece was published we learned of the sad death of Steve Broughton (below right), on May 30, 2022, aged 72.


Record Collector Note: “Evil” was the very first single on the Harvest label and the Alchemy and Wasa Wasa albums were released together on the same day with consecutive catalogue numbers.

Second top of the bill was Richie Havens, appearing just two months before his triumphant opening performance at the Woodstock festival.  Backed by guitarist Paul “Deano” Williams and a conga player (probably Daniel “Natoga” Ben Zebulon), Richie was in great form, thrashing the daylights out of his open-tuned Guild acoustic which he fretted with his thumb over the top of the guitar's neck.  Opening with Judy Henske’s “High Flying Bird” he played Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” and others, before closing with his Woodstock showstopper “Freedom.”  Other songs possibly came from what was then his latest album Richard P. Havens 1983 (Verve Forecast SVLP 6014).  Guitarist “Deano” apparently lost his trademark beret during the set and impassioned pleas were made from the stage for its return.

Richie Havens

During “Maggie’s Farm” who else but Donovan was spotted in the VIP enclosure dancing somewhat enthusiastically in the freeform style of the period.  At one point Don was seen deep in conversation with MC (and future Stones’ tour manager) Sam Cutler, possibly confirming his upcoming impromptu performance (this footage is widely available on YouTube).

Speaking of which, the man himself was next up on stage.  Donovan played a short, unrehearsed set with a Guild guitar borrowed from Richie Havens’ sideman “Deano” Williams (I wrote about that very guitar HERE).  He performed only four songs: “Willy O’Winsbury”, “Dancing With The Brown Skin Girl”, “There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly” and his big hit “Colours.”  In an uncharacteristic burst of self-deprecation he changed the opening line of the final number to “Yellow is the colour of my true love’s teeth.”  There were complaints that he couldn’t be heard too well much beyond the first few rows, possibly due to problems with the PA system.  Considering he was a last-minute addition to the bill and played only briefly, photos of Donovan onstage with his white jacket and borrowed guitar dominated the music papers over the following weeks, almost upstaging the headliners.



Blind Faith

And so, to the main event.  Around 4:30 Blind Faith drifted casually onto the stage with very little fanfare, as was the late 60s fashion.  It simply wasn’t done to show too much showbiz enthusiasm back then.  Although we didn’t realise it at the time their set would include every track from their upcoming LP plus a couple of extras.  This is the first time I can recall a band performing an entire album live (even though it was unreleased at the time).  Today, no one would dream of playing their first concert in front of more than 120,000 people without a record or product of some kind on sale.  But that’s exactly what Blind Faith did in June 1969.  

It may not have been a Cream concert, as the Evening News would foolishly claim, but the four double Marshall stacks looming ominously over the rudimentary stage suggested things might be about to get very loud.  Marshall stacks were a trademark of quality and professionalism in the 60s and early 70s, and groups such as Cream and Hendrix used five or more of them onstage, with up to ten 4x12 speaker cabinets forming a wall behind them.  They were a sure sign the band meant business and, let’s face it, they also looked mightily impressive.  Ginger’s huge kit with its psychedelically painted double bass drum skins (a hangover from the latter days of Cream) only added to the air of anticipation.

To everyone's surprise they opened with a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Well Alright.”  This song had originally appeared as the B-side of Buddy’s 1958 single “Heartbeat” so it was just obscure enough to be an interesting inclusion.  It was probably Clapton’s idea to perform this song.  In late January he'd given an interview to Nick Logan at NME saying he’d recently been listening to rock & roll records again “Including a Buddy Holly’s Greatest Hits LP I have just bought.”

Rock and roll covers were standard fare back then and even the biggest 60s bands would defer to their 50s teenage heroes.  It’s sobering to think this song was barely a decade old in 1969. 

Well All Right 7" Sleeves from Holland, Spain, France & Norway

Record Collector Note: “Well Alright” / “Can’t Find My Way Home” was released as a single by Blind Faith in Japan, Australia, and several mainland European countries, including Holland, Germany, Spain and France.


 

Following Winwood’s “Sea Of Joy” came the only slow blues of the afternoon, a cover of Sam Myers’ “Sleeping In The Ground” (introduced as "I'd Rather See You Sleeping In The Ground" by Steve).   Although recorded during the main album sessions it didn’t appear on the original Blind Faith LP and remained unreleased until Clapton’s 1988 Crossroads box set.  It was later added to the 2001 Deluxe Edition of the Blind Faith CD as a bonus track.  Dating from 1956, this song has been covered many times and in 2008 it formed part of Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood’s live set during their Madison Square Garden concerts together.

Probably on a reconnaissance mission for the Stones’ free concert due to take place a few weeks hence Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful were also spotted in the VIP enclosure.  As Blind Faith launched into a surprise cover of “Under My Thumb” the couple acknowledged the cheers with a wave to the crowd.  This 1965 Aftermath number has been a victim of cancel culture in recent years due to its somewhat, ahem, “problematic” lyrics, but its place in rock history is secure, not least because it was the song the Stones were playing at the Altamont Free Concert in California when audience member Meredith Hunter was brutally killed by Hells Angels in December 1969.

Winwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” was given the full rock band treatment with organ and electric guitar at Hyde Park.  It was initially recorded this way for the album before being replaced by the softer acoustic version we know today.  It's been said that Ginger Baker’s “Do What You Like” got its title after audience members continually called out for his Cream signature drum solo “Toad.”  This was met with cries of “No, just do what you like” by others in the crowd.  Steve Winwood picked up on this and announced "This next number is called Do What You Like.”  It wasn’t just drums, however.  On record at least, if not in Hyde Park, Ginger’s marathon workout in complex 5/4 time (natch) gave everyone in the band a chance to stretch out, including Ric Grech who played an impressive bass solo.  

Eric’s beautiful, hymnlike “Presence of the Lord” was followed by “Means To An End” a Traffic song from their 1968 self-titled second album, before Winwood’s lengthy, riff based “Had To Cry Today” brought the show to a close.  Still a brand-new song at this point (it was reportedly finished only two days earlier) it lacked the dueling twin lead guitars we later heard on the album version and Steve remained behind the keyboard, as he had throughout the afternoon, leaving Eric to handle the fretboard duties alone. 



We couldn’t see it from where we were sitting way back under the trees but when the concert DVD finally appeared it was revealed that the phallic chrome spaceship held by the girl on the LP sleeve was right there onstage throughout the entire show, sitting in pride of place atop Steve Winwood’s keyboard.  It was not remarked upon during the performance, and with the album still unreleased at the time, it would have made no sense to do so, but it now seems like a wonderfully enigmatic gesture which went entirely unnoticed at the time. 

As unceremoniously as they’d arrived the band then left the stage just as a bored-sounding announcement came over the PA, requesting the parents of a lost child to collect the infant “from the Robert Stigwood caravan.”  This rather broke the spell and brought us firmly back down to earth. 


 
As the crowd thinned out I took the opportunity to venture down to the very front of the stage to take a couple of decidedly low-res photographs of the band’s equipment with my cheap Instamatic camera.  There, just a few feet away, discarded only moments earlier and probably still warm to the touch, were the precious instruments.  Centre stage was Ginger’s huge Ludwig kit with its painted double bass drum skins. Steve’s RMI Rock-Si-Chord keyboard and Hammond organ sat over to the right and at the back, leaning precariously up against the Marshall stacks, were Ric’s Fender Jazz bass and Eric’s hybrid Telecaster (even the biggest bands eschewed onstage guitar stands in those days, strangely).  For those of us passionate about the tools of the rock & roll trade, viewing these artifacts close-up was a moment to treasure. 

But despite the build-up in the music press, the hype, the excitement and the amount of world beating talent on display, the Hyde Park concert is now remembered as something of an anticlimax, musically at least. The song intros were desultory and the set generally seemed to lack energy, something the concert DVD, belatedly released in 2005, confirmed to be the case. Without doubt Steve Winwood stole the show with Ginger a close second.  Winwood sang every song (he wrote most of them, too) and his keyboards dominated throughout.  

Clapton looked somewhat detached and bored by it all.  He was apparently mad at Baker who showed up at Hyde Park high on heroin, setting an uneasy precedent for the upcoming tour and sowing the seeds of the group’s rapid demise.  Eric’s guitar playing was tasteful enough but comparatively subdued by his standards, with none of the fireworks Cream fans were hoping for.  But as Ginger had said at the start of the show “this is just our first rehearsal.”  He was probably only semi-joking but bootlegs from dates in Scandinavia and the US leg of the tour confirm Blind Faith played and sounded much better as they hit their stride just a few weeks later.  Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and we really didn’t know (or care) too much about any of this at the time.  We were thrilled just to be present at such an important and historic event.  Lest we forget, it was the only show Blind Faith ever played in Britain and it was a free concert too.  

Despite the oppressive crowds, the stifling heat, the almost total lack of facilities (including toilets and water), the general discomfort and the poor visibility, my girlfriend and I returned to Hyde Park to do it all over again a month later when the Rolling Stones played their own high profile free concert.  As my old mum used to say, we were gluttons for punishment. But as music crazy 18-year-olds who lived for this stuff, it was the kind of punishment we were happy to endure. I wrote about that Stones show HERE.

Blind Faith Set List at Hyde Park

Well, All Right

Sea Of Joy 

Sleeping In the Ground, 

Under My Thumb 

Can't Find My Way Home

Do What You Like

Presence Of the Lord

Means To an End

Had To Cry Today



The Guitars

Almost the first thing I noticed as Blind Faith took the stage was Eric Clapton’s guitar.  It was an early 60s sunburst Fender Telecaster Custom (as denoted by the white edge binding) but - and here’s the important part - it had the heavily worn maple neck from a 1956 Fender Stratocaster, clearly recognisable by its larger headstock.  The bolt-on necks and modular construction employed by Fender have always made swapping parts between guitars easy enough but, even so, it was a highly unusual thing to witness, especially for Clapton, a longtime Gibson user who hadn’t been seen with any kind of Fender since his days in the Yardbirds, let alone a “Frankenstein” instrument such as this.



We later learned that Eric had used this Telecaster in the latter days of Cream and was photographed with it in February 1968 when the band played on the back of a flat-bed truck in Copenhagen, Denmark.  At that point, however, the guitar was fitted with the neck from a different Stratocaster, this one a late 60s model with rosewood fingerboard and oversized headstock.  

The 1956 maple neck from the Hyde Park guitar probably came from “Brownie” the famous sunburst Stratocaster pictured on the front of his Eric Clapton debut solo LP and also on the back cover of the Layla double album.  “Brownie” was used throughout the Layla sessions and onstage with Derek and the Dominos (notably the Johnny Cash Show TV broadcast recorded in November 1970). 


In September 2019 the Fender Custom Shop produced a limited edition run of 50 replica Eric Clapton Blind Faith Telecasters.  They retailed for a shade under US$12,000 when new but can sell for around double that price today.



Also present at Hyde Park was Steve Winwood’s Traffic-era 1966 non-reverse Gibson Firebird V finished in the rare custom colour Inverness Green.  It was seen lying on top of the Leslie speaker cabinet but was not used during the London concert.  Live shots confirm Winwood did play this guitar onstage later in the tour, mainly on "Had To Cry Today" and "Sea of Joy."  The Firebird was stolen in 1971 or 72 and in 2008 Steve was presented with a replica by Gibson's then-CEO Henry Juszkiewicz.  At later Blind Faith dates Winwood was also seen using Eric’s Telecaster hybrid, with Clapton back on his trusty Cream era 1964 Gibson ES335, a Les Paul or sometimes the reverse body Gibson Firebird I he'd used on the early 1969 Supershow film mentioned above.


During the tour Clapton traded a 1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard so-called “Darkburst” guitar with Free’s Paul Kossoff in exchange for a 1958 black Gibson Les Paul Custom with three pick-ups.  Eric later used this guitar onstage with the Plastic Ono Band, Delaney & Bonnie and Derek & the Dominos. 

Ric Grech used his Family-era late 60s Fender Jazz bass in three tone sunburst at Hyde Park and throughout the Blind Faith recordings and tour.  It was pictured onstage with a strip of foam under the strings near the bridge to aid with muting.  

Other instruments seen in the Blind Faith rehearsal photos at Clapton’s house were a Danelectro 30/21 Shorthorn with psychedelic finish, a large 12-string acoustic of indeterminate brand (similar to a Zemaitis) and the Cream-era Gibson ES335.  Ric’s Fender Jazz bass and his violin case also appear in some rehearsal photos.


The Tour


On June 12, 1969, the band embarked on a short tour of Scandinavia with five dates in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.  They hit North America in July and August with 19 dates in the US and three in Canada.  What would have been the group's debut American concert at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 11 was cancelled when local authorities revoked their permission to perform due to concerns over crowd trouble.  Instead, the first US show was at New York's Madison Square Garden on July 12.  At some concerts their meagre Hyde Park set list (largely unfamiliar to audiences) was padded out with re-vamped versions of well-known material such as Cream’s “Crossroads” and “Sunshine Of Your Love.”

The Tour Programme Front Cover

The Woodstock Festival occurred towards the end of the tour and while Clapton was keen to take part he was overruled by the other band members (plus, they already had firm dates booked on the West Coast during the Woodstock weekend). 

Problems with Ginger intensified as the tour progressed and Clapton began spending more and more time with support band Delaney & Bonnie, occasionally even joining them onstage and basically handing over control of his own group to Winwood.  Finally, on August 24, just 78 days after the Hyde Park concert, it all ended with a whimper at the Honolulu International Center Arena* in Hawaii.  After only 28** live dates, Blind Faith was no more. Along with Delaney & Bonnie, the support acts on the North American leg were Free and Rory Gallagher’s band Taste, both making their US debut. Free opened and closed the tour with Taste playing the bulk of dates in the middle.

The Tour Programme Back Cover
  



** Blind Faith played twice nightly at some of the early concerts in Scandinavia, so the true number of concerts they performed was probably closer to 30.

*The Honolulu International Center Arena was renamed in 1976 and today is known as the Neal S. Blaisdell Center.

The Album Cover



Rarely has there been so much fuss over a humble LP cover.  During the last 53 years the Blind Faith album sleeve has been the source of endless discussion and much fascination, often overshadowing the music within.  On the other hand it’s probably fair to say that a record sleeve boldly displaying a garish close-up of a half-naked pre-pubescent girl holding a phallic chrome spaceship wouldn’t get beyond the discussion stage today, let alone through the doors of a major record company and then into every music retailer in the land.  But that’s exactly what happened with Blind Faith in August 1969.  

We need not go into the sensitive moral aspects of that album cover here.  1969 really was a different world and while nudity in all its myriad forms has long featured on record sleeves across many genres of music, a controversial image such as this one depicting a semi-naked child might well earn all concerned a visit from the rock & roll division of Operation Yewtree should it appear today.  Even so, the story of the sleeve is a fascinating one and an essential part of the Blind Faith narrative.  

Cover design was credited to psychedelic poster artist Stanley “Mouse” Miller, while the infamous sleeve photograph was the work of Bob Seidemann, an American who resided at The Pheasantry in Kings Road, Chelsea.  For decades this fabled Grade II listed complex of studios and apartments was home to musicians, photographers, writers and artists such as Eric Clapton, Germaine Greer, Robert Whittaker and Martin Sharp.  Seidemann subsequently worked on sleeves for the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jackson Browne and many others.  In a mid-90s advertising leaflet intended to help sell lithographic reprints of the Blind Faith cover he explained, in somewhat florid language, his thinking behind the contentious photograph:

“I could not get my hands on the image until out of the mist a concept began to emerge. To symbolize the achievement of human creativity and its expression through technology a spaceship was the material object.  To carry this new spore into the universe, innocence would be the ideal bearer, a young girl, a girl as young as Shakespeare's Juliet. 

“The spaceship would be the fruit of the tree of knowledge and the girl, the fruit of the tree of life. The spaceship could be made by Mick Milligan, a jeweller at the Royal College of Art. The girl was another matter. If she were too old it would be cheesecake, too young and it would be nothing. The beginning of the transition from girl to woman, that is what I was after. That temporal point, that singular flare of radiant innocence.  Where is that girl?”

The story goes that Seidemann approached 12-year-old (some reports say she was 14) Sula Goschen on the London Underground and asked if she would model for the LP cover (like I said, 1969 was a very different world). After meeting with Sula’s parents David and Angela Goschen it was decided that her younger sister Mariora Goschen, who was reportedly 11 years-old at the time (some say 12), would make an even better model.  Mariora initially requested a horse as a fee but was instead paid £40.  When the photo session was completed Seidemann decided he would call the image “Blind Faith”, which of course was soon adopted as the name of the band. Although some cynics thought it might simply be a comment on the public's unquestioning acceptance and adoration of the new group.

Interviewed by the Independent on Sunday in 1994, Mariora said: 

The nudity didn’t bother me. I hardly noticed I had breasts.  Life was far too hectic.  I was mad about animals and much taken up with family and friends.  But now, when people tell me they can remember what they were doing when they first saw the cover, and the effect it had on them, I’m thrilled to bits.  By the way, I’m still waiting for Eric Clapton to ring me about the horse.”

In 2014 Bob Seidemann’s flush-mounted and signed chromogenic photo print of the Blind Faith cover, editioned (17/30), sold at Sotheby's New York for $17,500 (with buyer's premium).

In Britain the album arrived almost exactly two months after the Hyde Park concert, and while it was an immediate hit, I don’t recall there being too much fuss or discussion about the cover at that point.  Coming a year after John & Yoko’s Two Virgins album I guess we assumed that record sleeves had now become an artistic free-for-all, unaffected by censorship and above the stuffy rules and regulations set for us by the squares and the straights. 

But while it’s true the UK reaction was somewhat more muted than in America, even here some were a little squeamish when it came to actually showing the sleeve image itself.  For example, Wesley Laine’s review in Record Mirror (August 20, 1969) began coyly enough yet quickly became salacious: 

“Censorship from somewhere here prevents us from reproducing the cover pic – a freckly red-headed pouting eleven-year-old with well-developed breasts holding a supposedly phallic model of a Comet jet plane.”  “Wesley Laine”, of course, was the pseudonymous Norman Jopling, who went on to write for NME, Cream, Billboard, Record Retailer, Jazz Journal, Let It Rock, Music Now and many other publications. 

(Editor’s Note: Mick Milligan’s chrome “spaceship” was never identified as a De Havilland Comet and, if anything, more closely resembles an Avro Vulcan bomber).

Three album sleeve variants and the Well All Right 7" Sleeve - all from Germany

It was a very different matter Stateside, however, where the sleeve caused all manner of ructions.  At one stage Atlantic Records’ head honcho Ahmet Ertegun stepped in to try and smooth things over. “We do not agree that the original sleeve is offensive” he announced to the press.  “But if any dealers do not want that cover, we will happily supply them with an alternative.”

US LP "Clean" Version

Distributors and large retailers such as Sears Roebuck, E.J. Korvette and Polk Brothers refused to handle the “nude” version at all (identified in the record retail trade as the “A” sleeve) and it was sold in a substitute sepia cover (known as the “B” sleeve) with a picture of the group on the front similar to (but different from) the two black and white photos on the inside gatefold of the UK version.  

Speaking to Billboard in 1969 a spokesman for the US distributor Royal Disc said “The larger department stores feel that they cater to a more ‘family’ type market and won’t have anything to do with the ‘nude’ cover.”  But he added that he had not heard “any actual complaints” from retailers or customers about the “A” cover.  

The distributor went on “Before the album was released, many distributors, including myself, warned the (record) company (Atco) that sales might be badly hurt if the album were distributed in this manner exclusively and persuaded them to put out the other cover.  I’m glad they did.  Blind Faith is our best-selling album after In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (by Iron Butterfly), but the story might have been different if only the “A” Blind Faith sleeve had been distributed.”  Warming to his theme he added, somewhat patronisingly, “The group and the company might have learned a lesson about record distribution then.” 

A spokesman for distributor Musical Isle, also speaking in Billboard, said “Albums with nude or suggestive covers create a real problem for us.  I think the manufacturers should stay away from them.”  He agreed the alternative sleeve was a good idea, adding “The John & Yoko album (Two Virgins) was a disaster, and this might have been too.”  


It was a little more complicated than that, however.  Not only was the “nude” (“A”) sleeve freely available in America if you knew where to look, but it was even nominated for a 1969 Grammy in the “Best Cover Award” category!  Some of the hipper, underground stores stocked both versions, although sales of the “clean” (“B”) sleeve apparently outsold the “A” version by a ratio of 10 to 1.  American buyers could, if they wished, place a special order for the “A” sleeve from their regular outlet.  Unlike the UK version the US “nude” sleeve came in a non-gatefold sleeve with a lyric sheet insert.


Some retailers disagreed with the distributors.  “I think it’s ridiculous to have two album jackets” said the manager of Chicago independent record store Slypped Disc.  “It confuses the customers - they think Blind Faith has two albums out instead of just one.  I think (the “A” jacket) is more artistic and better done than the (“B” jacket).  We’re ordering it by the box and selling 100-125 copies a week.”

A spokesman for Chicago retailer One Octave Lower said the album “with the chick on the cover” is outselling the “B” jacket by a 3-1 percentage.  An employee at another Chicago store Wecord Woom which stocked both sleeves added “Some customers giggle when they pick up the “A” jacket, but I’ve never heard any complaints.” 

Despite being freely available and openly displayed in most record stores across the western world for half a century, attitudes have hardened in recent years and the Blind Faith cover is viewed somewhat differently today.  For example, should anyone try and post an image of the LP sleeve on certain areas of social media today (Facebook, I’m looking at you) there’s a very good chance it will be tagged as "offensive". As a result the image could be removed altogether and the poster may be issued with a warning restricting future activity. At worst the offender may even be banished from the platform altogether.  The algorithms which control what we can view online are incapable of distinguishing between art, popular culture and pornography, it seems. For better or worse, these are the times we are now living in.

Let’s give the final word on the cover to Steve Winwood who, when interviewed years later said, pragmatically, “At the time I didn’t think anything of it at all.  But now I can see how controversial it is because I have children of my own.”

The Album

In the weeks following the Hyde Park concert there was still work to be done on the album, which was already well overdue.  Recording had begun on February 18 at the recently opened Morgan Studios, before moving to Olympic Sound on May 27 where it was finally completed in late June.  Producer Jimmy Miller (concurrently working on the Stones' Let It Bleed album) was drafted in towards the end, but up until that point engineer Andy Johns had done much of the heavy lifting.  

Although the LP was ultimately released on the Polydor label in the UK (Atlantic/Atco in the US) Winwood was still contracted to Chris Blackwell’s Island records at the time, so the band was jointly managed by Blackwell and Robert Stigwood.  The record finally went on sale in late July in the US and early August in Britain.



   

During the album sessions Island moved offices and a promotional single containing instrumental music was sent out to the music trade notifying of the new address and telephone number.  The pink Island labels read simply “Change Of Address From June 23rd, 1969” on one side and “Sales Office” on the other, together with the street address, telephone number and cable address*.  Although no artist name or song title was credited anywhere, the music was later revealed to be the work of Blind Faith.  With reportedly only 500 pressed, this record quickly became a rare artifact, and copies now change hands for considerable sums.  An extended 12-minute edit of the music on the single was later included on the 2001 Deluxe Edition of the Blind Faith CD under the title “Change Of Address Jam.”  


*A cable or telegraphic address was a pre-internet version of a URL, enabling recipients to receive telegrams directly.  Telegraphic addresses were chosen either as versions of a company's name or as a memorable short word somehow associated with the recipient.  As shown on the record label Island’s cable address was “Ackee W11.”  The ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica and the main ingredient in the country’s national dish Ackee and Saltfish.  "W11", meanwhile, is the postal district for the area of Notting Hill where Island's Basing Street studios were located. In 1972 Ackee Music Inc became the name of Island's music publisher in the US and Canada.

Blind Faith – Blind Faith

Polydor 583 059 (UK) / Atco SD-33 304A/B (US)

Recorded: February - June 1969

Released: August 9, 1969 (UK) / July 21, 1969 (US)

Eric Clapton: Guitar, vocals

Steve Winwood: Vocals, keyboards, guitar, bass, autoharp

Ginger Baker: Drums, percussion, vocals

Ric Grech: Bass, electric violin, vocals 

Producer: Jimmy Miller

Sound engineers: George Chkiantz, Keith Harwood, Andy Johns, Alan O'Duffy

Cover designed and photographed: Bob Seideman

Cover Art: Stanley Miller

Spaceship built by Mick Milligan

Recorded at: Morgan Studios, 168-171 High Road, Willesden, London NW10 and Olympic Sound Studios, 117 Church Road, Barnes, London SW13

Track Listing (original LP):

Side One:

1. Had To Cry Today (Winwood) 8:48

2. Can’t Find My Way Home (Winwood) 3:16

3. Well Alright (Petty, Holly, Allison, Maudlin) 4:27

4. Presence of the Lord (Clapton) 4:50

Side Two:

1. Sea of Joy (Winwood) 5:22

2. Do What You Like (Baker) 15:18


The 2001 Deluxe Edition double CD included nine bonus tracks spread over two discs.  The second disc of jams does not include Ric Grech who was yet to join the band when they were recorded.  A guest percussionist is mistakenly credited in the CD sleeve notes as “Guy Warner.”  This was probably esteemed Afro-jazz drummer Guy Warren, a pal of Ginger's, who joined the band for the March 2 sessions at Morgan studios. 

Live versions of "Sleeping in the Ground" and "Under My Thumb" from the Hyde Park concert later appeared on Steve Winwood's 1995 four-CD retrospective box set The Finer Things and the entire concert can now be found on Spotify.

Bonus Tracks on the 2001 Deluxe Edition CD:

Sleeping In the Ground (2:49)

Can’t Find My Way Home (Studio electric version) (5:40)

Acoustic Jam (15:50)

Time Winds (3:15)

Sleeping In the Ground (Slow blues version) (4:44)

Jam No.1: “Very Long & Good Jam” (14:01)

Jam No.2: “Slow Jam #1” (15:06)

Jam No.3: “Change of Address Jam” (12:06)

Jam No.4: “Slow Jam #2” (16:06)

Six Interesting Facts about the Blind Faith Album

1. Around 8:10 into “Had To Cry Today” as the twin lead guitars begin to come out of the solo back into the main riff, one guitar (possibly Eric Clapton’s) fluffs the cue, bum notes abound and a train wreck is only narrowly averted.  Today an obvious mistake such as this would almost certainly be fixed in post production or even re-recorded.  But the rest of the track must have been so good they decided to leave it in.  53 years later we can listen to Clapton’s little slip-up and reflect that God really was human, after all. 

2. On Buddy Holly’s “Well Alright” Steve Winwood changed the opening line of verse two from Buddy's original “Well alright, so I’m going steady” to “Well alright, so I’m not working.”  

3. Blind Faith reached number one in the US, UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark and was a Top Five hit in France, Germany and Australia.  It’s estimated to have sold more than 8 million copies worldwide.  It achieved Gold status within six months and in 1993 it was certified Platinum in the US.

4. To reassure American buyers that the “nude” and “group” sleeve versions of the album were musically one and the same, a notice was printed on the cover of US pressings, reading: “Atco 33-304A Contains the Same Record As Atco 33-304B.”

5. The first CD version of the album released on Polydor in 1986 contained two bonus tracks "Exchange and Mart" and "Spending All My Days.”  These were not, in fact, Blind Faith recordings, but tracks from an unreleased Ric Grech solo album with, allegedly, backing from George Harrison, Denny Laine, Trevor Burton and Alan White.

6.  As if to heighten the sense of theatre associated with the Blind Faith sleeve there was no band name or album title printed anywhere on the “nude” LP cover other than on the spine.  According to photographer Bob Seidemann “It was Eric who elected to not print the name of the band on the cover.  The name was instead printed on the wrapper.  When the wrapper came off, so did the type.”  US pressings may have had a sticker on the shrinkwrap, but this was not an option in Britain and elsewhere, where shrink-wrapping was not yet a feature of new record sales.  

After the Ball

In 1970 Billboard carried a story with the headline “Free Concerts In UK Set Again” which confirmed the events would continue into 1971 and beyond.  “There will be a recurrence of free Hyde Park concert events next summer” it began.  “At least two concerts, perhaps three, are being planned by Blackhill Enterprises.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works was quoted “We consider the free pop concerts to be a good thing in that we regard them as part of the programme of entertainment.  The occasional pop concert shouldn’t cause too much disruption.  But we don’t want this kind of thing snowballing, and if there did seem to be any danger of that we’d be reluctant to let them continue.”

The story continued “At least two of the concerts will feature music very much different from last year (1969) when ‘the parks’ were seen by many as a promotional trip for the latest underground acts.  Next summer (1971) Andrew King of Blackhill hopes to present a concert of Motown music, and while a deal is not yet completely negotiated, he hopes to have Smokey Robinson and the Miracles on the bill.

“I see the Hyde Park concerts now as being one of the very important musical events,” said King.  “I think they should just be accepted as part of the English musical calendar and not seen as a sociological phenomenon of a wild Hyde Park hype.  Basically, I see them as very good, very big concerts.  No more and no less.  And no one should be able to use them for anything.

“Last year the free concerts cost Blackhill between £600-£700.  The Rolling Stones concert was financed by Granada TV, the Blind Faith concert was paid for by the Stigwood Organisation and Blackhill put up the money for the third concert (featuring Soft Machine).  They also lost money trying to set up the Jefferson Airplane – Grateful Dead concert which never came off.  

“Financial support for next summer (1971) is unclear at the moment.  There are no particular plans for filming the concerts at the moment, and King said “I think the market for pop films in the past year has not been nearly as big and profitable as many people thought.  Granada hasn’t had many offers for their Rolling Stones film.”

“It is still too early to say who will be featured in the concerts: even Smokey Robinson is a tentative arrangement.  But King promises there will be at least two major acts of international calibre.” 

The Smokey Robinson and Motown concerts never eventuated and there was only one more Hyde Park concert in 1969.  It took place on September 20 and featured Soft Machine, the Deviants, Eclection, Al Stewart. Quintessence and Edgar Broughton Band.  MCs were Pete Drummond and Jeff Dexter.  Roy Harper also made a stage announcement but did not play.  It seems the concert was intended to be headlined by Jefferson Airplane and / or the Grateful Dead but clearly this didn’t happen.

In contrast to the earlier concerts the stage was moved from the Cockpit to a location backing onto Park Lane, close to Speaker’s Corner, and it drew a smaller crowd than the other two 1969 shows.  

Despite the claims in Billboard, the free concerts continued pretty much as before, presenting mostly underground acts before they finally ended in 1976 with a show headlined by Queen. 

Hyde Park Free Concerts 1968 - 1976

June 29, 1968: Pink Floyd, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Roy Harper, Jethro Tull

July 27, 1968: Traffic, The Nice, Pretty Things, the Action, Juniors Eyes

August 24, 1968: Family, Fleetwood Mac, Fairport Convention, Eclection, Ten Years After

September 28, 1968: The Move, the Strawbs, Roy Harper, the Action, Clouds

June 7, 1969: Blind Faith, Donovan, Edgar Broughton, Richie Havens, Third Ear Band

July 5, 1969: The Rolling Stones, Family, Battered Ornaments, King Crimson, Roy Harper, Third Ear Band, Alexis Korner's New Church, Screw

September 20, 1969: Soft Machine, the Deviants, Al Stewart , Quintessence, Edgar Broughton Band

July 18, 1970: Pink Floyd, Kevin Ayers, Edgar Broughton, Formerly Fat Harry (Third Ear Band was scheduled to appear but were replaced by Roy Harper)

September 12, 1970: Canned Heat, Eric Burdon & War, John Sebastian

July 3, 1971: Grand Funk Railroad, Humble Pie, Head Hands & Feet

September 4, 1971: Jack Bruce & Friends, King Crimson, Roy Harper, Formerly Fat Harry

June 29, 1974: Kevin Ayers, Nico, Chapman Whitney Streetwalkers, Kevin Coyne, Gong, GT Moore & the Massed Reggae guitars

August 31, 1974: Roger McGuinn, Roy Harper & Heavy Friends, Julie Felix, Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers, Kokomo, Toots & the Maytals

May 31, 1975: Don McLean, Caravan, Joan Armatrading, Shusha, David Lewis, Screemer

August 30, 1975: Wigwam, Byzantium, Supercharge, Third World

September 18, 1976:  Queen, Kiki Dee ,Supercharge, Steve Hillage

After Blind Faith 

Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood went on to enjoy the fruits of their respective solo careers with all the Ferraris, Armani suits, sprawling country estates and similar trappings that came with them, but what of Ric Grech?  Immediately after Blind Faith he worked with Ginger and Steve in the short-lived big band Ginger Baker’s Airforce and later re-joined Winwood in Traffic for two albums, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and the live Welcome to the Canteen, both released in 1971.  

Various projects followed, including session work and a solo compilation album The Last Five Years (RSO 2394 111).  Grech retired from music in 1977 and moved back to his hometown of Leicester, where he reportedly became a carpet salesman (citation most definitely needed! Ed).  On March 17, 1990, he died at Leicester General Hospital at the tragically young age of 43.  Liver and kidney failure were given as the cause of death.

Ginger’s post-Blind Faith career was somewhat more checkered, involving numerous bands and assorted projects, some more successful than others.  After Airforce he opened a recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria before touring and / or recording with the Baker Gurvitz Army, Hawkwind, Fela Kuti, BBM (Bruce, Baker, Moore), Public Image Ltd, Masters of Reality and many others.  In 2005 he joined Clapton and Jack Bruce in a Cream reunion, playing a series of highly successful concerts in London and New York.  After a hedonistic life lived to the full (he claimed to have given up heroin 29 times) the seemingly indestructible Ginger Baker finally checked out on October 6, 2019, at the grand age of 80.  

But you simply can’t keep a good group down and in 2007 Clapton and Winwood teamed up yet again at the Crossroads Guitar Festival where they played “Presence Of The Lord”, “Can't Find My Way Home” and “Had To Cry Today.”  Then, in 2008 we saw a Blind Faith reunion in all but name when the pair played a 15 date US tour together.  They performed the Blind Faith album in its entirety (except for “Sea of Joy” and “Do What You Like”, but including “Sleeping In The Ground”), plus selections by Traffic, Derek & the Dominos and their own solo catalogues.


A DVD and double CD titled Live from Madison Square Garden was released in May 2009 and achieved healthy sales worldwide.  It reached #1 in the Billboard DVD Music charts, selling over 200,000 copies.  It also made the top 5 in several European countries including the UK.  The CD did almost as well in most territories. 


They were hailed as the supergroup of the decade, yet Blind Faith simply couldn’t live up to the hype and enormous expectation heaped upon them, especially with four enormous egos at work.  They came and went with the brevity of a rock & roll mayfly, burning brightly for a short period, before fading just as fast.  But the music they left behind sounds as vital and relevant now as it did the day it was recorded more than half a century ago. 




7 comments:

  1. Wow. I read every word, withut a break, and I didn't think I could do that sort of thing any more. Just fantastic work, Stuart, the facts nicely animated by personal experience and the occasional lol! It's made me go back to the album, which was definitely not something you could leave out for your parents to find.

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  2. Great article Stuart. I loved all the details. Cheers, Vince Black

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  3. I'll read it all later, Stuart - but from a quick scan (in haste), you yet again win the prize for attention to detail, mind-boggling memory and enthusiasm! I thought you'd like to know that I misread the sleeve guy as 'Mick Mulligan' :-D - Brylcreemed 'King of the Ravers' in the 50s British trad scene. Just the right fellow to get in for a flabby 60s rock project...

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Colin. You're not so bad with the rock & roll minutiae yourself!

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