The great Chicago bluesman Otis Rush will forever be remembered as the man who wrote All Your Love, his eighth A-side, featured here as the first song on this compilation. The song later found a wider audience by introducing the world to Eric Clapton by way of John Mayall’s Blues Breakers record in 1966 – however it was Aerosmith’s cover, from 1991’s Pandora’s Box collection of outtakes and demos, which first turned me onto the song.
Otis Rush is also synonymous with Led Zeppelin. He was the first artist to record I Can’t Quit You Baby, written by Willie Dixon and later covered by Zeppelin on their eponymous 1969 debut record and featured twice on their BBC Sessions collection.
Rush was discovered by Dixon in 1956, and it is Dixon who is credited for getting Rush signed to a record contract (with Abco Records). Dixon plays bass across each of the eight singles (A- and B-sides) which make up this record, backing Rush on vocals and guitar (a young Ike Turner even pops up on guitar on the last two singles).
The quirk of Otis Rush is that he is left-handed, but plays right-handed strung guitars flipped upside down (with the low E string at the bottom). Now that’s the kind of left-handed guitar player us right-handers need to be friends with!
Calling this album Eric Clapton’s debut is a bit of a misnomer. This is man who has been through The Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, and Delaney And Bonnie And Friends before getting around to releasing a solo album. Not surprisingly, given that pedigree, it’s a pretty robust offering – miles away from the highs he would hit on later solo albums, but still a decent rock and roll record.
The band that backs Clapton on this album is essentially Delaney And Bonnie And Friends, key members of which he would also recruit to form Derek & The Dominos. That record – Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs – is really where Clapton’s solo career really gets going, despite the anonymity of the ‘group’ name. Layla remains one of the finest rock songs committed to vinyl – and there’s not really anything as cutting as that on Eric Clapton, even though it was only recorded six months prior to the Dominos record.
I’ve only seen Clapton play live once, and he remains one of my biggest disappointments. It might have been that we had bad seats, up in the rafters; or that he hardly played any of his hits, save for Layla and Cocaine, leaning on a set-list geared more towards his own enjoyment rather than the paying audience; but he just didn’t cut it. Since I saw him that time, I have read his autobiography, and I guess I’m just happy I got to see him at all, given how he squandered most of his life (and talent) to drugs and alcohol.