L.A Forum 1975: Mike Millard Original Master Tapes (Beano-202)
The Forum, Inglewood, CA, USA – August 14, 1975
Disc 1 (58:54) Intro, Layla, Further On Up The Road, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Carnival, Can’t Find My Way Home, Tell The Truth, Stormy Monday
Disc 2 (53:08) MC, Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad, Teach Me To Be Your Woman, Badge, Eyesight To The Blind
Eric Clapton’s 1975 summer tour of the USA to promote his latest record, There’s One In Every Crowd, was more of a return to form for the guitarist. The previous year’s tour found the famed guitarist struggling with sobriety and gave many uneven performances. While Clapton was certainly not sober, the 1975 tour was much improved and the guitarist was in great form musically and vocally. Clapton also used a rotating set list which helped keep the performances fresh and seemed to challenge Clapton and his excellent backing band.
The Lost and Found Mike the MICrophone Tapes series present Mike Millard’s recording of Clapton’s stop at the L.A. Forum. Instead of rambling on, I took some of the notes from the torrent and am letting the pros do the talking:
“Mike was a major Clapton fan, first recording him at Long Beach Arena in 1974 (his inaugural show in partnership with Jim R) and continued to tape him in the ‘90s. Though to my ears there’s no mistaking this for a soundboard tape, as Jim notes below, Mike was recording close to the stage and the recording has that up-closeness that is a hallmark of his best work. Auditioning some of the extant sources, this transfer is a major upgrade. Whereas Mike’s Pink Floyd ’75 original cassettes took a great recording and made it a touch greater, the Clapton case is more like someone cleaning a layer of grime from a master painting. There is richness and detail here that simply cannot be heard on the higher generation sources previously circulated. If you liked this recording before, you’re really going to love it now. There is a bit more hiss present than on some other Millard masters, but rather than run noise reduction we’ve left it intact to maintain the integrity of Mike’s original recording.”
Mike’s good friend Jim R also shares his memories of this concert:
“I attended the Eric Clapton concert with Mike Millard on August 14, 1975. It was at the The Fabulous Forum. We sat 2nd row center on the floor. The concert took place about a month after the Stones played five nights at The Forum, which puts us squarely in the Wheelchair Era. I pushed Mike into the building in the wheelchair and we used the service elevator to get down to our floor seats. During the show, the folded-up wheelchair was safely tucked away next to the stage.
Sitting second row center is the front edge of our “sweet spot.” We were definitely picking up the well-mixed stage monitors along with the main PA. This results in a particularly ”sweet” recording. My pictures turned out rather good, too. What helped was Eric choosing not to hide behind dark glasses like he had on the ’74 tour. We could see his eyes.
However, sitting that close to the stage does have its drawbacks. The stage lighting at times would fall on us and reflect off the microphone heads peeking out of Mike’s hat. They appear as two silver discs shining on top of his head. Not good! I kept a close eye on the microphone heads for Mike and would indicate to him when to tuck them back in. The mic bodies were almost as long as the hat so it was a common occurrence.
Clapton’s band was tight and the two female backup singers (Yvonne Elliman and Marcy Levy) were a lovely addition. Another bonus: guest appearances by Carlos Santana, Keith Moon and Joe Cocker for the last handful of songs. Moon was definitely “feeling no pain” and received a corresponding introduction by EC (listen closely). I hope you enjoy Mike’s recording and my photos. Looking back, as a big Clapton fan since the Cream days, this is one of my favorite Millard recordings of all time.”
Incredible to read Jim R’s recollections, even more so as I am writing this Can’t Find My Way Home is playing and it sends shivers up my spine. As stated the recording is excellent, a vivid document that needs only one word to describe it, Excellent. It also comes from the Jim R transfer to a DAT so the master tapes are not actually used, there is also tape hiss but once you give yourself in to the performance it’s easy to look passed. This recording has been released a few times, The Legendary L.A. Forum Show (Oh Boy 2-9052), Never Find Away (Bell Bottom BB 01/02), Stormy Monday Blues (Great Dane Records GDR CD 9109), Further On Up The Road (Living Legend Records LLRCD 115), and shortly after this release The Legendary LA Forum Mike Millard Tapes (Moonchild MC-209) arrived.
The Derek and the Dominos classic Layla would get the opener nod many times on this tour, the band is sizzling from the start and the song is quite powerful, it does not have the piano coda portion so Clapton and George Terry trade licks instead which is a real tasty way to start the evening. The tape hiss is a bit louder on this song but improves at the 1:10 mark. Clapton seems to always play great versions of the Bobby Bland shuffle Further On Up The Road, his leads are fluent and the band is swinging’. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door has that nice Reggae arrangement that, in my opinion, is superior. Clapton was certainly very inspired by Bob Marley and the music coming from Jamaica and puts his own twist on the exotic rhythms of the Island.
Carnival sizzles and sounds like it could have came from the Derek and the Dominos period, the additional backing vocals and instrumentation give the song a rich sound and the band stretch out, great version. Yvonne Ellman is going to sing a song “and your going to sit down”, it’s the Blind Faith chestnut Can’t Find My Way Home. Yvonne sings it gently and the song retains that feeling of internal struggle and faith. Back to the Dominos for the next few songs beginning with Tell The Truth, the band stretch out and jam during the songs 10 minute plus time, Clapton certainly leads with some nice slide accents from Terry.
Like Duane Allman, Clapton has an affinity for the old T-Bone Walker blues Stormy Monday, the audience is captivated and it’s almost like Eric is preaching and the Forum audience is his congregation. Eric “requests” Keith Moon come to the stage, he finally makes it and does one of his unique rambling speeches and the band breaks into Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad and the band embarks on another jam, the Sergio Rodriguez percussion adds a different vibe to the ending that is intermingling unique. The band tease a bit of the Born Free movie theme just before Marcy Levy’s song Teach Me To Be Your Woman. The songs contemporary sound is in stark contrast to the rest of the show, Eric plays some nice guitar, not over doing it or stealing the spotlight at all.
The “last one for the time being” is a return to the Cream days with Badge getting the full band treatment, being the last song of the main set Eric plays a nice long solo. On most nights Eric would invite opener Carlos Santana up to jam, for the next 15 minutes we are treated to EC and Carlos jamming to the Sonny Boy Williamson Blues stalwart Eyesight To The Blind. Moon joins in for a percussion solo that is pretty good, not sure whose playing what but interesting for sure, they even get into a bit of Soul Sacrifice and Joe Cocker is on stage but I could not pick out any contribution. While the song never seems to live up to the billing, it’s got some really great playing and a great end to the concert.
The packaging by Beano is excellent, full color live shots of Clapton from the tour, the interior has Jim R’s photos from the concert and they are excellent, also is a scan of Jim’s ticket stub. Beano does it right. Another incredible recording by Mike the Mic and a superb title and recommended.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)