‘The Cream’-era Clapton: 9s, All on 10

December 7, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More

Clapton_LP_bw_1Once in a while Guitar Player sends out these “flashback” emails of old interviews. One semi-recent one was Eric Clapton in June 1970, daddy-o. Although that was post-Cream – or “the Cream,” as it was called back then – he talked about his gear in Cream. Here are the juicy deets plus some notes:

GP: When you played through those big Marshall amps with the Cream, would you turn them up to get that distorted, hold-over sound?

Clapton: Yeah. I’d turn the amp and the guitar up all the way. It seems I’m known as a guitar player for that sustain sound – you know, holding notes for a long time.

With the Cream, did you use more than one Marshall?

I had the option. I always had two Marshalls set up to play through. But I think it was just so I could have one as a spare. I usually used only one 100-watt amp. I tried to use them in series several times—connected with a split lead—but it didn’t work out too well. I would have one end of the cord going into the guitar and separating into the two amps. It was very hard to control and too loud, really.

Were you affected at all by playing as intensely and loudly with the Cream as you did?

I actually went deaf for a period of time. When we were playing at the Fillmore for a while, I was wearing specially designed ear plugs. I had to, because I couldn’t hear anything anymore. I was playing full volume in a kind of weird, traumatic state—knowing that I had to play, and not really wanting to. I was deaf, and I couldn’t hear anything. I was wearing these ear plugs, and I couldn’t hear through them. I was really brought down.

Have you played in front of a Marshall turned up full volume without ear plugs?

Yeah. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same. I think one ear is stronger than the other. One ear is at least half deaf—I don’t know which one. When I’m on stage, I have to stand a certain way to be able to hear everything. Otherwise, I can only hear half of what’s going on.

What kind of wah-wah pedal do you use, like on the “White Room” track on Wheels Of Fire?


How about the strings you used on the Les Paul, on the live side of Wheels Of Fire?

Fender Rock and Roll strings.

[Seems like Fender Rock ‘n’ Roll Strings came in 9- and 10-gauge (anyone know for sure?). As to which he preferred, Clapton said in an interview that the Rock ‘n’ Rolls sold only in America were the same strings as the nickel 150s sold in the UK, which are 9s.]

[Btw, all fellow EVH fans note that Ed loved Cream-era Clapton, and that Clapton used a 100w Marshall on 10 with the vol knob on 10 and Fender 150 strings – all things that Ed used.]

More: Leads

GP: You spent the two years before the Cream playing a fairly pure form of blues behind John Mayall. You stayed with the blues scale during those days. Did you make a conscious change of lead style when you began playing with the Cream?

Clapton: Yeah. A lot of the time, I did try new things because the songs were different. The leads had to be different. I tried to play more things—like hillbilly music and rock and roll stuff.

Did you plan your leads, or, for that matter, do you plan them now?

No. The only planning I do is about a minute before I play. I desperately try to think of something that will be effective, but I never sit down and work it out note for note.

Cream, ‘Spoonful’ Live, Audio Only – Killer!

Category: Edward Van Halen, Eric Clapton, Fender, Les Paul, Marshall

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  1. 'Nother Plucker says:

    It’s funny to hear him mention how there were times when he knew he had to play but didn’t want to because of the excruciating volume. I’ve had similar experiences jamming with bands who liked to crank it up really loud. It can be tough to find that good balance in an electrified rock situation. That may be why when I play out now, it’s usually acoustic in a coffee shop. I do my electric playing these days by myself at home where I can control the volume level.

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