When 461 Ocean Boulevard was released in July 1974, it is extraordinary to note that Eric Clapton, at twenty-nine years of age, was a veteran of The Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek and the Dominos. Not to mention two solo albums. Under 30 with more than fifteen album credits. Not bad, eh?

These statistics are even more striking when you realise this album, recorded at the villa shown on the cover in balmy Florida, was his return to public visibility after a number of years battling a heroin addiction.


The album is packed with accessible, concise songs, many of which have blues roots but don’t sound even remotely 12 bar to the casual listener. With the genial cover of Bob Marley’s “I shot the sheriff” providing a hugely successful single, 461 Ocean Boulevard was a quintessential mid-70s FM radio album and the most successful of that decade for the British guitarist. In fact, it’s fair to say that Clapton never really duplicated the sound (or popularity) of his second solo studio album.

Now what about the songs? Well, most of them are, by Clapton’s own admission, “cover versions… which had been rolling around my head for a long time.” *


“Motherless Children” provides a propulsive opening for the album, Clapton’s guitar to the fore in the introduction before the rhythm section kicks in and the verses start. The rolling, train-like drum pattern keeps things moving but tends to iron out the pathos of the blues classic. For those unfamiliar with it, I recommend listening to Blind Willie McTell’s version (here).

“Give me strength” is a prayer. A lovely ballad with a lost, vulnerable vocal that is one of Clapton’s finest. Even confirmed ignostics can be moved by this one. There’s contrast, tho’ nothing jarring, in the restrained funky shuffle of “Willie and the hand jive”. It’s OK, if a bit uninspired.

In his autobiography, Clapton says that “Get ready” was written “for what was happening, and the way I felt about Yvonne”. Who was Yvonne and what, exactly was happening? I’ll let Eric tell you.

“One of the extra musicians who (Robert) Stigwood (RSO label boss) had brought in to join us was Yvonne Elliman, a brilliant young singer who had played the part of Mary Magdalene both on Broadway and in the movie of Jesus Christ Superstar. Of Irish and Hawaiian descent, she was incredibly pretty and exotic-looking, with long dark hair, and Stiggy was very keen that we should collaborate” [p. 162].

You can well believe they collaborated their socks off.

Closing side one is “I shot the sheriff”. When George Terry presented the Bob Marley and the Wailers recording, Eric was not keen. Even as recording wrapped up Clapton wanted to drop the song from the LP, believing it simply wasn’t up to scratch. I’m with Eric; didn’t like it then, still don’t. Though I do enjoy Dick Sims’ organ.

An Elmore Jones tune, “I can’t hold out”, opens the second side. It’s played with a jazzy feel and has a lovely understated Clapton solo. “Please be with me” is a different cover version, borrowed from southern rock band Cowboy and written by Scott Boyer. It’s a hot-afternoon-on-the-front-porch kind of song, a pretty ballad to be sung to any exotic raven-haired paramour in the vicinity.

“Let it grow” is a Clapton original, and a strong one. Although the vocal is restrained (think an English JJ Cale), the arrangement is carefully worked out with plenty of space and detail. The fact that it bears a strong resemblance to “Stairway to heaven” detracts little from this 461 highlight.

Clapton returns to the source for a competent, gently rockin’ cover of Robert Johnson’s “Steady rollin’ man” before the album closes with George Terry’s big production number, “Mainline Florida”, which is a bookend for “Motherless children”.


461 Ocean Boulevard “was recorded in a month” and released in July 1974. Clapton did tour the record (more on that later) but going out live was not his immediate plan. What, you ask, did Eric do?

“I returned to England, where I decided to make another move towards Pattie (Harrison). I knew through go-betweens that things were bad between her and George and that they are living in virtual open warfare at Friar Park, with him flying the ‘OM’ flag at one end of the house and her flying a Jolly Roger at the other”. [p.165]

Having a hit single made touring mandatory, so despite Clapton having been out of circulation for quite some time while migrating from heroin to alcohol addiction, Stigwood organised a large-scale tour of North America opening on 28th June in Newhaven, Connecticut to an audience of 70,000. Having a touring band with most of the 461 recording musicians doubtless helped with both cohesion and communication.

Clapton has written candidly about how pissed he was much of the time, yet the band delivered more often than not. Evidence is available on the 2 CD ‘Deluxe Edition’ of 461 Ocean Boulevard released by Polydor in 2004**. In addition to some solid but inessential bonus tracks tacked onto the end of the album, the set includes recordings from December 1974, Live At Hammersmith Odeon, London. The last show of the tour, in fact.

Starting slowly with the Charlie Chaplin penned chestnut “Smile”, the atmosphere builds quickly to a level of intensity that shows what Clapton fans have long known: God likes playing live.

The set-list covers a reasonable slab of the guitarist’s career, including “Can’t find my way home” from the Blind Faith LP, Cream’s wonderful “Badge”, a tearing “Layla” and “Tell the truth” (Derek & The Dominos) and “Let it rain” (a personal favourite) from the 1970 solo album. There’s also the compulsory blues medley. Even “I shot the Sheriff” gains some meat in concert, thanks largely to a neat wah wah based solo from EC.


461 Ocean Boulevard is a solid mid-70s rock album. If you lived it then, as I did—wailing “plant your love and let it grow” to a mildewed bedroom ceiling—you will rekindle the feeling within moments of dropping the stylus. Coming to it later, you could be forgiven for wondering why Eric Clapton is held in such high regard. In that case, seek out the 2-CD version and play the live disc, loudly. You may not become a true believer, but his blues-infused music will definitely grow on you.

* All quotes from Eric Clapton: The Autobiography (Century, 2007)

** And on the 4 CD set Crossroads 2: Live in the Seventies (1996)


  1. The record has a smoldering groove, which still ignites today!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Smouldering groove” is good!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Not a huge fan but a few folk have been talking about this one recently. I’m kinda intrigued. The live disc sounds worth a purchase. My only EC is Mayall, Cream and the Layla album. This next?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. People might gasp in horror, but I highly respect and enjoy ‘Journeyman’ (1989) and I think the Blind Faith album (hm, must go and put a link in for the VC post) is patchy but absolutely worthwhile. The Crossroads box set is on CD and LP and is a very good overview of a long career (though you’d have quite a bit on those albums you mention).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Crossroads sounds like a good call. Even the albums I’ve got, I’m only semi fussed about them so a good comp might be the way to go.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. It’s one of the best ‘curated’ retrospectives in my collection – nice to be able to recommend pretty much unconditionally.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Huge EC fan here, so for me, there’s something to love on pretty much every album. On 461, I favor Steady Rollin’ Man: that groove gets under my skin in such a good way. I do like his cover of Sheriff, but my all-time favorite recorded performance of his of that number is from a special edition of 24 Nights, recorded live at Royal Albert Hall in the early 90s…his solo is *completely insane*, and will be featured in an upcoming post on Augenblick. I’m with you re: Journeyman, on which I especially like his trading solos with Robert Cray on Old Love. Incidentally, two of my next door neighbors–teen aged sisters–went to that June 1974 concert at New Haven Coliseum. Not sure if you have Showtime (a ‘premium’ cable channel here in the US) down in Melbourne, but just last week it began broadcasting a new documentary about Clapton, “Life in 12 Bars” (haven’t seen it yet, as I don’t have the channel).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “24 Nights” is a fascinating album (from an artist not shy about releasing live recordings!). Oddly, it made a VC appearance in a post entitled Time of the Preacher which also featured VC’s only venture into country.
      Meantime, can’t wait for an Augenblick Clapton post! Nothin’ alien there!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You inspired me to listen to the live section of the deluxe edition; within moments of starting I found myself singing along, well bellowing. The drive was too short so the rest is for the way home.
    Clapton is someone I should investigate more, this has moved me to so it, I believe I have the CD’s of crossroads somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed the prompt, Neil! As you may have noted in the comment conversation with Scott (HMO), I reckon Crossroads is a benchmark compilation. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it if you drag it out.


  5. Great review and commentary of that album, Bruce. I remember that album coming out like it was yesterday. Thanks for a fun romp down memory lane. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure, Marty. And thanks for your comment. When the feature is a well-known album, it’s great to hear the connections folk make.


  6. I’d say you’re spot on about this one. It took me a while to fully appreciate this one. I wrote about it a while back and I hope you can forgive me for being lazy for this copy and paste:

    Now, it has taken me a while to fully appreciate this one, but my friend Paul was right; this is a nice record to have in the collection. One that I’m really starting to enjoy. Starting to understand. It’s not the masterpiece I was expecting, but remove all the stuff it stands for and the ‘Clapton is God’ statements and it’s actually a pretty good album. It’s roots planted firmly in the music that Clapton was inspired by. He surrounded himself by musicians (Domino Carl Radle, Jamie Oldaker, Dick Sims and guitarist George Terry (whose Mainline Florida wraps things up)) and a producer (long time colaborator Tom Dowd – Cream and Dominos) that felt the same about the music he had been pushing to create. And I dare say they made him feel comfortable, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do feel chuffed (for you) that 461 grew on you J. I think I always favour the more blues based material, but it remains a very solid (but not flawless!) album. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Those wanting to read more about J’s journey and how 461 grew on him can do so here:

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m still not fully convinced by much else of Clapton’s solo work. A few great tracks here and there, but mostly it leaves me feeling underwhelmed. But yeah, 461 has grown on me a great deal over the years. Not spectacular, but a solid album.

        And thanks for the share – appreciated.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I saw E.C. on this “461” tour in Boston and well remember him dueting with Yvonne Elliman on “Let it Grow” which was a highlight of the show. Also great versions of “Badge” “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” and an extended version of “Mainline Florida.” The show and the LP were both a little spotty but like you said a perfect window into mid-70s rock and fondly recalled.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice one Rick. It wasn’t until the early nineties (I think!) that I finally saw EC live. Great show, though as my mate said, ‘He’s not shy about taking a solo’!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A joy to read as ever but when it comes to Clapton I’m firmly in the gasping in horror camp. Mind you, I’ve just posted a piece on S-Club 7 so who am I to throw stones.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Slightly surprised to hear that, Kid. Certainly ‘Wonderful tonight’ and its ilk have one rushing for the in-flight paper bag, but Cream? Vital! Bluesbreakers? Seminal! Derek et al? Enjoyable!


      1. Fair point. I do tend to connect him solely to wonderful laydeez, dead children and sherrifs but I’ll happily confess to shaking a tailfeather to the Bluesbreakers.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Let’s shake on that.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. To Monsieur Connection’s point, I heartily recommend to any and all Clapton’s Crossroads box set. It’s an eye-opener to those who may not know his career in depth. Plus, solo stuff aside, let’s remind ourselves why we’re discussing him at all. His claim to fame is not his solo stuff. He’s number 2 (behind Hendrix) on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 guitarists for a reason. And if i may shamelessly plug, I did a 4-part series on my own site a while back that gave a reasonable overview of his work and life, minus the histrionics.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s funny when I read the “I’m not a big Clapton fan” or “I never really got into him” comments here and around the blogosphere. My God, I’m a massive EC fan and I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t be. Maybe it’s because I play guitar or maybe it’s a generational and/or “love or hate blues” thing. EC for me has always straddled the world of rock, pop, and blues neatly. But at the end of the day, he is firmly a bluesman. That said, this is a really fine rock album. I wasn’t aware of the extended edition but it makes sense. I watched that Showtime documentary and was disappointed. It dwelled on his personal problems almost to the exclusion of his music, especially in the 2nd hour. The Tom Petty doc was a much better example of how to do it. Hell, I know so much about Clapton’s bio I could have done a better job than that doc, no shit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shame the doco was so disappointing, Jim.
      I think your point about one’s attitude to the blues is a good one; some people just don’t respond to ‘roots’ music very positively. Still, when you look at EC’s CV, it’s hard to argue with his importance and influence, isn’t it?


      1. Not to mention how much of that stuff still sounds great. It hasn’t aged at all. BTW, not everybody agrees with me on that doc but critics weren’t that kind. If you haven’t seen it and are planning to, don’t let me dissuade you. The seeds of excellence are in there but for me it fell short.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I’d add guesting on the white album to that impressive opening paragraph CV!
    Nice one Bruce – I like that description, ‘lovely understated Clapton solo.’ He tends to be one of those guitarists that doesn’t shout ‘look what I can do’ but instead calmly imply ‘look how appropriate this solo is for this song!’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not really a 21st C word, but ‘tasteful’ comes to mind.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I have a love/hate relationship with Slowhand. Love the songwriters like JJ Cale he turned me towards.And did dig deeper into rural blues because of EC’s prompting. And obviously he’s made some amazing records through the years.
    But I’ll never forget seeing EC live in 1998 on Easter Sunday. “My Father’s Eyes” was the big radio hit at the time. He opened the show with it. Cool,right?!? Wished us a “Happy Easter”. And the balance of the first set was songs from his current album. For almost an hour. Then,…”we’re going to take a short break”….jezuz,thanks alot for that,Eric….

    He did make it up towards the end of the 2nd set with an amazing “Sunshine of Your Love”,but still….ted

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a classic divide. The artists wants to play and play up the importance of their most recent work. The audience wants to bask in the warmth of classic material.
      What do you do when you have 87 hours of high class back catalogue… but new product to spruik?


  12. Wonderful album for sure, but also took the link to SEA OF JOY reading your thoughts on the one and only Blind Faith – nice !

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Love this album. (Probably give it the CB treatment soon. Listened to it a lot). Yeah the JJ Cale thing was becoming an EC thing. That was ok with me. But he still brought his instrument (self) to these songs. Real good piece Bruce. This was just more styles for me to enjoy. I ate up all his albums from this period, No Reason To Cry, One In Every Crowd. I went to a few Clapton shows back then. There was a guy walking around at one of them bare ass naked and it wasn’t CB.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear you remained in possession of your clothes, CB. Don’t want too many random dudes sharing the sunshine of their love in public.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah no kidding. It was the ‘One in Every Crowd’ tour. CB wasn’t going to make it two.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. I stopped reading the moment you mentioned the song, Smile and I went straight to youtube to listen. Wow. Great cover of my favorite all time song. Thanks, Vinyl!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy to have been of service, Tref. Glad the rendition brought a smile to your dial.

      Liked by 1 person

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