Saturday, August 20, 2011

Eric Clapton: Let it Rain

Although Polydor Records had a small presence in the US during the late 1960s, most of its catalog was released through agreements with other labels. In some cases, Atlantic picked up the option for the Polydor product and these releases often were found issued on their ATCO and Cotillion imprints.

It was not unusual to see the terminology on these recordings listing: “A Product of Polydor-England.” Many of the Clapton related LPs had this designation; however, others including his first solo album listed “By arrangement with the Robert Stigwood Organization, LTD.” These two disclaimers indicated that the recordings were owned by someone else and licensed for release in the United States.

By 1972, Polydor and Phonogram merged to become Polygram. When this occurred, Polydor immediately had its own pressing, distribution, A&R, promotion, sales, and advertising staff in place in the form of Mercury Records, Phonogram’s primary US label. With Polydor now as a fully functional label in the US, no longer was a licensing arrangement necessary.

The switch of the Clapton and related catalog from ATCO seems pretty amicable, as Polydor initially released new compilation albums in North America so as not to directly compete with the original titles offered by ATCO.

In time, the ATCO records ceased being pressed and Polydor began pressing the original LPs with their own imprint. This was a great time to get some back catalog Clapton material as the cutout bins were flooded with albums by Cream, Blind Faith, Clapton, Derek and the Dominoes, and others.

The confusion didn’t stop there, as Robert Stigwood, Clapton’s manager started RSO Records in 1973 and the Clapton LPs were later moved from the Polydor imprint to RSO Records. The craziness continued as RSO originally was distributed by Atlantic, so once again Atlantic was pressing Clapton’s material only on the RSO label.

Until . . . Stigwood attempted to run a fully independent label and provided his own distribution. Again, the Clapton LPs went to the cutout bin. Finally, Stigwood moved distribution over to Polydor (back again with the Clapton material) and then later to Polydor’s parent company Polygram. When Stigwood sold the label to Polydor in 1981, all of the material was re-released on the Polydor label again.

What’s this have to do with our bubbling under song “Let it Rain?” Since that song was originally found on Eric Clapton’s self-titled debut album, there are numerous versions of the vinyl release of the album in the US. They include the following label configurations:
  • ATCO
  • Polydor
  • RSO, distributed by Atlantic
  • RSO (as an independent label)
  • RSO, distributed by Polydor
  • RSO, distributed by Polygram
  • Polydor (again)

Only an obsessive compulsive die-hard Clapton collector would have every one of these iterations. I imagine there is someone out there like this. Some of the short lived versions (such as the original Polydor) will be worth more than the original ATCO pressing because few of these LPs were pressed in comparison.

With Polydor’s effort to begin recouping their investment in the Clapton catalog, they issued the “Let it Rain” single from their new Clapton compilation: “Eric Clapton at His Best.” It was 1972, and I bought this single. Interestingly enough, the other single from the first Clapton LP, “After Midnight” had the same song on the flipside, “Easy Now.” Although “Let it Rain” was issued to promote the new compilation, and not its original LP.

The song was intended to do what ATCO had done earlier in the year with their Eric Clapton compilation, “The History of Eric Clapton.” Its release invigorated the Derek and the Dominoes cut “Layla” and a full 7:10 minute version of the single was released.

The previous year, ATCO had released a 2:43 version of the song to support “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.” I have both versions (talk about obsessive-compulsive). Despite having different lengths and realistically supporting two different albums, both singles were issued under the same catalog number – ATCO 45-6809 and both were credited to the original LP. The first attempt charted at #51, while the full-length version peaked at #10.

Likewise, Polydor hoped that the issuance of “Let it Rain” as a single would boost the new album’s sales. Unfortunately, I believe the public was Claptoned out in 1972 and “Let it Rain” only charted at #48 making a fitting Saturday Bubbling Under Hit. “Bell Bottom Blues” b/w “Little Wing” were issued as a single by Polydor in 1973 to also support “Eric Clapton at His Best.” Although I later bought a used copy of “At His Best,” I got both singles upon release.

I always thought that the vocals on the verse of this tune sounded more like George Harrison and not Eric Clapton. They two shared a symbiotic relationship musically and even shared the same wife too – but not simultaneously.

No comments:

Post a Comment