An impressive array of Eric Clapton Firebird photos. Mostly during mid/late 1968 during his tenure with the best band ever. Included are various shots of same guit different eras, different hairstyles and different guits. Let this be a tribute not just to the Clap, nor the great great Gibson Firebird but to all those adventurous and subsequently endowed with at least enough imagination to be more than just another Les Paul player.
Not Claptons, but still a nice Bird!
Interesting excerpt from Christopher Hjort’s book “Strange Brew: Eric Clapton And The British Blues Boom 1965-1970” entry for November 1st, 1968
Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA
Ron Delsner presents Cream; one show, at 8:30 pm. Although the tour has more downs than ups, Clapton will have strong memories of tonight’s gig when talking to Phil Sutcliffe nearly 40 years later. “I remember one show at the Philadelphia Spectrum…and I was playing the Gibson Firebird…and it was one of our greatest gigs ever. I was flying; no confusion, no indecision about when to stop, start, come in, go out; I wasn’t tired, I seemed to get more elevated through the evening, one of my greatest gigs ever.” The view is seconded by Jack Bruce, who later tells Tony Bacon: “The Spectrum is one of the very best gigs in America, if not the best. Philadelphia is a great rock music town. I’ve played that a few times, and it’s always been great. A rocking gig; great audience.”
Here are a few videos of Eric playing his Firebird. Everybody knows how frustratingly obnoxious the footage for this legendary Royal Albert Hall show is. They had two cameramen with top notch equipment filming an entire show of one of the greatest bands ever and 95% of the footage is a close up of Jack Bruce’s face. The footage for the songs doesn’t even match the music for large portions of the movie. I usually just close my eyes and listen because the video is too distracting and never really lines up with the music. Thought I would include it nonetheless since it is one of the rare bits of footage of Cream where Eric is on the Firebird. I will say Eric’s tone here (the whole RAH show actually) is a unique one for whatever reason, and in this clip although it is a fantastic and blistering tone it is not what I would consider normal Firebird through cranked Marshall tone. So just a heads up for anyone who goes and buys a Firebird, 100 watt Marshall plexi and wah hoping to sound like this, you will sound great but probably not like what Eric sounds like in this video.
A lot of people are confused about why the group doesn’t sound quite like they normally do here and it is fairly obvious to anyone who has played a Firebird through a Marshall stack that the main reason is because Eric’s amp (singular if you notice) is not on 10 like it usually is. Eric relied on the tube saturated overdrive you get when you turn amps like these ALL the way up. This phenomenon more than likely having to with some fascist on the studio set of the Glen Campbell show who forced Eric and Jack to turn down (these amps are REALLY loud after all.)
Nobody plays loud today like these guys did back then, these days everyone is trying to sound like Cream and Jimi at whisper quiet levels using all sorts of ridiculous methods: 1 watt “boutique” amps, germanium chip fuzz pedals, power scaling, variacs, attenuators, snake oil tone caps, high output pickups, and usually all at the same time while playing a Les Paul and making mediocre music.
Back to Eric, in this video with his signature sound fascistly castrated he is forced to work with a much much cleaner tone than he probably preferred around this time. However, Eric being the gifted player that he has always been goes on to play a bitchin’ and tasty “clean” solo which is way different than what he usually does when he has his usual dimed double plexi full stack sustain under him. So many guitarists use gain to cover up for mediocre playing and as soon as you take away their gain/pedals/whatnot they sound awful and start looking for excuses, and with Eric that is definitely NOT the case, he was a killer player who just preferred the wound up roar of Marshall’s during this general time period, and thankfully so, he sounded badder than bad through them.
Clapton’s Explorer and other guitars
Clapton with his unique shaped explorer…
Cream, Royal Albert Hall 1968.
Other Famous Firebird players
Allen Collins of Skynyrd was ALMOST a Firebird player.
Because a Reverse Firebird with a P90 isn’t really a Reverse Firebird anymore. Sorry.
The skilled Kalamazoo girls at the Gibson plant who were building those beautiful birds at the time could have told you that.
Tom Petty with a 76 Bicentennial bird and Mike Campbell with a vintage 60s specimen.
Paul Stanley of Kiss with a smokin’ FB1. I read that when Kiss first was first starting out and auditioning guitarists that Ace Frehley showed up with a Firebird I and a 50 watt Marshall jmp with one of those gigantic 8×10 cabinets. You KNOW that would have been one sweet sounding rig….
Steve Clark of Def Leppard with a sweet Bicentennial sunburst.
Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols.
Bob Stinson of the Replacements. They were a great band, check out “Let it be” if you haven’t already.
Pat Smear of the Germs.
Jimmy Zero of the Dead Boys with his medallion.
James Williamson in 1974 on the Stooges Raw Power tour.
Young Keith Richards with Bird
I know this is ECs page but you just can’t talk about Firebirds without tipping your hat to the king of the birds. I doubt anyone will ever play better than Johnny Winter did. I want to point out also that unlike the majority of “guitar hero” types, Johnny also had a great voice. Here he is accompanying one of his heros, Muddy Waters. RIP Johnny, you were the baddest.
OF RELATED INTEREST (REQUIRED VIEWING FOR ANY TRUE FIREBIRD FANS:
Vintage Firebird Pickups: Bicentennial, Medallion and 60’s Originals.
Daniel Shams’ Heliotricity Reviews
“EC was pretty good I guess. At least he played something other than an LP for the majority of his career. If I see another 50+ year old white guy playing pentatonic blues on a freaking LP I think I’ll puke…”