My Name Is Robert Johnson (Tarantura TCDEC-33-1,2)
St. John Arena, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH – July 4th, 1974
Disc 1 (55:35): Easy Now, Smile, Let It Grow, Can’t Find My Way Home, band introduction, Key To The Highway, Willie And The Hand Jive, Get Ready, Little Wing
Disc 2 (46:45): Maineline Florida, Layla, Presence Of The Lord, Little Queenie, Crossroads
Many soundboards have surfaced for Eric Clapton’s summer 1974 tour providing an excellent archive for collectors. Unlike the Long Beach multi-track, these other professional recordings are good and enjoyable but not perfect with noticeable levels of hiss. The Columbus soundboard shares that characteristic but not to the level of distraction and this one has a wonderful percussive, lively quality that bears repeated listening.
This tape was released before on the first two discs of Smile 1974 (ZigZag Records ZigZag 6 CD-1/2/3/4/5/6) where it was included with the July 9th Montreal and July 24th Denver soundboards and on Bottle Rocking (3BR 7474).
Tarantura didn’t master the tape excessively and it sounds really nice. The only mistake Tarantura makes is omitting the very beginning of the tape where Clapton says “We’re tuning, actually ain’t singing, we’re tuning, depending on what key we’re playing in”, playing “San Francisco Bay Blues” for one minute ending with “Let’s be serious – good evening.”
Clapton’s fourth of July holiday show in Columbus falls into what some collectors call the nadir of the tour. This, Pittsburgh and especially the July 6th show in Buffalo are characterised by sizzling performances by a very intoxicated guitar hero. With his inhibitions down, the show is littered with bizarre comments and asides that must have sounded funny to him.
It was about this time Clapton was dating backup singer Yvonne Elliman and she acts like a giddy schoolgirl by giggling throughout the performance at all his dumb jokes and resurrecting her Mary Magdalene-like passion to every note she sings.
The three song opening acoustic set begins with the laid back “Easy Now.” “Smile” is introduced by Clapton as “a song written by Charlie Chaplin.” Elliman lets out a “yeah” in the background. Clapton continues, saying, “and if that ain’t good enough for you, well, it’s good enough for me.”
“Let It Grow” is “from me new album … it ain’t that expensive.” The shimmering acoustic guitar recalls the summer waves as Clapton calls on George Terry to take the solo. “Blind Faith. Remember them?” he says before a nice version of “Can’t Find My Way Home.” Elliman sings the lead and her cover can be found on her 1972 solo album Yvonne Elliman.
There is a long and rambling of the band. “I want you to dig my band, because I dig them. And if it ain’t good enough for you, I’ll fire the lot of them.” He fawns all over his girlfriend point out how beautiful she is. Terry is wearing an Eric Clapton shirt “so he can’t be all bad.” He finally introduces himself as Robert Johnson.
He slurs the words throughout “Key To The Highway” perhaps in imitation of the bluesmen of old. “Willie And The Hand Jive” is segues with the preceding and with more mumbling of the words and funny comments to the words. “Way Out Willie gave ’em all a treat / When he did that hand jive with his feet…try it sometime / Hand Jive… all you have to do is unzip your flies and take out your…yeah you know.”
“Get Ready” disintegrates in the middle to lots of giggling and a mention of Robert Stigwood before a nasty solo. “Here’s one for a good friend of yours…and mine” Clapton says when they get into “Little Wing.” One of the best songs in the show is a long version of “Mainline Florida.” Clapton and Terry get into duel in the middle and Clapton throws in “Norwegian Wood.” “Oh have mercy…into D minor” he says as he leads them into “Layla.” Clapton flubs the beginning of the second verse at 1:47.
“Presence Of The Lord” begins with the heavy ascending riff at the start and “Little Queenie” is eight minutes bizarre comments and asides including Clapton asking “how comes he gets all the fucking birds?” and trying to sing the Star Spangled Banner in celebration of America’s birthday. The encore is “one of my hits” “Crossroads.” The tape sounds bit more bassy compared to the rest of the show.
Overall this is one of the unique performances in Clapton’s career and is worth investigating. Clapton developed a love of the Columbus, Ohio area and owns a house in Dublin, one of the city’s suburbs. The countryside reminds him of the English country side and he can live there in relative anonymity. Tarantura package this in a cardboard gatefold sleeve and is limited to only one hundred copies. Except for the missing tuning at the beginning of the show this is a solid release.