Eric’s return to to the stage in 1974 saw him free from a certain demon for the first time since his Dominos period but a new demon had taken it’s place in the form of alcohol. As a result, there are a number of bootlegs from shows in 1974 that show Eric at his very worst. Unable to sing in key, unable to play like he once did, it’s one of the saddest things to listen to as a Clapton fan. But there were a number of shows where things came together brilliantly and this show at Frost Amphitheatre at Stanford University on the 9th August 1975 is one of them.
When you think of venues The Allman Brothers Band played at during the Duane era there are two that spring instantly to mind. The first, Fillmore East in New York City. The At Fillmore East live album is proof of the fantastic music the band played there and many more bootlegs from other shows at the venue back that up as well. But the second venue was The Warehouse in New Orleans, Louisiana. The shows The Allman Brothers Band played at The Warehouse are considered by many, including band members, as some of the best shows they ever played. Between March 13th 1970 and Duane’s death on the 29th October 1971, the Allman Brothers played at the Warehouse a total of ten times with a further four shows played after his passing.
In October 1968 Cream were pretty much over, apart from the remaining tour dates which would end with two final shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London on the 26th November. But mentally they all knew the musical journey they had embarked on in 1966 was coming to an end. Including this show, they would have 20 dates left until the end of Cream as a band but that didn’t mean the music would suffer. That didn’t mean they couldn’t continue to be a live force right up until the end. Far from it.
Winterland was one of the most well known and legendary venues of the late 60’s and early 70’s. All of the major bands of the time played there, just like they did at the original Fillmore Auditorium, Fillmore West and Fillmore East. What did these venues have in common? The late great Bill Graham. From 1966 he rented Winterland as it could hold more people than the nearby Fillmore Auditorium, and he needed it for the larger concerts he was putting on. Originally the venue was called the New Dreamland Auditorium when it opened in 1928 and it was used for ice skating and concerts, as the venue could be easily changed between the two. However it wasn’t until 1971 that the venue was just a music venue, after Bill Graham had it fully converted to one. But in 1968 the venue certainly rivalled the nearby Fillmore Auditorium as one of the premier venues in the United States. Other acts that graced the stage included The Allman Brothers Band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and The Doors to name just a few. Basically, rock royalty.
“Here they are! The Cream!”, says the announcer right before Cream launch into White Room. You don’t really get band announcers anymore, bands now tend to come out and start playing whenever they feel like it. But back then gigs were almost like an art form and Cream were one of the best around.
The best thing about White Room is the delicious playing by Clapton through a wah peddle. It’s infectious. In many cases during 1968 Cream opened their set with this song however you can’t help but notice the band sound a little too laid back or tired during this particular performance. Just this song though as they would pick up massively after this, starting with Sunshine Of Your Love. Sunshine Of Your Love is hands down the most well known Cream song, in fact you’d find it hard pressed to find any music fans that don’t know that gorgeous intro. It’s one of those songs that you know instantly when hearing it. The only fault here is how short this version is considering at some shows they played it for over 10 minutes, in some cases close to 20 minutes. I mean 6 minutes is probably considered long for most other bands but for Cream that’s barely any time at all! I’m So Glad comes next, a Skip James song that Cream first recorded on their debut album. It is the first song of the set where they really open up the taps and give it everything. The performance lasts just over 10 minutes and you’re reminded why Cream were considered one of the best live bands of the late 1960’s and why Clapton was nicknamed ‘God’.
Out of all the recordings that exist of Derek and the Dominos, this show is certainly the most unique. It featured a number of songs the band would only play once, or at least there is only one recording of these songs being played. It’s unsure as to whether certain songs were played at other shows but due to a lack of recordings for those other shows and without excessive research we will never know. But I sure am glad this one exists.
The band start with a great version of the Robert Johnson song Ramblin’ On My Mind, however they play it in more of an Elmore James style with the roaring slide guitar. A lot of people when hearing this may think that is Duane Allman on slide guitar but it is not, it is in fact Clapton as Duane wouldn’t join the band on stage for another month and a half. It’s interesting that the band would play this song so early in to their US tour (this was in fact their second US tour date after playing at Rider College in Trenton, New Jersey the night before) but this could have been for two reason. 1) The band only recently finished recording the Layla album a few weeks prior to this show where Clapton played a number of parts on slide with Duane and 2) the band were still no doubt putting together a setlist for their shows and altering the setlist from what they had been playing in the UK would have been natural due to the different audiences found in the US. But either way this is one hell of a song and I only wish they played it more during their tour dates.