Rock and Roll Saturday – Blind Faith
The Sixties—just the words bring to mind a wide variance of emotion and music. It was a period of change, of color, fashion and hallucinogenic. The music industry was very much like the old west town of Dodge City and supergroups were lining up as the big sheriff of the concert halls.
Blind Faith is one of those lineups, a cross between genius and disaster; a marriage of fantastic and fiasco. They were like a star that went super-nova, burned brightly for a few white-hot moments, and then they were gone.
The roots of Blind Faith trace back to late 60s England where arguably the first “Supergroup” Cream was selling records by the boat load and filling concert halls where ever they played.
Cream was an overnight international success bringing fame and fortune to the trio, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker. In their short career they recorded four studio albums and sold 35 million albums worldwide. In the end Clapton’s easy-going demeanor was not enough to calm the conflict between Bruce and Baker and after three years Cream was no more.
In the meantime, Steve Winwood was having similar conflict with his bandmates at The Spencer Davis Group. He left to form Traffic and in the meantime began jamming in Clapton’s Surrey basement studio. Winwood had met Clapton and worked briefly on the short-lived Powerhouse project with him and Jack Bruce in 1966.
Shortly after Cream folded, Clapton and Ginger Baker joined forces with Winwood and another Powerhouse alumnus, Ric Grech on bass, to form Blind Faith. The band debuted for a free concert on June 7, 1969 in London’s Hyde Park. Although well received by everyone privy to the show, Clapton was disappointed believing the group had not practiced enough to be a solid musical unit. Also, their repertoire was somewhat limited with barely enough original music to fill an hour. They ended up playing Cream and Traffic music to fill out the set.
Working on a setlist for recording the quartet put in time in London’s Olympic & Morgan Studios recording their untitled debut album. Between late February and June 24 they worked on six tracks that would make it to the album.
In August of 1969 the self-titled album, Blind Faith, released to a wide audience and appeal with two tracks, Winwood’s Can’t Find My Way Home and Clapton’s Presence of the Lord climbing quickly onto the UK and US charts.
The cover for the initial release brought with it a fervor of controversy. The topless pubescent 11 year-old model holding a hood ornament from a 1956 Chevrolet proved to be too much for the label and they moved to immediately to release a second package with a photo of the band. The initial album cover is to this day a coveted collectors item.
The cover art was created by photographer Bob Seidemann, a personal friend and former flatmate of Clapton’s known primarily for his photos of Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead.
In an interview regarding his original Blind Faith photo Seidemann said,
“I could not get my hands on the image until out of the mist a concept began to emerge. To symbolize the achievement of human creativity and its expression through technology a space ship was the material object. To carry this new spore into the universe, innocence would be the ideal bearer, a young girl, a girl as young as Shakespeare’s Juliet. The space ship would be the fruit of the tree of knowledge and the girl, the fruit of the tree of life.”
Seidemann named his famous photograph Blind Faith. The group embraced the image name for the group and the a tiny span of rock and roll history was forever locked to the image. Not wanting to deface the image the band elected to have their name inked into the plastic jacket sleeve to disappear once the album was opened.
The promise of new music and future tours went away as quickly as Bind Faith took the stage. After the album release and the end of their US Tour rumors of breakup ran like wildfire through the fan base and respective labels. Blind Faith didn’t last a year but left a lifetime of great music. Their only album occasionally finds its way to my digital jukebox even today.
After Blind Faith, Baker, Winwood, and Ric Grech, joined with former Moody Blues frontman, Denny Laine, and formed Ginger Baker’s Air Force.
Eric Clapton toured with Delaney and Bonnie and spun another collaboration with friends, Derek and the Dominoes. He followed the supergroup musical chairs with a successful solo career of his own. Grammies and and platinum records line the Clapton walls.
Steve Winwood returned to Traffic taking Ric Grech with him to record The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys in 1971. In 1986, Winwood enlisted some friends in a project and released Back in the High Life in the US. He topped the Billboard Hot 100 with “Higher Love”, and earned two Grammy Awards: for Record of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. On High Life you will find contributions by James Taylor, Chaka Kahn, Joe Walsh and many others.
Ric Grech made a short career of doing sessions work with the likes of George Harrison, Gram Parsons, and Rod Stewart. He even did a short stint with The Crickets in the mid-seventies. He retired from the music business and returned to England in 1977. Grech succumbed to alcoholism in 1990 at the age of 43.
It’s better to burn-out than to fade away – Neil Young