Blind Faith was an English rock band that released a self-titled album on Atco in 1969. The band are noted as one of rock’s first supergroups due to the high-profile backgrounds of its four members: vocalist–keyboardist Steve Winwood (Spencer Davis Group, Traffic), guitarist Eric Clapton (Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream), drummer Ginger Baker (Graham Bond Organization, Cream), and bassist Ric Grech (Family).
Members: Steve Winwood (keyboards, guitar, vocals), Eric Clapton (guitar, vocals), Ric Grech (bass, violin, vocals), Ginger Baker (drums)
Blind Faith sprung from an early 1969 jam between two famous musical friends, guitarist Eric Clapton and keyboardist/singer Steve Winwood, both at a crossroads after stints in high-profile bands.
Clapton rose to fame during his time in the Yardbirds (1963–65), where he preceded the stints of Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. He then joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and played on their first album with John McVie and Hughie Flint (presaging the Peter Green lineup that spawned Fleetwood Mac). By this time, the meme “CLAPTON IS GOD” appeared spray-painted in terminals across London.
In 1966, Clapton teamed with bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker (the former rhythm section in the Graham Bond Organization) in the power-trio Cream, which released the albums Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears, and Wheels of Fire on Polydor and Atco. After two-plus years, they packed it in with back-to-back shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall in November 1968.
Winwood hit the scene at age 16 in the Spencer Davis Group, an R&B/beat quartet that included his older brother, bassist and later producer Muff Winwood. Steve sang their transatlantic hits “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “I’m a Man,” two of the most-recognized songs of the British Invasion. As psychedelia loomed, he formed Traffic with musicians Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood, and Dave Mason. After multiple singles and the 1967–68 Island albums Mr. Fantasy and Traffic, Winwood left the band, feeling it was time for new adventures.
When Clapton and Winwood decided to work together, they first had their sights on bassist Duck Dunn and drummer Al Jackson Jr., the rhythm section of Booker T. & the M.G.’s. Of the available local drummers, Winwood favored Baker. Clapton, initially weary of re-teaming with Cream alumni, took some persuading. (Purportedly, Clapton favored Capaldi, though Winwood insisted Baker was the better drummer.)
With Baker on board, the lineup finalized with bassist Ric Grech, who’d recently left Family after a hectic US tour in support of their second album, Family Entertainment.
The fact that Clapton and Winwood were contracted to different labels was no impediment as their respective managers, Robert Stigwood and Chris Blackwell, saw instant dollar signs in a group with two big-name players. Noting how most insiders expected mass sales regardless of the content, the super-group called itself Blind Faith.
Their album would be on Clapton’s label. In exchange, Island issued a one-sided promo single titled “Change of Address From 23 June 1969,” an announcement of their change of office with a twelve-minute jam by Blind Faith, who are unlisted on the record, of which 500 copies were pressed for UK DJ’s. The jam consists of a mid-tempo groove with guitar licks and organ fills that coalesce on a five-note power riff (E→G→A→G→E).
On Saturday June 7, 1969, Blind Faith made their live premiere as part of a free concert festival headlined by The Rolling Stones. Other acts at the all-day event included Al Stewart, Donovan, Edgar Broughton Band, King Crimson, Quintessence, Soft Machine, and the Third Ear Band.
Blind Faith released their self-titled album on August 9, 1969, on Atco (US) and on Aug. 22 on Polydor (UK). It features three Winwood numbers (“Had to Cry Today,” “Can’t Find My Way Home,” “Sea of Joy”), one Clapton composition (“Presence of the Lord”), a lengthy Baker jam (“Do What You Like”), and a cover of the Buddy Holly song “Well… All Right.”
“Had to Cry Today” (8:48) opens with a 19-note, four-bar guitar figure (in G minor) that frames each couplet (in C) and modulates a semi-tone from the relative third (B♭→B) in transit to the bridge (in E major). The main riff holds throughout the piece as vocals part for scaling solos and a flanged break. Steve anticipates an eventful day (“It’s already written that today will be one to remember”), possibly from the perspective of a fugitive (“The feeling’s the same as being outside of the law”), who sees a distant friend or lover at a rally (“I saw your sign and I missed you there”) but must remain inconspicuous, so he “had to cry today.” He appreciates her empathy (“you can’t reach me but you want every word to be free”).
“Can’t Find My Way Home” (3:16) has a descending, harmonic pattern of interwoven acoustic guitar by Clapton (picked) and Winwood (finger-picked), paced with soft brush drums. Steve, in a tender upper-register, asks the subject to shake off his/her facade “Come down off your throne and leave your body alone… somebody must change”). The subject could be a romantic interest (an uppity female) or a music partner, such as Eric (the subject of “Clapton Is God” subway graffiti). The next line (“You are the reason I’ve been waiting all these years… somebody holds the key”) supports either interpretation: the most compatible romantic partner or the most lucrative music collaborator. On the pre-chorus, Steve expresses a newfound urgency (“Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time”), suffixed with the sense that he’s reached the point of no return (“I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home” — he can’t return to his prior bands, he can only give this project his utmost effort).
“Well… All Right” (4:27) was an original 1958 b-side by Buddy Holly & the Crickets, co-written with their manager Norman Petty. Blind Faith’s version opens with a Leslied eleven-note guitar figure (in D minor) on a peculating bassline and rumbling tom pattern. They flow on the two-chord verse (D… C…) with soulful vocals and barroom piano. The chorus (G… A… D…) is a harmonized titular chant, capped by a choppy Leslied refrain (in D with dropped thirds). Lyrically, it’s a young romantic’s public declaration of love (“we live and love with all our might… our lifetime love will be all right”) in the face of objections (“so I’m not working… let people say that those foolish kids can’t be ready”).
“Presence of the Lord” (4:50) is a slow open-cadence ballad (mostly in C with falling fourths) with swelling Leslied tones, booming drums, and angelic vocals. Clapton, a recent convert to Christianity, wrote this song as a declaration of his newfound faith, which Steve expresses on Eric’s behalf (“I have finally found a way to live… in the color of the Lord”). Midway, the track revs with Leslied licks (in A and E) and whirlwind percussion.
“Sea of Joy” (5:22) starts with a heavy, arching twelve-note guitar figure (in Am and D) that crests on a held chord (E) and subsides for folksy, finger-picked vocals (in A). The lyrics invoke The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a 1798 poem by English bard Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In Rime, a sailor recounts a harrowing voyage where the spirits of wrath killed his crew and sank his ship in treacherous waters as punishment for killing the albatross. When the mariner finally spots land, he wonders if it’s a dream of joy. In “Sea of Joy,” Steve follows “the shadows of the skies” and wonders if he’s hallucinating. He’s eager to escape the situation but anticipates death (“one the door swings open into space”). Each time the plot intensifies, he swells up amid rippling organ lines that trigger Clapton’s arching riff. Midway, Grech plays an understated violin solo.
“Do What You Like” (15:18) is a sprinting 5/4 jam (in A minor) with soul-jazz organ and a loose jazzy rhythmic pattern overlaid with ride cymbal. Winwood plays a trebly Auger-esque solo, followed by an intense Clapton spotlight. Grech and Baker take solo turns amid the titular chants.
Sessions first occurred in late February at London’s Morgan Studios and resumed in April–May at nearby Olympia Studios, where Traffic soundman Jimmy Miller produced Blind Faith in succession with albums by Spooky Tooth (Spooky Two) and The Rolling Stones. Sessions wrapped in late June after the Hyde event and a five-date Scandinavian tour.
Blind Faith involved four engineers, including Olympic soundmen Andy Johns and George Chkiantz. Johns engineered 1968–69 titles by Circus, Free (Tons of Sobs), Humble Pie, Jack Bruce (Songs for a Tailor), Jethro Tull (Stand Up), Renaissance (self-titled), and Tramline. He recently earned his first of many production credits with the Tull spinoff Blodwyn Pig. Chkiantz engineered recent albums by Fat Mattress, High Tide (Sea Shanties), Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin II), and Soft Machine (Volume Two).
Photographer Bob Seidemann conceived the Blind Faith cover, which shows a topless ginger tween with a metal model plane in hand. He envisioned the girl (eleven-year-old Mariora Goschen) as the embodiment of human innocence and the plane as a symbol of human intelligence. Seidemann, a concert poster artist for West Coast acts (Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin), did later album covers for Dixie Dregs (Free Fall), Gino Vannelli, Heart (Little Queen), Sparks, Supertramp (Even In The Quietest Moments…), and Valerie Carter (Wild Child).
Blind Faith appeared on Polydor in a gatefold that shows a cutout of Mariora with a green hill and blue sky backdrop that extends to the back gate. The inner-gates feature lyrics, credits, and two grayscale studio group shots. At Clapton’s insistence, the band name was stamped on the shrink wrap but not on the front cover, which drew criticism for the perceived phallic resemblance of the plane, constructed by one Mick Milligan.
The first US ATCO issue (Presswell, SD 33-304) is housed in a sepia single sleeve with a studio (lens-facing) group shot and the band and member names in bold all-caps. Subsequent stateside pressings from the Terre Haute and Pitman plants restore Seidemann’s image. In Germany, Polydor issued Blind Faith with a red–yellow tinted (inward-looking) group shot from the UK inner-gate, framed in black (cat# 184 302) and red (cat# 92 208). In 1972, the album reappeared on the German Karussell label with the inward shot rendered full-scale in 3-D.
In Europe and Australia, Polydor lifted “Well All Right” as a single, backed with “Can’t Find My Way Home.” In Japan, “Presence of the Lord” became the first a-side (b/w “Can’t Find My Way Home”), followed by “Well All Right” (b/w “Sea of Joy”). In 1977, “Can’t Find My Way Home” reappeared as an a-side on Clapton’s then-label RSO (b/w “Presence of the Lord”).
Blind Faith reached the Top 5 in more than ten territories, including six (UK, US, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway) where it reached No. 1. As of 2020, worldwide sales exceed eight million copies.
Tour and Breakup
Cream launched a summer US tour, starting with a July 12, 1969, show at Madison Square Garden with Free and Delaney & Bonnie, an LA husband–wife soul-rock duo that just released their second album, The Original Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, on Elektra. Clapton befriended the couple and their backing band. He sat in on their performances (on percussion) and spent more backstage time with them than he did with the others in Blind Faith. His musical interests drifted from the band’s post-psych maximalism to the duo’s American roots style.
The tour comprised eleven dates, including a July 16 show at the Philadelphia Spectrum with the Irish blues-rock power-trio Taste, who opened eleven dates as the second or third act on the bill (depending on whether Delaney & Bonnie were present). Clapton wanted to play the Woodstock Festival, which occurred on the weekend of August 15–18, but was outvoted by the rest of Blind Faith. After a stop in Honolulu on Aug. 24, the tour wrapped on the 26th in Los Angeles at the UCLA Pavley Pavilion. Before flying home, Winwood agreed with Clapton to end Blind Faith.
After Blind Faith
Eric Clapton partook in the sessions for All Things Must Pass, the 1970 triple album by George Harrison. He then teamed with three fellow participants — keyboardist and singer Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle, and drummer Jim Gordon (all Delaney & Bonnie backing players) — in the blues-rock combo Derek & the Dominoes. They made the 1970 double-album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, which spawned the FM staple “Layla.”
Also in 1970, Clapton launched his solo career with a self-titled Polydor–Atco album that yielded a hit cover of JJ Cale’s “After Midnight.” After three years away from the spotlight, he partook in an all-star 1973 concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre and launched his solo career with the 1974 RSO release 461 Ocean Boulevard, which spawned a US No. 1 with his cover of the Bob Marley & the Wailers reggae anthem “I Shot the Sheriff.” Clapton issued five further RSO studio albums, including the 1977 release Slowhand, which generated hits with “Lay Down Sally,” “Wonderful Tonight,” and “Cocaine” (another JJ Cale cover). In 1985, he made a comeback with the Warner release Behind the Sun, a Phil Collins co-production with the MTV hit “Forever Man.”
Steve Winwood began work on a solo album under the working title Mad Shadows. As the project developed, it became John Barleycorn Must Die, the first of four studio albums by the reunited Traffic. Grech partook in Traffic’s subsequent live release Welcome to the Canteen and their 1971 studio album The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. After Traffic, Winwood played on the 1975 Jade Warrior release Waves and collaborated with percussionist Stomu Yamashta and drummer Michael Shrieve (ex-Santana) on the 1976 Island release Go, a fusion of Latin, jazz, and new age music with keyboardist Klaus Schulze and guitarist Al Di Meola.
In 1977, Winwood debuted as a solo artist with a self-titled album on Island. His 1980 second solo album, Arc of a Diver, spawned a Billboard hit with “If You See a Chance.” He reached his commercial zenith with the 1986–88 albums Back In the High Life and Roll With It and the hits “Higher Love,” “The Finer Things,” “Valerie,” “Roll With It,” and “Don’t You Know What the Night Can Do?”
Ginger Baker reteamed with Graham Bond in Ginger Baker’s Air Force, a jazz-rock big band with participation from Grech, Winwood, Wood, reedist Harold McNair, and ex-Moodies (future Wings) guitarist–singer Denny Laine. They cut an eponymous live album on January 15, 1970, at the Royal Albert Hall. Baker retained Bond for the studio followup, Ginger Baker’s Air Force 2, recorded in late 1970 with members of Griffin (aka Simpson’s Pure Oxygen, the band of session drummer and eventual Yes mainstay Alan White).
In 1972, Baker released Stravtovarious, an Afrobeat album with organ and vocals by Nigerian legend Fela Kuti. He replaced drummer Tony Newman (ex-May Blitz) in Three Man Army, the rock trio of brothers Paul and Adrian Gurvitz (ex-Gun). His arrival prompted their name-change to Baker Gurvitz Army, which released three 1974–76 albums on Atco–Vertigo. Baker next surfaced in Hawkwind for their 1980 album Levitation. After several years away from the scene, Baker returned with the 1986 Celluloid release Horses and Trees, produced by Material mastermind Bill Laswell, who linked Ginger with Public Image Ltd. for the concurrent PiL title album.
Ric Grech exited Traffic after Low Spark but played on Capaldi’s 1972 album Oh How We Danced. He partook in Clapton’s Rainbow concert and played on 1973–74 albums by the Bee Gees, Eddie Harris, Rod Stewart, Vivian Stanshall, and ex-Faces Ron Wood and Ronnie Lane. After the breakup of his former band Family, Grech played on Streetwalkers, the roots of a namesake band headed by Family mainstays Roger Chapman and Charlie Whitney. Grech then teamed with singer Ray Kennedy and guitarist Mike Bloomfield in KGB (Kennedy–Grech–Bloomfield) and played on their first of two 1976 albums on MCA.
- Blind Faith (1969)
- Discogs: Blind Faith
- English B Albums Directory
- 45worlds: Blind Faith
- 45cat: Blind Faith
- Concert Wiki: Blind Faith
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