31 Days of Faves: Eric Clapton – Let It Grow

#18 Eric Clapton – Let It Grow

Bob Marley‘s “I Shot the Sheriff” was the hit single that emerged from Eric Clapton‘s “461 Ocean Blvd” LP. But, for me, “Let It Grow” is the cut that never grows old.

The collection is named for the Miami address where Clapton recorded the tracks, his first studio production after beating a two year heroin addiction. When it burst on the scene in 1974, FM radio was blooming into its prime and programmers were looking for “deep tracks” to feature behind the hits that were being overplayed on the AM dial. The LP’s opener, the traditional tune, “Motherless Children“, first recorded in 1927, was one of them. Clapton’s incomparable guitar artistry fires at you point blank throughout.

But I’ll never forget hearing “Let It Grow” for the first time. I had barely survived my first year at college. My Plymouth Valliant had one of the first built-in FM radios. I was sneaking across campus to find an illegal parking place near the studio for my student radio gig when Clapton inhaled and dove right into the first verse.

The pyramid of sound on which the verses were built was an unusual six bar pattern which switches from 4/4 to 2/4 at the end. That alone caught my attention. I recognized Yvonne Elliman‘s voice singing back up on the chorus. I had been playing her supercharged cover of Pete Townshend‘s  “I Can’t Explain” all year. But it’s the vamp at the end of the tune, where things seem to disappear into a snowstorm that I never wanted to end.

It wasn’t until I became an author that I deconstructed the depth of the lyrics, using them as fodder for a short story about a terminally ill silicone valley millionaire in search of one more encounter with the true love of his life. It was a visceral reminder of how powerful a muse music can be.

There are maybe 15 tunes that I can never hear often enough. “Let It Grow” has all the elements that make each listen a new journey of discovery.