Why I Love: The Blackheart Orchestra on Eric Clapton

The Blackheart Orchestra are a wonderful band. The northern duo have made waves across folk and prog seas and their live shows are always inspiring. Their sound is always imaginative and ethereal.

The band will be performing an online show on 26th June via Facebook live. You can find all the information here.

In the second of two Why I Love features from The Blackheart Orchestra, we welcome Rick Pilkington to At The Barrier as he writes for us about his love of the legendary Eric Clapton and what it’s like to actually play with him!

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Would it be shameful to admit that I bought the album that changed my life simply because I liked the cover?

Oh dear, I thought you’d agree.

Pleading absolution I was only eleven young years of age. I was on a Sunday School outing to North Wales, where myself and a few healthy young sprites would spend a weekend in a cottage without water, electricity or heating while from dawn to dusk climbing the hillsides and roaming the fells. It pissed down the whole time so we adjourned to the nearest town Portmadog where we trudged around in the drizzle looking for somewhere to buy cider and cigarettes.

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We came upon a shop called Cob Records where we were all eager to spend the pocket money our Mums had given us. My friends were thumbing through the racks talking knowledgeably about this band and that, whereas my record player at home had only seen the likes of The Foundations, my mother’s Mantovani records and to my credit Magical Mystery Tour.

In search of any thread of cool I found an LP that looked the part. 144 square inches of multi-coloured, psychedelic weirdness that would definitely impress my pals. I had no idea who the artist was and quite honestly didn’t care, it was kid-cred that was at stake here.

The record was a secondhand copy of Disraeli Gears by Cream.

We returned home in the little mini-bus and I unpacked the unhiked hiking boots, hid the uneaten sandwiches and eventually put the disc onto the turntable of my brown, leatherette-covered Decca Capri record player. As needle hit vinyl everything changed.

From the first notes of White Room the music entered into me like no other music had ever done before. The energy, the sound, the intensity and…that guitar.

Disraeli Gears: Amazon.co.uk: Music

The Foundations were swiftly dispatched to the Mantovani shelf in the front room downstairs and within a week of non-stop listening I’d bought myself a Watkins Rapier electric guitar and Vox AC10 amplifier from The Bolton Evening News.

The next 12 months was dedicated to learning every single note, chord and solo on Disraeli Gears. Locked in my bedroom I would study every lick going backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards with the needle attempting to replicate every smallest bend and strum and detail in his playing. I don’t know how the record or my parents downstairs survived, but I want to thank all three of them.

I’ve loved Eric Clapton’s playing ever since.

Like all of us, he and his music have had some turns in the road, but he remains for me the highest monument to the most powerful and soulful musicianship and one of this planet’s few guitarists whose fingerprint sound you can recognise in a single note. There probably isn’t a person who’s ever picked up a guitar who hasn’t in some way been touched by his playing. It touched me like a fist and still does. I also take great credit in proclaiming that he personally taught me to play guitar!

As a conclusion, please fast forward a thousand years to November 25th 2019. We were on a big tour with Hawkwind and playing the penultimate night at G-Live Guildford and who would be the guest to play with the band that night?

It was He.

Well as if watching my all-time hero at close quarters wasn’t enough, at the soundcheck our glorious, gracious friend Dave Brock suggested why don’t we join them on stage and do Golden Void with them tonight?


There I stood, a thorn between two roses with Dave to my left and Eric to my right belting out ‘Down a corridor of flame…Will I fly so high again…’ Probably the most surreal moment of my musical life. Eric’s creamy strat oozing those fingerprint licks just three feet behind me exactly like he did in my bedroom all those years before. But his guitar ‘lessons’ weren’t over yet. Before the gig I couldn’t wait to check out his gear…the multi Marshall stacks…the 100 yard pedal board …the colossal rack of bleeping, flashing electro-computer-cleverness…the whole trip…


A little Fender Bandmaster with all the tones set flat to 8, a beautiful turquoise strat, and one black jack to jack lead.

It all comes out of ten little fingers and one big heart. And that’s what he’d been teaching me all along.

Many thanks to Rick, and Chrissy (read her words on Sigur Rós here), for joining us in our Why I Love column. It’s been a pleasure to feature them and this story about Eric Clapton is wonderful!

Check out the video below of The Blackheart Orchestra performing Wolves live and be sure to check out the bands Facebook show next week (link here).

The Blackheart Orchestra: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp / Instagram 

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