Reflecting on his time with John Mayall, Jimmy Page shared an interesting tidbit about the recording of the track “I’m Your Witch Doctor/Telephone Blues.” Interestingly, during its recording, Eric Clapton was once described as “too challenging to capture.”
This memory harks back to a time before Page’s rise to fame with Led Zeppelin, and even before his stint with the Yardbirds. In those days, Jimmy Page was perfecting his craft as a session guitarist but also dabbled in producing for various artists. Reminiscing about the experience in a recent social media post, he recounted the time when John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, featuring Clapton, were recording at Pye Studios. Page was brought on board by Immediate Records to oversee production.
Sharing some details, Page mentioned, “The lineup at the Pye Studios session was a blend of talent: Hughie Flint’s jazz-inspired drums, John McVie’s steady bass, John Mayall’s commanding keyboards and vocals, and Clapton’s distinct guitar. The recording happened in June 1965. During the ‘Witch Doctor’ overdub, Eric had this vision to add a feedback-infused layer. I watched him set it up in-studio, then I returned to the control booth, signaling the engineer to proceed with the recording.”
Page further narrated an amusing incident where the engineer, evidently exasperated, labeled Clapton as “too challenging to capture”:
“Midway through, he abruptly stopped the recording, commenting on Clapton’s challenging play style. He felt Eric’s aggressive technique was pushing the equipment’s limits. I remember telling him to focus on his task and leave the creative decisions to me.”
Highlighting Clapton’s excellence, Page remarked, “Eric’s ‘Telephone Blues’ solo was sheer brilliance. Personally, I wished we had Ainsley Dunbar on the drums for ‘Witch Doctor.’ I was also at the helm for ‘Sitting On Top of the World,’ a testament to Mayall’s mainstream ambitions, and the intriguingly named ‘Double Crossing Time.’ The next thing I knew, they had teamed up with renowned blues producer Mike Vernon. Considering Eric departed The Yardbirds due to their mainstream aspirations, it was an intriguing twist!”