In the world of music legends, few names shine as brightly as Mark Knopfler, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton. But, as the saying goes, every legend has its quirks, and sometimes even a virtuoso like Clapton can be deemed “impossible to record.”
In one Instagram post, Jimmy Page regales us with an anecdote that takes us back to a moment when Clapton’s guitar prowess left an engineer bewildered.
The story unfolds in 1965 when Page was working as a producer on John Mayall’s single, “I’m Your Witchdoctor/Telephone Blues,” recorded at Pye Studios. The lineup was a dream team: Hughie Flint on drums, John McVie on bass, John Mayall on keyboards and vocals, and, of course, Eric Clapton on guitar.
Page reminisces about a particular session during the recording of “Witchdoctor.” Clapton had a brilliant idea—to add a feedback wail as an overdub. Page was by his side in the studio as Clapton set up the experiment. And then Page retreated to the control room to oversee the recording.
About two-thirds of the way into the overdub, the engineer took a bold step. He pulled the faders down and declared, “This guitarist is impossible to record.” Apparently, Clapton’s technical wizardry had pushed the meters into the red zone, challenging the engineer’s technical ethics.
Page, not one to back down, responded firmly. “I suggested that he got on with his job and leave that decision to me!” It was a statement that underlined Page’s trust in Clapton’s vision and the understanding that sometimes, the pursuit of groundbreaking sound requires pushing boundaries.
Despite the hiccup during “Witch Doctor,” Clapton’s work on the B-side of the single, “Telephone Blues,” turned out to be nothing short of superb. Page recalls, “Eric’s solo on ‘Telephone Blues’ was just superb.” He even humorously adds that he would have loved to see Ainsley Dunbar on drums for “Witch Doctor.”
Page also delves into his role as a producer, noting that he produced “Sitting On Top of the World,” which showcased John Mayall’s blues with Top 20 ambitions.
He mentions “Double Crossing Time,” an ironic title considering that soon after, the band’s fate would be in the capable hands of Mike Vernon, a famed blues producer. Page muses, “It was a good move: Eric left The Yardbirds because they had Top 20 aspirations!”
This charming anecdote from the annals of music history offers a glimpse into the creative chaos of a recording session, where legends like Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton were unafraid to challenge the norms and create sonic landscapes that, at times, pushed the boundaries of what was considered “possible to record.”