Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood Join Forces at the Historic Blind Faith Concert in Hyde Park, 1969

On a swel­ter­ing sum­mer day in 1969, over 100,000 peo­ple crammed into Hyde Park in cen­tral Lon­don for a first look at what promised to be the next great thing in rock and roll: Blind Faith.

It was an amaz­ing line­up. The band was made up of two-thirds of Cream (gui­tarist Eric Clap­ton and drum­mer Gin­ger Bak­er) along with the front­man of Traf­fic (key­boardist and vocal­ist Steve Win­wood) and the bassist from the pro­gres­sive group Fam­i­ly (Ric Grech). The free con­cert on June 7, 1969, shown above in its entire­ty, was pro­mot­ed with a great deal of fan­fare and hyper­bole. Expec­ta­tions were high, so per­haps dis­ap­point­ment was inevitable. In any case the band came off sound­ing hes­i­tant and unsteady. For a “super­group,” they seemed sur­pris­ing­ly unsure of them­selves.

“It was our first gig,” Win­wood said lat­er, “and to do that in front of 100,000 peo­ple was not the best sit­u­a­tion to be in. Nerves were show­ing and it was very daunt­ing. We could­n’t relax like you can on tour.” The band showed none of the verve or audac­i­ty of Cream.  Clap­ton stood behind the drums and seemed reluc­tant to let loose. “In rehearsals and dur­ing record­ing,” said Bak­er, “Eric had been doing amaz­ing stuff, but in Hyde Park I kept won­der­ing when he was going to start play­ing. It was­n’t a bril­liant start, obvi­ous­ly.”

The band avoid­ed play­ing any­thing by Cream. The set list includ­ed one Traf­fic song (“Means to an End”) and anoth­er by the Rolling Stones (“Under My Thumb”), but was oth­er­wise made up entire­ly of orig­i­nal songs writ­ten for their yet-to-be-released album, Blind Faith:

  1. Well All Right
  2. Sea of Joy
  3. Sleep­ing in the Ground
  4. Under My Thumb
  5. Can’t Find My Way Home
  6. Do What You Like
  7. Pres­ence of the Lord
  8. Means to an End
  9. Had to Cry Today

Lat­er that year the band toured Scan­di­navia and Amer­i­ca, and their debut album was a com­mer­cial suc­cess despite con­sid­er­able con­tro­ver­sy over its strange cov­er image of a top­less pubes­cent-look­ing girl hold­ing a toy air­plane. But it was clear from the start that Blind Faith would­n’t last. Clap­ton’s heart, in par­tic­u­lar, was­n’t into it. “I’d left The Yard­birds because of suc­cess,” he said lat­er, “and Cream end­ed as a direct result of its false suc­cess. So with Blind Faith I want­ed no more to do with suc­cess. I want­ed to be accept­ed as a musi­cian.” At the end of Blind Faith’s Amer­i­can tour Clap­ton made the unusu­al career move of quit­ting a super­group to become a side­man for its sup­port­ing act, the rel­a­tive­ly obscure Delaney & Bon­nie. In a 1996 Mojo arti­cle on Blind Faith called “Born Under a Bad Sign,” rock jour­nal­ist John­ny Black sums things up:

In ret­ro­spect, 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.

Relat­ed con­tent: 

A Young Eric Clap­ton Demon­strates the Ele­ments of His Sound

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