BLIND FAITH

BLIND FAITH

NEW YORK—The four members of Blind Faith — the instant super group whipped up with two-thirds of the soured Cream—were entrenched in a plush 16th floor suite of New York’s Drake Hotel, just off Park Avenue.

Stevie Winwood, the former leader of Traffic and the Spencer Davis Group, sat in a corner, smiling and smoking. Ginger Baker, never still, was making paper hats on a sofa from a copy of the London Times. Rick Grech, the former Family bass guitarist, was perusing a collection of Blind Faith press clippings. Eric Clapton, in a vest of many colors, dilapidated blue jeans, bright blue suede boots with, of all things, a white shirt, was sitting on a table, gently picking an acoustic guitar.

The controversial cover of Blind Faith’s first album—with an 11-year-old pallid English girl, naked the waist up, holding a model jet aeroplane—lay on a table. Copies of albums by B. B. King, Otis Redding, Ma Rainey, the Bee Gees, Joe South, Joe Cocker and Blind Lemon Jefferson were scattered on the rug. The first pressing of the Blind Faith album was vibrating forth from a portable stereo.

The phone kept ringing and a publicist kept repeating: “No, Blind Faith are not doing any interviews, they don’t feel like it. Their music says it all.” There weren’t many people there; two men from Atlantic Records, two publicists, no groupies, a man from Billboard and Robert Stigwood, the band’s dapper former Australian manager.

I’ve known Stevie on and off for several years, but I’d never seen him more relaxed. “You know. Ginger and Jack Bruce (Cream’s bass guitarist) were the first people I saw when I originally came down to London. And I’ve always wanted to get together with Eric. I think he wanted to work with me too. Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time jamming together out in the country. But up until now, the time hadn’t been right for us to get together.”

Clapton: “I was completely knocked out by Stevie when I first saw him in Birmingham with the Spencer Davis Group. He was really serious about what he was into. It’s very hard to be original within the framework of what you’re trying to do, but he was already doing that then.”

“Blind Faith is not a blues group, I don’t think,” said Stevie. “More of a folk-rock or a rock band. It’s very difficult to put us into any category. Our only aim is to turn people on to our music. We want to make music with which people can experience something; we want to interpret the way people feel. A common bond or feeling.

“But it won’t be a set format. Change is very necessary to keep things going. There must be compromise within the group and there will be. With some musicians, it’s important just to be able to sit down and make music. That is difficult to do with most other musicians. I think we’re making it here.

“Blind Faith is undoubtedly the most exciting thing in my career. It’s all a bit fantastic really.” Winwood wrote three of the six tracks on the initial album, and true to form, he played organ, piano, guitar (there were times at the session when he and Eric couldn’t distinguish who was playing what), and sang on most of them.

Rather unexpectedly, the Blind Faith album is more of Winwood than Clapton or Baker, as far as musical influence is concerned. You hear more of Traffic than Cream in there. A friend explained that Clapton had always resented the fact of having to play a lead part, rather than wanting to. In many ways Winwood is the leader of Blind Faith.

“I’m much more excited about the future of Blind Faith,” said Clapton, “than I was with Cream at the beginning. But we went through the Cream thing, and we learnt the lesson. This time we won’t make the same mistakes again.

“Now we’re doing it all again from scratch. We have a fresh approach, and we’re going to keep ahead of it all, whereas Cream got into the same things over and over and over again. It all became a bit of a drag. With Blind Faith, there’s going to be a lot of changes going down all the time. I don’t think we’ll get stale.

“After Cream broke up, I had the first real rest I’ve had since playing guitar. I’m feeling good now, and I’m ready for whatever comes. I’m excited and I can’t wait for tomorrow and the next day and everyday.”

Baker, still creating headwear from the frantic times said that he really had nothing to say, and suggested I talked to Rick Grech. “Blind Faith is great. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s an incredible challenge.

“Sure, it’s going to be tough to replace Jack Bruce. People are thinking that Blind Faith is just an extension of Cream, but that’s not rue. Far from it. When people come to talk to us, they go to Eric and Stevie and Ginger. I’m always the last one. But I accept that and I’m working on it.

“Musically, Eric, Stevie and Ginger were the only guys I ever wanted to work with. I’ve always been dissatisfied musically. This couldn’t have come at a better time. Blind Faith is only concerned with music. We realize that we’re in this as long as we dig it. When that stops, so does Blind Faith. There will be no reprisals, no hangups, nothing like that.”

The long-awaited album was produced by Jimmy Miller, rather than Felix Pappalardi, who’d done most of the Cream sessions. Clapton explained: “Jimmy is more into rock ’n’ roll than Felix was. Felix came from the other side. Jimmy is great, he’s helped us a great deal and I don’t think we’d ever have finished the album without him.”

The massive adulation, and the resultant ego tripping, is still to come. That point was brought home on the elevator taking Blind Faith down to a waiting limousine and rehearsals for the first North American tour. A middle-aged man came into the elevator, leading an old man with a walking stick. The younger of the two asked Clapton what group he was in. When told Blind Faith, he said: “Wait ’til my daughter hears about this. She’ll be green with envy!”