Eric Clapton was a busy man 40 years ago. In the US touring his new ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’ album since mid-June of 1974, the schedule took him on August 1 to Atlanta, and a gig at the Omni Coliseum that became widely celebrated and much-bootlegged among Slowhand aficionados.
That was partly because of what happened on stage that night. 24 hours later in Greensboro, North Carolina, and another two nights down road in West Palm Beach, it happened again: Clapton was joined on stage by Pete Townshend and Keith Moon.
Clapton’s band featured George Terry as second guitarist, Carl Radle on bass, Dick Sims on keyboards, Jamie Oldaker on drums and the backing vocals of Yvonne Elliman. Starting the set with ‘Smile,’ Clapton featured such songs as ‘Let It Grow,’ ‘Willie and the Hand Jive’ and the Cream favourite ‘Badge.’
But as the Atlanta show came to a conclusion, who should appear from the wings but half of The Who. Townshend jammed with Clapton on ‘Layla’ and Moon sang along with Chuck Berry’s ‘Little Queenie,’ performed in a medley with ‘Baby Don’t You Do It.’ Pete then proceeded to smash a plastic ukulele over Eric’s head.
The following night in Greensboro (ticket price: $7.50), Townshend appeared earlier in the set for ‘Hand Jive’ and ‘Get Ready,’ returning with Moon for an encore that included ‘Little Queenie’ as well as ‘Layla’ and ‘Badge.’ The Clapton, Townshend & Moon combination would happen once more, on August 4, when the tour headed into a break of several weeks with a gig at the West Palm Beach International Raceway. Townshend, Moon and even Joe Walsh were on hand to join in the festivities, including a version of The Who’s ‘Can’t Explain.’
None of those shows have been officially released, but we can give you a taste of Eric’s 1974 tour as it sounded when it reached Hammersmith Odeon that December, with four of the numbers he did during that Atlanta escapade.