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Flashback: Brian May, Eric Clapton Play ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ With Joe Cocker

Brian May generated a lot of headlines this week when he criticized Eric Clapton for his anti-vax statements and his refusal to perform at venues that insist that all attendees be vaccinated.

“I love Eric Clapton, he’s my hero, but he has very different views from me in many ways,” May told The Independent. “He’s a person who thinks it’s OK to shoot animals for fun, so we have our disagreements, but I would never stop respecting the man.

“Anti-vax people, I’m sorry, I think they’re fruitcakes,” he continued. “There’s plenty of evidence to show that vaccination helps. On the whole, they’ve been very safe. There’s always going to be some side effect in any drug you take, but to go around saying vaccines are a plot to kill you, I’m sorry, that goes in the fruitcake jar for me.”

Clapton and May have performed at a number of charity shows together over the years, and one of the most notable ones took place at the Royal Albert Hall on June 6th, 1988. It was the Prince’s Trust Concert and they were on an incredible bill that also included Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Leonard Cohen, the Bee Gees, Mark Knopfler, Joe Cocker, Howard Jones, and T’Pau.

The night wrapped up with everyone onstage for the Joe Cocker version of “With a Little Help From My Friends.” At rehearsals, Clapton shocked May by asking him to play the opening riff. “I kind of froze,” May recalled in 2018. “I figured that being Eric Clapton, he’d want to do it. [That riff is] something that every guitarist would love to do. He goes, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ I’m just happy to do the rhythm.’ “

As you can see from this video, it went off very well. But the next day, an engineer told May that they failed to record his guitar parts. “At this moment, my heart kind of sinks,” May said. “I said, ‘Should we just put it on?’ So I went in the truck and played it exactly like I played it the night before.”

The two guitarists joined forces again in 2002 for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee concert, but future collaborations seem unlikely now that May has placed Clapton in the “fruitcake jar.” That’s a hard jar to come out of.

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