Eric Clapton already had one eye on the door with Cream when he heard the Band for the first time. In that moment, he knew that the legendary trio was finished.
“It sounded like they’d jumped on to what I thought we ought to be doing. That was what I wanted us to sound like and here was somebody else doing it,” Clapton tells Uncut. “It shook me to the core.”
In Clapton’s mind, the rootsy authenticity of The Basement Tapes and Music from Big Pink was everything his work with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce was supposed to have been but never, in fact, was.
Or, that’s what he told himself, anyway.
“The Band had done it without even trying, and I harbored that as a weapon of resentment against Jack and Ginger — who had a lot more respect for what we were doing than I did,” Clapton admits. “But it’s one of my character defects that the best party is always down the road. When I get what I want, I don’t want it any more. I really wasn’t happy, and I used the Band as a lever to say I’d had enough.”
Slowhand eventually made a pilgrimage to Woodstock, in an effort to plug himself into the scene — but while he was still decked out in the psychedelic wardrobe of the moment, “they looked like the Hole in the Wall Gang,” Clapton says. “They had a very closed scene. I wanted to be part of it. But there was no way in. There was no room. So, all I could do was admire it from afar and long for something similar.”
From there, a brief collaboration as Blind Faith with Steve Winwood (whose earlier band Traffic, Clapton says, “were the English version of the Band”) was born. Later, Clapton was part of The Last Waltz concert, and would work with individual members of the Band, as well. He collaborated on Robbie Robertson’s most recent solo album, and co-wrote “All Our Past Times” with Rick Danko for 1976’s No Reason To Cry.