Bill Levenson On Life In 12 Bars Soundtrack

Grammy award winning producer Bill Levenson kindly took the time to sit down with Where’s Eric! to talk about his work producing the soundtrack to Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars. Bill was at PolyGram Records and Universal Music Group for almost 30 years. He is now president of a music consulting company that specializes in reissues, compilations, tape vault research and catalog management. While at PolyGram and Universal, Bill compiled Eric Clapton’s Crossroads, Crossroads 2, Derek & The Dominos’ Layla 20th Anniversary Collection, Cream’s Those Were The Days, the 461 Ocean Boulevard Deluxe Edition and numerous other sets across a wide variety of musical genres. In addition to the Life In 12 Bars soundtrack, Bill’s most recent EC-related projects include Give Me Strength: The ’74/’75 Studio Recordings, the Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs 40th Anniversary Editions and the Slowhand 35th Anniversary Editions.

The interview was conducted by Barry Fisch. A regular contributor to Where’s Eric!, Barry’s interviews with Bill about his Eric Clapton projects are a traditional fixture in the magazine and on this site. He is also a record industry veteran who worked with Bill on the Crossroads box set and other projects while both were at PolyGram Records.

Bill Levenson: “A film has so many elements tying it together.  You’ve got images, dialog; a story arc, and the music supporting it.  On an audio soundtrack, all you have is the music.  The challenge in developing the Life in 12 Bars soundtrack was to compile a cohesive soundtrack, to come up with something that was integral, had continuity, and still accurately represented the movie”.

Here Bill talks about many of the tracks on the CD/LP/Digital audio soundtrack to the film “Eric Clapton: Life In 12 Bars” and describes to us why he decided to include them.  A much more in-depth interview with Bill talking about what was involved in the planning and compiling of the soundtrack, a future Cream project, and more will be featured in the upcoming print issue of Where’s Eric! Magazine (#47).

BACKWATER BLUES (Big Bill Broonzy), MY LIFE IS RUINED (Muddy Waters), I’VE GOT MY MOJO WORKING (Muddy Waters) – All three recordings featured early in the film.  These three tracks, all influences in Eric’s career, set the tone for the soundtrack.

I WISH YOU WOULD (The Yardbirds) – In the film the Granada TV performance is featured. Due to licensing issues and the ability to source a complete performance, the original studio single version is included.

FOR YOUR LOVE (The Yardbirds) – The original studio single version, as featured in the film.

STEPPIN’ OUT / ALL YOUR LOVE (John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton) – Two stellar recordings from the classic John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers featuring Eric Clapton album.  Of course, Steppin’ Out went on to become a live Cream favorite. 

I FEEL FREE (Cream) – Not featured in the film, but a pivotal recording in Cream and Eric’s career.

STRANGE BREW (Cream) – Another stellar recording, featured in the film.

SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE (Cream) – Though not featured in the film, this track is essential for any Eric Clapton retrospective.

GOOD TO ME AS I AM TO YOU (Aretha Franklin) – A highlight of the film, one of many sessions Eric lent his guitar work to.

CROSSROADS (Cream) – Not featured in the film; the film includes “Toad”. To represent Cream in concert, we opted to feature the live version of the landmark “Crossroads” instead, as well as live versions of “White Room” and “Spoonful”, rationalizing that they were better choices for the soundtrack than the 20 minute long “Toad”.

WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS (The Beatles) – As featured in the film. We were so thrilled to be able to include both “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “My Sweet Lord” in this set!  Special thanks go out to the folks at Universal and Apple for making this happen!

BADGE (Cream) – It can be said that “Badge” is the matching bookend to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with George Harrison contributing to this magnificent Cream recording.

SPOONFUL (Cream) – Though not featured in the film, this unreleased version “Spoonful” recorded at the L.A. Forum showcases the band on their final US tour, at a time where the tour is starting to spin out of control.  Here’s the band at the top of their powers performing “Spoonful” with the audience rushing the stage, interrupting the performance. The tension is palpable, capturing this moment perfectly. 

PRESENCE OF THE LORD (Blind Faith) – the film features the live version of “Presence of the Lord” from the Hyde Park London concert. We considered including the live track but just couldn’t work out the licensing for it.  This studio version, from the Blind Faith album, is without doubt, one of the finest recordings to come out of this era.

COMING HOME (Delaney & Bonnie & Friends) – not featured in the film.  While the film moves from Blind Faith to Derek & The Dominos, we felt that the soundtrack would work better if we also touched on Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, too. 
We felt that the best way to “connect the dots” was to feature the full length version of “Coming Home” from the Delaney & Bonnie & Friends On Tour recordings.  While the Blind Faith track closes Disc One, this track opens up Disc Two, starting a second arc in the soundtrack – Delaney & Bonnie > Delaney Bramlett produced first solo album > Derek & the Dominos (which features musicians from Delaney & Bonnie & Friends).

AFTER MIDNIGHT / LET IT RAIN (Eric Clapton) – not featured in the film.  These rare mixes, originally prepared by Eric Clapton in 1970, have not been heard by many people, are arguably the best versions of the two career highlights.

HIGH (Eric Clapton) – As featured in the film, this is one song on the soundtrack slightly out of chronological sequence. This recording of “High”, dates from the May ’71 Olympic Studio sessions for the second Derek And The Dominos album.  Eric revisited “High” for his 1975 album “There’s One In Every Crowd”.

MY SWEET LORD (George Harrison) – Recorded the summer of ’70, right before Eric began his Layla sessions in Miami.

GOT TO GET BETTER IN A LITTLE WHILE (Derek & The Dominos) – Not in the film. Arguably, one of finest recordings Eric ever made.  From the same May ’71 Olympic Studio sessions that yielded “High”.

I SHOT THE SHERIFF (Eric Clapton) – For years I’ve been trying to find the right place to present the “I Shot The Sheriff” full length version.  It’s inclusion works on two levels – it’s a well-known song, which makes it a great inclusion for the casual fan, and it’s an unreleased long version which is great for the hardcore fan.

LITTLE QUEENIE (Eric Clapton) – is featured in the film; the moment on tour where things get dark, and I thought that period should be represented by a live track, so “Little Queenie” recorded on tour at Long Beach was included.

MAINLINE FLORIDA (Eric Clapton) – This 461 Ocean Boulevard album track closes the film (under the titles). For the soundtrack we made the decision to end the second arc of the set with Mainline Florida, as the film moves forward with more focus on Eric’s life in the eighties, nineties and present.

TEARS IN HEAVEN (Eric Clapton) – Appears in the film. Chosen as the soundtrack’s closing track, this August 1991 recording has lost none of its poignancy.

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