Posts Tagged ‘Rick Grech’

A Matter of Blind Faith?

On 8th February 1969 the new band formed by Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker in the wake of Cream’s demise had intended to go into the studio to start recording, Steve Winwood replaced Jack Bruce. The NME carried the story and reported that the band had been rehearsing at Winwood’s Berkshire cottage and things had been going well. They also reported that the band was still seeking a bass player and that as yet they were unnamed.

Later Ginger said, “We got to Stevie’s cottage in the middle of a field, and I settled down at Jim Capaldi’s drum kit and we just played for hours. Musically, Stevie and I got along wonderfully. He was one of the greatest musicians I’ve ever worked with. What I didn’t know then was that Eric would probably rather have worked with Jim Capaldi. It’s a curious thing with me and Eric. I regard him as the nearest thing I’ve got to a brother, but we always found it difficult to talk about personal things. He never explained, for example, that he wanted it all to be a much more low-key affair than Cream had been.”

Initially at their rehearsals Winwood was playing the bass lines on his organ, but the need for a real bass player was paramount to give Steve the freedom to play more creatively. Clapton admired Rick Grech, bass player for Leicester art-rockers Family, since the days when that band was known as The Farinas. According to Winwood, “I knew he was a good singer and could play great, and that was the guy we wanted. We didn’t even consider any other bass players. Once Rick was around, and he seemed like a nice guy it was just very casually accepted that he was in the band.”

By March Eric told the NME that “We’re just jamming and we have no definite plans for the future.” After the postponement of the February recording sessions things got underway at Morgan Studios with Chris Blackwell producing, but he didn’t really work out so Jimmy Miller took over. Steve knew Jimmy well from his time producing Traffic’s first three albums. Apparently sessions were sometimes tough, as Ginger in particular was struggling with his demons. But all things considered, the Sessions that ran from 20th February to late June were relatively calm.

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According to Winwood, “They were full of people hanging out, Eric had a lot of bohemian friends and liked to record with people around. The only thing I remember not being very pleased with was ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’. It was only when I heard it again later that I realised how good it was.”

When Blind Faith was finally chosen as the band’s name it seems to have been largely Eric’s idea with Steve Winwood feeling it had a somewhat negative vibe about it.

Blind Faith in Hyde Park

1969 was THE year of the festival – a stellar year by which all others have been judged. Across North America and Britain there seemed to be a festival happening somewhere almost every weekend of the summer. The first major festival of the year was in Canada, the Aldergrove Beach Rock Festival that bizarrely starred the New Vaudeville Band and Guitar Shorty. In Britain the first Hyde Park show starred Eric Clapton’s new band, Blind Faith in front of a crowd of around 120,000

It was on Saturday 7th June that Blind Faith headlined the free concert that was organized by Blackhill Enterprises. Peter Jenner and Andrew King who were stalwarts of the London underground scene, having helped start the UFO club in Tottenham Court Road, ran Blackhill. Jenner had been a lecturer at the London school of Economics, and Blackhill ran their five-person business out of a converted shop just off Ladbroke Grove.

Blackhill were principally agents, and it was their acts that gained most from the Hyde Park concerts, which gave them a higher profile than they would have expected from flogging around Britain laying low-key gigs. During 1968, when Blackhill first approached the Ministry of Public Building and Works about the possibility of staging concerts in Hyde Park they were met with a resounding ‘no’. However, their persistence paid off, and on 29th June 1968 Pink Floyd headlined, supported by Tyrannosaurus Rex, Jethro Tull and Roy Harper.

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The Blind Faith concert was the first of four concerts scheduled for 1969. Opening the show was the Third Ear Band along with Richie Havens, Donovan and the Edgar Broughton Band (no festival seemed to be complete without them). The stage they all played on was somewhat makeshift in appearance and was only about a meter or so high.

It all kicked off about 2.30 and despite the crowd of 120,000 turning up on a really hot day it was barely reported by the national press and not much noticed by the pop press either. With the exception of Richie Havens, who as usual thrashed the living daylights out of his guitar, the bands never seemed to ignite the crowd. Perhaps they were anticipating guitar pyrotechnics from Eric Clapton, who along with Ginger Baker, Stevie Winwood and Rick Grech had formed Blind Faith, the new ‘supergroup’, a tag with which they had been saddled to describe the musicians’ pedigree.

Blind Faith took to the stage about 5pm kicked off with ‘Well All Right’ before going on to perform most of their debut album. It was a more bluesy set, closer to the kind of things Traffic had been playing than to Cream. According to Ginger Baker, “Eric had been doing amazing stuff, but at Hyde Park I kept on wondering when he was going to start playing. ” According to Clapton, “I came off stage shaking like a leaf because I felt that, once again, I’d let people down.”

Blind Faiths Setlist:

Well All Right , Sea Of Joy, Sleeping In The Ground, Under My Thumb, Can’t Find My Way Home , Do What You Like, In The Presence Of The Lord, Means To An End, Had To Cry Today.Blind Faith 2
“True, they weren’t as polished as Cream had been, but then again I don’t think there’s anything wrong in master-musicians playing a bit of a ‘woolly’ set. That’s what good rock’n’roll is all about. Play it a bit raw. Fluff up a bit here and there. Make mistakes. Who cares?”– Richard Evans, designer who later worked at Hipgnosis

Among the crowd were Mick Jagger and his girlfriend Marianne Faithfull. Having watched Blind Faith perform, soaked in the vibe and seen how many people there were watching, Mick decided that a free concert in Hyde Park to promote their new single and get them back in the public eye would be just the thing for the Rolling Stones. As a nod to Mick, who stood watching from the side stage, they played ‘Under My Thumb’.

Mick Jagger told the Melody Maker a few days later, “I thought they were very nice. I was right at the back of the stage and couldn’t see them, but I thought somehow they were very strained. I guess they’ll get more together and Ginger was fantastic. He’s a beautiful drummer – the best drummer I have ever heard.”

Meanwhile, the supergroup’s new album arrived just two months after the Hyde Park performance — and shot to No. 1 in the U.K., Canada and in America. Songs like “Presence of the Lord,” “Had to Cry Today” and “Can’t Find My Way Home” caught on in a big way, becoming fixtures on FM radio stations across the country.

Still, controversy loomed over the album’s risqué cover art, which featured a pre-pubescent girl holding a chrome airplane. To the band, it represented the dichotomy between innocence and scientific achievement. To record dealers, it was unsellable smut. Atlantic Records head Ahmet Ertegun stepped in to 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.”

Blind Faith was only together for this album, a debut concert in Hyde Park, a Scandinavia and USA tour and then broke up shortly afterwards. In the immediate aftermath, Clapton briefly joined Delaney and Bonnie, while Winwood, Baker and Grech decided to continue on in a new outfit named Ginger Baker’s Air Force — though that, too, came to an end just a year later. Clapton would memorably reunite with Baker for a series of 2005 Cream shows, while Grech subsequently became part of a reformulated version of Traffic with Winwood. Otherwise, a few chance meetings between Winwood and Clapton — notably over three sold-out 2008 shows in New York City — were as close as Blind Faith has ever come to a return engagement.

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The year 1969 has not been a very good one for rock and roll. Outside of “Tommy” and The Band’s decision to go on tour, we had not had that much to get excited about.

Art theorists have hypothesized that artists are usually most inspired in times of crisis, that the forces of history push them to greater personal achievements. Blind Faith could be viewed as an attempt to jar rock out of these doldrums. The group is based on the idea that if you take three of the best soloists around and form them into a single smooth-functioning unit, the result will be one incredible rock band. Ego conflicts must be kept at a minimum; solos are taken not because someone feels like flashing for a while, but because the song calls for a solo.

Comprising guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker from Cream, bassist Ric Grech from the art-rock Leicester group Family and the multi-talented musician and vocalist Steve Winwood, the erstwhile Little Stevie who had starred in Birmingham’s Spencer Davis Group and then entered the hippy underground with the amazing Traffic in 1967. Ostensibly a low-key adjunct to their other ‘day” jobs Blind Faith had took on a life force of its own. After jamming at Morgan Studios in North West London with Island head honcho Chris Blackwell behind the desk the group began to hit their straps with a vengeance, but for some reason the tape op had not preseds the play button and the sessions, which included guest guitarist Denny Laine from The Moody Blues, were never captured for posterity.

They released the album Blind Faith in August 1969 with producer Jimmy Miller bringing the disparate characters into line on a six track LP that included three Winwood originals, Clapton’s divine “Presence of the Lord” (much influenced by his friendship with George Harrison) and a Ginger jam out on the lengthy “Do What You Like”.  

By far the best song is Presence Of The Lord a track written by Eric Clapton which explains in part how Blind Faith ever came to be. The majesty of the organ even makes it sound like a church song, until Clapton wah-wahs off on a quick solo that’s so good it makes me want to apologize for every snide thing I’ve ever said or thought about him. The first time I heard this song, it brought me out of my listening chair, It still does even now. Never has a guitarist said so much so beautifully in such a short time. The solo is so inspirational it can’t help but make the lyrics that much more believable.

“Had To Cry Today”.   goes through several interesting changes, Clapton always bringing it back to the main theme. The choice of Rick Grech, heretofore almost unknown, as bassist is fully justified by his work on this song. The other highlight “Can’t Find My Way Home”  is a Pleading Stevie Winwood Song featuring highly innovative percussion from Ginger Baker.

“Do What You Like” is a fine five-minute rock song which is destroyed when it is dragged out ten extra minutes by solos for the sake of solos. Baker’s lyrics state the Blind Faith formula (‘Do right use your head/Everybody must be fed/Get together break your bread/Yes together that’s what I said.’), but the music then proceeds to obliterate it. Winwood’s solo is the only one worthy of remaining in the song; he is the most consistent musician on the album. Clapton’s is perfectly competent, but nothing new or exceptional. Baker confuses quantity with quality; his solo starts out nicely enough, but quickly falls apart despite his insistence on continuing. Poor Ginger is bound and determined to someday match the original version of Toad; he is, at this rate, destined to retire a very frustrated drummer. The bass solo is sheer self-indulgence.

I don’t know what the explanation for this cut is, but I could venture a calculated guess. Atlantic President Ahmet Ertegun was recently quoted as saying, ‘If we’d known they were going to do this well (on the American tour), we wouldn’t have rushed the album’. I wouldn’t be surprised if this song falls into the throwaway solo rut because Blind Faith didn’t have enough new material to fill an album in time to meet Atlantic’s deadline, and resolved the problem by extending a song they already did have.

This album is better than any of Cream’s and about as good as any of Traffic’s. On the basis of the potential shown in the best cuts, and writing off “Do What You Like” as a fluke mistake that won’t be repeated.

Blind Faith [VINYL] by Blind Faith