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Eric Clapton on Jimi Hendrix performing with Cream: ‘He blew everyone’s mind’

Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix in 1966 © Getty Images

Eric Clapton has spoken to Planet Rock about Jimi Hendrix’s fabled performance with Cream back in 1966.

To coincide with the release of his candid, life-spanning documentary ‘Life In 12 Bars’, Eric has recorded a My Planet Rocks special - which airs at 7pm on Sunday (14th January) - where he talks about the film, his life and career, and plays songs that inspired him together with classics from his own musical arsenal.

During the wide-ranging chat, Eric opened up about Jimi Hendrix’s jam with Cream at Regent Street Polytechnic in London on 1st October 1966 – just a week after manager Chas Chandler brought Jimi to the UK.

Reflecting upon Jimi blitzing through a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Killing Floor’, Eric said: “We got up on stage and Chas Chandler says ‘I’ve got this friend who would love to jam with you.’

“It was funny, in those days anybody could get up with anybody if you were convincing enough that you could play. He got up and blew everyone’s mind. I just thought ‘ahh, someone that plays the stuff I love in the flesh, on stage with me.’

“I was actually privileged to be (on stage with him)… it’s something that no one is ever going to beat; that incident, that night, it’s historic in my mind but only a few people are alive that would remember it.”

Cream in 2005 © PA Images

Eric also told us that Cream’s rapturously received reunion in 2005 cemented his belief that they were possibly the best band he’s ever been a part of.

Speaking about the reformation, Eric said: “It was difficult in the beginning because we hadn’t seen one another for so long. I don’t want to brag but I was the one who initiated this, I made the phone calls. There was a little bit of hesitancy but not a lot and we deliberately put ourselves into a long rehearsal; we rehearsed for a month, every day.

“Ginger (Baker) would arrive first and practise his drum solo before we got there – he was so conscientious, it moved me to the core that he would feel that deeply about it. We were all really devoted to this because it meant a lot that we were still able to do it.

“A lot of people we knew at that time couldn’t have complete reunions because one of them had gone or whatever. And we were able to do it and when we got on stage at the (Royal) Albert Hall people stood up and applauded for three minutes – a standing ovation before we played a note – and that was very, very moving and I think we all absorbed that and played out of our hearts.”

Eric added: “It was easy. It was so easy and it felt like, well, my thought at the time was – and I often think this now – ‘was this the best band I ever played in? And did I have anything that could compare to this in terms of passion and technique and fun?’. And I think maybe that’s true.”

You can listen to the full interview with Eric Clapton on My Planet Rocks at 7pm on Sunday where he also talks about why ‘Life In 12 Bars’ is difficult to watch, how music saved him following the tragic death of his son Conor, his musical influences, Pattie Boyd, The Yardbirds, Marlon Brando, his upcoming Hyde Park show and much more.

Listen to this show here

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