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Rock Hall Anniversary: Eric Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Eric Clapton performs on stage during the 2013 Crossroads Guitar Festival at Madison Square Garden on April 13, 2013 in New York City.
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Eric Clapton performs on stage during the 2013 Crossroads Guitar Festival at Madison Square Garden on April 13, 2013 in New York City.Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images

By 1974, Eric Clapton had been mostly out of the spotlight for nearly three years, following the breakup of his band Derek and the Dominos. Although briefly appearing in George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, and then the Rainbow Concert in 1973, he had remained in seclusion mostly due to a heroin addiction.

But after kicking the drug, Clapton would come back strong releasing his second solo album titled 461 Ocean Boulevard, named after a Florida rental house he was staying in while recording it. Produced by Tom Dowd (who was also at the helm of Derek and the Dominos’ 1970 masterpiece Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs), the album featured several blues covers including Johnny Otis’s signature tune “Willie and the Hand Jive”, Robert Johnson’s “Steady Rollin’ Man” and Elmore James’s “I Can’t Hold Out.

He would also cross into the world of reggae, covering Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “I Shot the Sheriff”. When Clapton’s version hit number one on the charts, it would help broaden Marley’s popularity, as well for reggae music. Other moments on 461 Ocean Boulevard includes a few Clapton originals including the somber but beautiful “Give Me Strength” and “Get Ready”, which Clapton co-wrote with singer Yvonne Elliman (who also sang on the album, and would later be best known for the 1978 chart-topper “If I Can’t Have You").

461 Ocean Boulevard received mixed reviews throughout the years. While its acclaim included those from critic Robert Chistgau and Allmusic (both calling the album everything from focused to honest and groundbreaking), the album was panned by Blender (who was reviewing a 2004 deluxe edition) and Rolling Stone (who despite the bad review, ranked the album at number 411 on their list of 500 Greatest Albums of all Time). But aside from the critical reception, 461 Ocean Boulevard would be Clapton’s first number one album as a solo artist, and helped re-energized Clapton’s solo career throughout the 1970s and beyond.