Eric Clapton is one of the best and most influential guitarists of the past 45 years. He is a triple inductee into The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, having been honored for his work with The Yardbirds, Cream, and as a solo artist.
He first came to the public’s attention when he replaced original guitarist Anthony Topham in The Yardbirds. During his two-year tenure in the group he began developing a sound which would come to fruition later on with Cream.
For most of his time with the group, The Yardbirds were a rhythm and blues outfit. Ironically, it was their first and biggest hit, “For Your Love,” that ultimately caused Clapton to quit as he resented its pop sound and considered it a move away from the band's blues roots.
The Yardbirds' first album release in the United States was 1965's For Your Love, which was a compilation centered around the title track, their big American hit. Clapton is not pictured on the cover but was the lead guitarist on eight of the eleven tracks. Jeff Beck assumed the lead guitar duty on the other three.
The production leaves a lot to be desired even when comparing it to other releases of the day—specifically, there is a tinny quality that just does not go away—but the music is still very different from much of what was being released in 1965. Clapton’s guitar playing combined with Keith Relf’s harmonica fuses rock and blues in a unique way.
Clapton may not have been enamored by “For Your Love,” but he did provide lead guitar and it was nevertheless a strong track. Relf’s vocal and the song's odd tempo made it one of the more interesting singles to receive airplay in 1965.
Clapton is really at home with some of the old blues and R&B numbers. “Good Morning Little School Girl,” “I Ain’t Got You,” and “I’m Not Talkin’” all show early flashes of his brilliance.
The Yardbirds with Eric Clapton were for the most part a raw unit yet would exert an influence on the development of rock ‘n’ roll. They also served as the training ground for one of the great guitarists in music history.