Eric Clapton's 50 Greatest Guitar Moments: No. 7 — "Spoonful" from 'Fresh Cream'

This is an excerpt from the March 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story — as in, the other 49 Greatest Eric Clapton Guitar Moments of All Time — plus features on Mike Bloomfield, the Layla sessions, Johnny Winter, Don Felder, Guitar World's Readers Poll results and more (including gear reviews and John Petrucci's monthly column) — check out the March 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.

07. Spoonful
Cream—Fresh Cream (1966)

Just as “Crossroads” introduced a new generation of music fans to the mystique of Robert Johnson, Cream’s “Spoonful” brought extra exposure to Willie Dixon, who wrote the song, and Howlin’ Wolf, who originally recorded it in 1960.

And while Howlin’ Wolf’s stark-and-dark version is haunting in its own right, Cream’s take on the song—driven by Clapton’s guitar and Jack Bruce’s heavy bass—moves it several steps further along.

Clapton’s solo, which starts at 2:23, seems almost playful at first, as if he’s toying with the listener, but at 2:46, things take a sudden and profound turn toward the dramatic. He plays a series of notes—virtual howls and moans—high on the neck, punctuating them with several perfectly timed cracks at his low E string.

At 3:31, he launches into a completely new melody, taking Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker along for the ride. Clapton’s tone on the track, a unique dense, reverb-drenched sound that only a Gibson humbucker could produce, stands alone in Cream’s canon and in Clapton’s entire discography.

At Cream’s live shows, “Spoonful,” like several other songs, gave the band members plenty of room to stretch out, as can be heard on the sensational, nearly 17-minute-long version on Cream’s Wheels of Fire.

[[ Guitar World’s Blues Greats Subscription Offer: Get one year of Guitar World plus a new digital EP, 'Legacy Recordings Presents: Blues Greats! Past & Present,' featuring songs by Mike Bloomfield, Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, the Allman Brothers Band and more! ]]

For the rest of this story — as in, the other 49 Greatest Eric Clapton Guitar Moments of All Time — plus features on Mike Bloomfield, the Layla sessions, Johnny Winter, Don Felder, Guitar World's Readers Poll results and more (including gear reviews and John Petrucci's monthly column) — check out the March 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

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.