Happy Birthday Eric Clapton: Performing Live At Montreux 1986

Watch Slowhand lead an all-star band through a career-spanning set.

By Nate Todd Mar 30, 2022 6:00 am PDT

Eric Clapton celebrates his birthday today. The legendary guitarist and singer-songwriter was born on March 30, 1945 in Ripley, Surrey, England. Considered one of the greatest guitar players of all time, Clapton has also had a remarkable career in that he has played with a number of his lauded peers.

Clapton began his professional career in earnest with The Yardbirds in 1963 and while he left the band in 1965 because of creative differences, he set a bar of guitar playing excellence for that band with his replacements being Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. He would be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with The Yardbirds, one of three inductions, the only artist to achieve that accolade three times over. It was also during this time he gained the moniker Slowhand, reportedly because he would change broken strings on stage and the audience would begin a “slow handclap.”

More interested in the blues than the pop-rock direction The Yardbirds were trending toward, EC joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers for a short but fortuitous stint where he played alongside not only Mayall but also future Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie and most importantly bassist Jack Bruce. Bruce and Clapton would go on to form Cream — the band that would give him another Rock Hall induction — in 1966 with drummer Ginger Baker. The groundbreaking psychedelic power trio paved the way for artists like Jimi Hendrix to take guitar-driven power trio rock to another level.

Now a bonafide rock star, Clapton also formed a relationship with The Beatles and specifically George Harrison. He is one of the only known outside pop stars to play on a Beatles record (along with keyboardist Billy Preston) on the Harrison-penned classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Clapton would also perform with perhaps the greatest one-off band ever assembled dubbed the Dirty Mac, which consisted of guitarist John Lennon, bassist Keith Richards and drummer Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The quartet played one song, “Yer Blues,” for The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus concert film.

Clapton would go on to play with Steve Winwood in Blind Faith and Duane Allman in Derek And The Dominos until embarking on his wildly successful solo career (garnering him yet another R&RHOF induction). But in July 1986 Clapton put together another star-studded group for his performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival. That band included Phil Collins on drums as well as renowned session musicians Nathan East on bass and Greg Phillinganes on keyboards. All three musicians had worked with Eric on his mid-80s albums including Behind The Sun and August.

But the spirited Montreux set reads like a career-spanning greatest hits record, kicking off with a funky “Crossroads” followed by the Cream classic “White Room.” The quartet then plays Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sherrif,” with Clapton’s 1974 studio version of the song — his first No. 1 hit — important in bringing reggae music to a wider audience. Clapton shows off his blues chops on “Same Old Blues” off of Behind The Sun and plays his Cream co-write with George Harrison, “Badge.” The band also performs material off Clapton’s 1986 album August, which was yet to be released, including Clapton’s co-write with Phillinganes “Tearing Us Apart” (which EC put out as a duet with Tina Turner) and “Behind The Mask,” also recorded by Michale Jackson with whom Phillinganes worked with as well.

Addtitionally, the set includes the solo favorites “Let It Rain” and JJ Cale’s “Cocaine” as well as Derek And The Dominos’ “Layla” and the Cream psychedelic anthem “Sunshine Of Your Love.” They even throw in Phil Collins’ signature song, “In The Air Tonight,” which had come out five years previous and propelled Collins to massive solo success. The show fittingly comes to a close with the Bobby “Blue” Bland popularized blues standard “Further On Up The Road.”

To celebrate Eric Clapton’s birthday, watch his stellar performance at the 1986 Montreux Jazz Festival below via the JamBase Live Video Archive:

Eric Clapton (See 52 videos)

Setlist (via Where’s Eric)

Set: Crossroads, White Room, I Shot The Sheriff, I Wanna Make Love To You, Miss You, Same Old Blues, Tearing Us Apart, Holy Mother, Behind The Mask, Badge, Let it Rain, In the Air Tonight, Cocaine, Layla, Sunshine Of Your Love, Further On Up The Road

[Originally Published: March 30, 2021]

Loading tour dates

JamBase Collections