Hello there! This week’s entry is Can’t Find My Way Home, a terrific British Invasion blues song from the late 60s. We will begin with the original by Blind Faith. We will then discuss covers by Joe Cocker and by John Mayer.
Blind Faith and Can’t Find My Way Home:
We reviewed the British rock group Blind Faith in an earlier blog post on the Stones’ song Under My Thumb.
We have covered Blind Faith members Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton from their work with other groups. We reviewed Winwood’s early work with the Spencer Davis Group on our discussion of their song Gimme Some Lovin’, and also Winwood’s work with Traffic on the song Feelin’ Alright?
Eric Clapton has been one of our favorite rock musicians. We covered his work with Cream on the song Crossroads, his stint with Derek and the Dominoes with Layla, and solo efforts on iconic blues tunes such as Robert Johnson’s Love in Vain and later Sweet Home Chicago, and the tune Willie and the Hand Jive.
So here we will give a brief history of the short lifetime of the band Blind Faith.
In 1969, various British rock groups were disintegrating. Eric Clapton was disenchanted with his supergroup trio Cream for several reasons. For one thing, drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce loathed each other, and Clapton felt caught in the middle of their feuds.
In addition, the perfectionist Clapton believed that the group was “coasting,” often producing third-rate performances. Finally, Clapton felt overwhelmed by the adulation that both he and his band Cream were receiving from rabid fans of the group.
A couple of years earlier, Steve Winwood had left the Spencer Davis Group over creative differences – Winwood was interested in jazz-influenced progressive rock, while other members of the band favored heavy-metal blues-infused music. Winwood formed Traffic in order to pursue these new directions. However, Winwood took a temporary hiatus from Traffic in 1969, and
Winwood started to jam with his good friend Clapton in Clapton’s basement in Surrey, England. Winwood and Clapton had previously collaborated on the “Powerhouse” project.
Clapton was excited about collaborating with Winwood, but was loath to form another ‘super-group.’ It was tough when Ginger Baker was suggested as the group’s drummer, since such a group would naturally be interpreted as “Cream minus Jack Bruce.” However, eventually they settled on Baker along with Ric Grech as the bassist, and “Blind Faith” as the group’s name.
Below we see Blind Faith at the session that produced the photo subsequently used for their first album. From L to R: Steve Winwood, Ric Grech, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton.Embed from Getty Images
The song Can’t Find My Way Home was written by Steve Winwood, who was also the lead vocalist. The song gives a poignant description of someone whose life has gone off course and who does not know how to get back on track.
Come down off your throne and leave your body alone
Somebody must change
You are the reason I’ve been waiting all these years
Somebody holds the key
Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home
The line “I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home” is a succinct description of someone who is depressed because they have at least temporarily lost their way.
Blind Faith’s first public performance was a free concert in London’s Hyde Park in June 1969. Wouldn’t it be nice if your band held its first gig and 300,000 people turned up? You certainly wouldn’t have to go around taping up concert posters on lamp-posts.
Here is the video for Can’t Find My Way Home performed at the Hyde Park concert.
Isn’t this a great song? Steve Winwood contributes lead vocals and keyboards on his Hammond B-3 organ, while Eric Clapton chimes in with a tasty solo on his Fender Stratocaster. Winwood has a terrific voice. Also, take note of Ginger Baker’s impressive jazz-inspired drum licks.
Unfortunately, both the video and audio of this concert are crappy. For some reason, the main camera was set up near the ground next to the drummer, so that for the most part we see Winwood and Clapton only dimly in the distance behind Baker’s drum kit.
By the way, Blind Faith fanatics can find video of the entire Hyde Park concert here: [warning: the audio and video remain crummy throughout this historic concert.]
The Hyde Park concert was followed a month later by the release of the band’s first (and only) album Blind Faith, on the Atco label. The album immediately rocketed to #1 on the Billboard album charts in both the U.S. and U.K. The band soon set out on a U.S. tour that filled up large arenas.
Most people would have been ecstatic to experience the great demand for their music, and the public acclaim for their band. However, for Eric Clapton this was a terrible sign. People had started to refer to Blind Faith as “Super-Cream” — so much for not forming a super-group!
Even worse, Blind Faith had not yet assembled enough original material for a concert, so Cream and Traffic songs were added to fill in the gaps. Clapton also felt that the band had rushed out on tour before they had fully rehearsed. Clapton developed a serious case of déjà vu, fearing that Blind Faith was repeating exactly what he was trying to avoid.
To make matters worse, the original album cover (shown at left, along with its subsequent replacement) did not contain the name of the band. Because the album cover photo showed a nude (and possibly underage) girl, the record was banned in several countries (the woman was an adult professional model, but that was beside the point).
Clapton’s concerns, the album controversy, and the group’s meager playlist led to the band breaking up after their initial tour. A few songs that had been recorded for an intended second album were eventually released in various Clapton and Winwood collections.
Clapton and Winwood remained friends, and in the past decade have begun to appear together again. This started at Clapton’s second Crossroads Guitar Festival, where they played together with a set that included a few Blind Faith numbers.
Here are Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood, backed up by Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall, performing Can’t Find My Way Home at the 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival.
The audio and video are excellent, which makes up for the disappointing video from the original Blind Faith Hyde Park concert. Both Winwood and Clapton contribute understated but impressive solos on their Fender Stratocasters. Winwood is a seriously underrated guitar player.
This song has become an iconic favorite; it’s a perfect tune for anyone whose life has taken a bad turn, and who is searching to get back on track. That could explain the more than 15 million hits for this video.
The great lyrics, combined with the intricate guitar work, helps to explain why this song is so appealing to jam bands. In addition to the covers that we feature in this post, there are also impressive live performances of this song by The Allman Brothers with Sheryl Crow, and by the Tedeschi-Trucks Band.
After they teamed up at Crossroads, Clapton and Winwood reunited for a limited series of concerts in the US, Europe and Japan between 2008 and 2011. I am frustrated that I never caught one of their concerts.
I have been a fan of Steve Winwood ever since I saw him perform with the Spencer Davis Group in 1966; I have seen him with Traffic and as a solo act since then.
And I have seen Clapton performing solo a few times in recent years, although as a grad student in England I spent a fair amount of time “missing Eric Clapton,” having caught the Yardbirds and John Mayall shortly after Clapton left each of those groups.
In the history of rock music, Blind Faith was simply a brief interlude in the careers of Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and Ginger Baker. Journalist Johnny Black sums up the Blind Faith saga rather succinctly:
Blind Faith was cursed almost from the outset. This was a band whose members rarely seemed to tell each other anything. A band at loggerheads with its management. A management at loggerheads with itself. A heroin addicted drummer. A guitarist who wanted out almost from the word go. A stadium tour that the keyboard player didn’t want to be on. A record cover scandal. Worst of all, though, they were mind-numbingly successful when they didn’t want to be.
After Blind Faith broke up, Baker continued on with Ginger Baker’s Air Force. Winwood re-united with Traffic, while Clapton sat in with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, then formed the super-group Derek and the Dominos before embarking on a long and distinguished solo career. I greatly enjoyed Blind Faith’s only album, and can’t help but wish they might have stayed together for a longer time.
Joe Cocker and Can’t Find My Way Home:
Joe Cocker was a British blues musician. We have discussed him in several earlier blog posts. We first encountered Cocker from his cover of the Beatles’ With A Little Help From My Friends. Next we reviewed his version of Many Rivers To Cross; later we discussed him in A Whiter Shade of Pale; both Cocker and Steve Winwood crossed paths in our review of Feelin’ Alright? We analyzed Cocker’s cover of Delta Lady; we wrote about Cocker’s cover of The Letter by the Box Tops; and most recently we discussed his cover of Randy Newman’s You Can Leave Your Hat On.
Joe Cocker was one of my favorite artists, despite the fact that he produced relatively few original songs. Most of his best-known hits were covers of other tunes. However, he was a terrific bluesman whose best work brought an entirely new take on a classic song.
Below is a famous photo of Joe Cocker performing at Whiskey Au Go Go. Apparently the woman directly in front of Mr. Cocker has her hand up his trousers, which may account for his emphatic response.Embed from Getty Images
Born in 1944, as a teenager Cocker was attracted to music by the British skiffle musician Lonnie Donegan, the same artist who inspired the early Beatles.
Cocker then became interested in rock and blues. He had the good sense to pattern his vocal stylings after rockers like Chuck Berry and soul singers like Ray Charles. You can definitely detect the influence of Ray Charles in Cocker’s vocals.
Cocker worked his way through the British club circuit. Initially, he made little headway until he hooked up with Denny Cordell, the producer for British progressive-rock groups such as Procol Harum and the Moody Blues. With Cordell’s backing, Cocker was able to book larger venues and to work with more talented studio musicians.
After a couple of minor hits in the UK, Joe Cocker made the big time in 1969 with his cover of the Beatles’ With a Little Help From My Friends. Cocker’s cover was interesting in that it was totally different from the Beatles’ original.
Like many other young artists, Cocker’s appearance at Woodstock made him an overnight sensation. His career took off like a rocket.
Once Joe Cocker gained fame through his exposure at the Woodstock Festival and in particular as one of the stars of the Woodstock concert movie, he continued to carve out an incredibly successful career as a blues vocalist.
So here is video of Joe Cocker in a live performance of Can’t Find My Way Home.
This took place in Baden-Baden, Germany in 1996. Here, Joe is aided by fine instrumental backing from acoustic guitar, dobro and some terrific keyboard work.
It’s easy to be distracted by Cocker’s spastic arm movements, and the fact that his shirt is drenched with sweat. However, if you concentrate on his vocals you will discover a really inspired version of this Blind Faith classic from a great R&B vocalist.
Joe Cocker died from lung cancer in Dec. 2014. What a great loss; he is deeply missed.
John Mayer and Can’t Find My Way Home:
John Mayer is an American blues guitarist and pop singer. Mayer is more contemporary than most of the artists whom we cover; however in his blues efforts he is a throwback to legendary performers such as Buddy Guy and B.B. King.
We discussed John Mayer in an earlier blog post on the Ray Charles song I Got A Woman. Here we will briefly review his life and career.
John Mayer was born in 1977 and raised in Connecticut. As a teenager, his father rented him a guitar; he became hooked on the blues after hearing a Stevie Ray Vaughn cassette. Mayer then worked his way through a number of legendary blues guitarists, copying and mastering their riffs.
Below is a photo of John Mayer performing in Philadelphia in June 2010.Embed from Getty Images
John Mayer first hit the charts in 2001 when his mainly acoustic pop songs became gigantic hits and he rapidly achieved stardom. However, following some success with pop songs like Your Body is a Wonderland and Waiting for the World to Change, Mayer moved back to his first love, the blues.
He collaborated with blues legends such as Buddy Guy and B.B. King. Since then, he has moved back and forth between pop music and more blues-based songs. In 2005 he formed the John Mayer Trio, and went on tour with songs that focused on his R&B roots.
Here is John Mayer in a live performance of Can’t Find My Way Home. This took place in Aug. 2013 at Darien Lake Ampitheater, not that far from Buffalo in western New York State.
Now, John Mayer has a perfectly fine voice, which is particularly effective on his original songs. But it really doesn’t compare to the great Steve Winwood. However, that is not the point on this song. Here, John Mayer treats us to an exceptional rock-blues guitar solo.
You can see that all of Mayer’s efforts in copying blues guitar legends have paid off in spades. This is just first-rate work: terrific fingering; impressive work on the wah-wah pedal; and a wonderfully constructed riff on the central theme from Can’t Find My Way Home. Enjoy!
John Mayer rapidly became a pop icon, dominated awards shows such as the Grammies, and started dating A-list superstars. Unfortunately, his fame led him to give some interviews where he came off as, well, a colossal dick.
The criticism Mayer received over his personal life and his intemperate remarks escalated into claims that he had not ‘paid his dues’ as a blues musician. I strongly disagree with that point of view. To my mind, Mayer is a terrific musician and an extremely talented blues guitarist. I have seen him perform with artists such as Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton, and Mayer holds his own even in such exalted company.
Below is a photo of John Mayer with Eric Clapton at a Madison Square Garden concert in May 2015 commemorating Clapton’s 70th birthday.Embed from Getty Images
In 2011, John Mayer became fascinated with the music of the Grateful Dead, and it began to dominate his personal playlist. Then in 2015, Mayer invited Dead guitarist Bob Weir to join him when Mayer was guest hosting the long-running Irish TV program The Late Late Show.
After that, Weir and his Grateful Dead mates invited Mayer to join them in their Fare Thee Well tour to commemorate 50 years of the Grateful Dead band. In August 2015 Weir and Dead drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann invited Mayer, bassist Oteil Burbridge and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti to form Dead & Company. The group first toured in 2015 and has continued touring up to the present.
So at the moment, John Mayer alternates between his touring with Dead & Company and releasing his own pop records. We wish him all success with both of these endeavors. We urge him to stick to his music, and stay away from social media as much as possible.
Wikipedia, Can’t Find My Way Home.
Wikipedia, Blind Faith
Johnny Black, Blind Faith: Born Under a Bad Sign.
Wikipedia, Steve Winwood
Wikipedia, Eric Clapton
Wikipedia, Joe Cocker
Wikipedia, John Mayer