Skip to main content

Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck Perform "Farther Up the Road" in 1981

Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton have performed together several times over the decades. Hell, they've even toured together. But — taking into account the many YouTube videos that show both guitarists on stage together — I haven't found anything as enjoyable as the clip at the bottom of this story.

It's from the Secret Policeman's Other Ball, a star-studded benefit concert that took place September 9, 1981, at the Drury Lane Theatre in London. The show was produced by John Cleese of Monty Python and was eventually released as a film and album (good luck finding it!).

Although Beck and Clapton performed several songs together that day, including a decent version of "Crossroads," the one performance that has sort of taken on a life of its own — with its nearly 1.6 million plays on YouTube — is their ripping rendition of Bobby "Blue" Bland's "Farther Up the Road," a song that's perhaps better known by its incorrect titles, "Farther On Up the Road" and "Further On Up the Road."

It finds them trading solos, Clapton on a Strat with his nearly clean Another Ticket-era tone, Beck playing Seymour Duncan's humbucker-infused Telecaster with a bit of an overdriven edge. He starts out with a tasty major-scale rant high on the neck, then launches into a Billy Gibbons-esque pinch harmonic. While there's plenty of fine-soundin' stuff flying off the frets of both veteran players, Clapton's facial expression during Beck's solo sort of says it all. In fact, his reaction is capped off at the 2:29 mark, when he lifts his arm as if to say, "Yeah, that was some pretty cool stuff, folks. I'm as impressed as you are!" 

While Beck has often discussed some sort of early rivalry between him and Clapton — whether real or imagined — Clapton has always been full of praise for his fellow former Yardbird.

"I think he is the most unique guitar player — and the most devoted, really," Clapton said during his Journeyman promotional cycle in the late Eighties. "From what I know of Jeff, he's either fixing his cars or playing guitar — there's no in-between for him. He actually has never changed. Unlike myself, who's been kinda wandering around all the time, dabbling in this and that, Jeff has been very consistent."

By the way, Beck's second solo starts at 3:24, and you should probably watch that too. The band in the clip includes — but is not limited to — bassist Mo Foster and drummer Simon Phillips. Enjoy!

Damian Fanelli

Damian is editor-in-chief of Guitar World magazine. From 1998 to 2014, he was one third of Mister Neutron, an instrumental rock act that toured the universe and elsewhere and released three albums via Austin-based Deep Eddy Records. These days he performs with several New York City-area bands and can often be spotted with one of his many, many, many B-bender-equipped guitars. In past lives he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor – and he still can’t believe he got to write the liner notes for the latest SRV box set.