Bonamassa Hears Clapton in EVH: You?

December 22, 2011 | By | 14 Replies More

Lots of well-known axe-slingers are quoted in Neil Zlozower’s new (and awesome) Eddie Van Halen book. One is the current white bluesman extraordinaire, Joe “gingers o’ fire” Bonamassa. What he says is interesting, and not sure I can hear what he’s hearing.

Bear in mind a couple things:

1. EVH has said many times that he’s a crazy Clapton (Cream-era) fan, and that he considers himself most influenced by Clapton even though folks find it easier to make an EVH-Hendrix connection. BUT don’t think I’ve read a single instance of anyone else making that EVH-Clapton connection – with their ears, that is.

2. Joe is a blues student/fan/librarian and then some. Seems to know it all, and obviously is well-versed in many blues guitarist styles. He also has crazy good ears for tone.

So bearing those in mind, here, in part, is what Joe says in the EVH book:

What I want to talk about here is what I’ve always heard in Eddie’s playing: the British blues, and Eric Clapton in particular.

If you listen to the solo on “Hot for Teacher” and Eric’s solo on “Have You Heard” from the John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers’ Beano album, you will hear the same entry, phrasing, timing and fire.

It’s not about copping the same phrases or lead lines. It’s about summoning the passion of the blues and interpreting it in a way that makes sense for the music you are making….

Naturally after I read that I hit the “improved” (imo slower) YouTube. And I…don’t…hear it. Dang it!

Here are the two songs Joe mentioned – do you hear what he hears?

Starts at 1:16, finishes at 2:30.

Ed’s HFT solo, regular speed and half speed.

Do you hear what Joe is talking about?


A couple more Joe quotes from the book:

Edward’s playing begins and ends with the blues – in the same way Clapton’s and Richie Blackmore’s does. It’s timeless and classic.

So why do we all refer to Edward as one of the greatest of all time? It is simple because every time he picks up his guitar he plays with bad intentions.


Category: Edward Van Halen, Eric Clapton, Joe Bonamassa

Comments (14)

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  1. Jack Pribek says:

    I’m not sure if I’m hearing exactly what Joe is but, when I first heard EVH (which was way back when the first album came out) and, probably not long after read some interviews where Ed brought up the Clapton connection, it made sense to me.
    It was a different world and not really a slew of other blues based shredders around to use as a benchmark.
    To me, it’s the way Ed swings, the rhythmic phrasing in his lead playing. Clapton was able to keep the swing playing in a heavy rock context and to me it seems EVH evolved from that wheelhouse.

  2. Ian says:

    The tone is definitely there (’60 Lester into a JTM45 Marshall vs. a ’58 Flying V into a Plexi) and I can see what he’s saying in terms of fire. Both are played in the “A” position, but Ed tunes his guitar a half-step down. I totally see where Joey B draws the comparison. It’s like Alex and Ginger Baker… obviously there are big differences, but you see the connection.

  3. Leonardus says:

    I definitely hear it. Especially the slow version says it all really. Joe’s comments are really on the spot. Cool stuff

  4. Brian says:

    I’ll have to listen to it a few more times. For me, the one that always stands out is the “When It’s Love” solo.

  5. KDC says:

    EVH’s solo, albeit played much faster and metaly-er, has its similarities.

  6. mike says:

    It took a long time for me to see the connection too, but it’s there. The thing that first stuck out for me is the studio solo from ‘i’m so glad’, it just seems like you COULD tap it out EVH style….

    the tone’s there too….

  7. windwalker9649 says:

    Joe, I think, hits it right on the head. EVH’s phrasing is VERY Clapton. Also, Bonomassa, IMO, is the BEST player that’s been came out since EVH, he just doesnt have the commerical success. Ive heard so many talented, hot shot young blues-guys, and some not so hot-shot (certain Strat playing serial hollywood dater comes to mind), but all of them, when I’d listen, were derivative from some other player. I can only hear Eric Clapton, SRV,etc. J.Bonomassa is the first original blues player Ive heard in years. The man can SHRED, but most of the time doesnt, and knows his tone. I have the Carol-Ann amp company only a few miles from my home, and have been lucky enough to play them, and get some tips on my own builds and mods from the player. They’re like a Dumble with a british parent.

    BTW; I have to say, I could do with less EVH acticles. I know its one guys website, and a great one (though i disagree regularly, like when he wrote that besides Ritchie Blackmore, and maybe one other guy, i dont remmeber are the only real players w/a good Strat-rock sound; totally ignoring Gilmour (which is a mortal sin to me), Mike McCready from Pearl Jam, who along with Stone Gossard are 2of the most underrated guitar players there are, (ALive, one of my favortie solo’s from that era) etc. But for the most part,its a great site, good ideas and things that get me to think differently.

    ***As an amp tech, (and luthier), I want to make a PSA for guys replacing tubes; there is a certain unnambed tube company(they have 2 words, their tubes have the 2 first letters of each on the tubes, and its not Electro Harmonix). They do not make their own tubes, you’re just paying an extra $10-20 to buy a tube that you could buy from the original company. They’re basically a company that matches tubes.

  8. lex says:

    You can hear it. It’s the phrasing of the blues licks. Ed adds some of his shred in between but if you edit those parts out, it’s EXACTLY as Joe described it.

  9. SHG says:

    There’s a recording out there – probably on youtube somewhere – of Ed in a radio interview back in the eighties, and halfway through he picks up a guitar and plays the entirety of Clapton’s “Crossroads” solo from Wheels of Fire from memory on the spot, almost note-perfect.

  10. Brennan says:

    2:05 IS Edward’s finger vibrato.

    • windwalker9649 says:

      The vibrato was the first thing I thought of. I didnt listen to any of the clips up top, but I hear the main riff for “sunshine of your love” in the main riff for “aint talking bout love”. At least the vibrato at the end of each riff.

    • Brennan says:

      Just wanted to clarify – at 2:05 in Clapton’s “Have You Heard”, I hear Edward’s finger vibrato style.

  11. windwalker9649 says:

    Though i think EVH is using the whammy bar, i still hear it, and think he probably did too when he wrote it. I have that problem though, anytime i write something i think is original; ill record it, play it back, & hear someone else in it. It may only be two notes in a whole measure, but it unnerves me.

  12. Christopher says:

    Yesterday, I saw a YouTube clip of Bonamassa speaking at a guitar clinic where he says he witnessed Clapton plug his sig Fender Strat straight into a stock Fender amp and sounded exactly like the old 60s Gibson-into-Marshall sound. Now I’m not exactly doubting Bonamassa’s ears, but methinks he was wishing.

    At the Cream reunion shows in 2005, Clapton had his Strat into a Fender amp and it didn’t sound anything like a Gibson into a Marshall. It sounded exactly as you’d expect: A Fender Strat into a Fender amp.

    I respect Bonamassa’s playing and his sound, but I’ll take his scholarship with a grain of salt.

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