October 16, 1992: Eric Clapton Turns a Bob Dylan Tune Into a Blues Guitar Tour de Force

(Image credit: The Interwebs)

Twenty-five years ago today (October 16, 1992), a truly ridiculous amount of talent packed into New York City's Madison Square Garden to honor Bob Dylan's then-30-year-old recording career.

The concert, which was called the 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration, featured top talent of the day (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, John Cougar Mellencamp, Pearl Jam'sEddie Vedder and Mike McCready), living legends (Johnny and June Carter Cash) and a host of classic-rock gods (Johnny Winter, Neil Young, Roger McGuinn, George Harrison, the Band).

However, the undisputed guitar highlight of the show was Eric Clapton’s scorching rendition of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” a song Dylan wrote in 1962 and recorded for 1963's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.

Clapton—who transformed Dylan’s bouncy, fingerstyle acoustic masterpiece into a breezy electric country blues tour de force—left no doubt that he could still deliver intense, emotional solos that sent listeners’ hearts skyrocketing.

The performance—not to mention Clapton’s crunchy, overdriven Strat tone—foreshadowed his long-awaited, if temporary, return to traditional blues, 1994’s From the Cradle. It also claimed the Number 21 spot in Guitar World's often-quoted guide to Eric Clapton's 50 Greatest Guitar Moments.

The performance stands out as a Clapton career highlight to "EC fans in the know"; in fact, even the Facebook account that hosts a version of the video below asks, "[Is this] one of the best all-time live performances ever?"

Enjoy this performance by Clapton and a modified version of Booker T & the MG's, the event's official house band: Booker T. Jones (organ), Donald "Duck" Dunn (bass) and Steve Cropper (guitar), plus Anton Fig and Jim Keltner (drums) and former Saturday Night Live bandleader G.E. Smith (guitar, musical director).

By the way, an edited version of the concert was issued via CD/VHS as The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration in August 1993. A deluxe CD/DVD/Blu-ray version (which includes a few very cool extras, including a rehearsal version of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”) was released in 2014 via Sony Music.

Dylan's 30th - Eric Clapton --Don’t Think Twice...by tsvik_1

Since we're (sort of) on the topic, be sure to check out the Heartbreakers' performance from that night. Instead of going the obvious or "hit" route, Petty & Co. chose to cover "License to Kill," a thought-provoking track from Dylan's highly regarded 1983 album, Infidels (which stars guitarists Mark Knopfler and Mick Taylor).

The song accuses mankind of imperialism and a predilection for violence; it also addresses our not-so-wonderful relationship with the environment: "Man thinks because he rules the Earth/He can do with it as he please." Anyway, enjoy...

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas, was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron, a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums. He now plays in two NYC-area bands.