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Blind Faith: Steve Winwood on the problems of life in a supergroup

Blind Faith larking about during a photo shoot
Blind Faith in 1969: L-R Steve Winwood, Ric Grech, Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton (Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

These days it seems quite normal to refer to any one-off combination of musicians from various second division rock rock acts as a "supergroup", so sometimes it's worth reminding ourselves that the term really meant something once.  

Case in point? Blind Faith. One of the original supergroup, perhaps one of the best supergroups, and genuinely, undeniably "super". Two members of Cream, one member of Traffic, and the bass player from Family. You don't get much more super than that. 

In 2010, singer and keyboardist Steve Winwood told Classic Rock about the band's formation, and what happened next: the wrong shows, bad management and disintegration. 

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“By the spring of 1969 I had reached a kind of impasse with Traffic. I’d started jamming quite a bit with Eric Clapton at the Traffic cottage in Aston Tirrold and at his house in Surrey, Hurtwood. One night there was a knock at our door and there was Ginger [Baker], who had got wind of a possible new group. I was all for having him in, and it wasn’t until I read Eric’s book years later that I realised he wasn’t so keen on that idea. That shows you how little we spoke about these serious situations. 

“Anyhow, Blind Faith came into being. And there were immediate problems – with egos, with management and organisation. Those are all massive problems for a supergroup. The trouble is, when you start with the idea for a new group you have the whole of your life to figure out what you’re going to do, how to fine tune it and hone the act. 

"Then, if it’s successful your next problem is: what do we do next? You get stuck for a follow-up. It’s all about timing. You have to move very quickly on to the next project and make sure it isn’t a pale imitation of the debut."

“I blame the industry in part, for putting pressure on supergroups, because you’re trying to present a product to the world at large and every minute you take is money lost as far the business is concerned. They’re so excited with their supergroup, they want more. The result of that pressure is you start making mistakes, because you can’t just throw something together. 

“Maybe it was better that Blind Faith lasted for such a short time, but I loved it initially. At least the record we left, Blind Faith, was pretty good and stands up well. In retrospect, people even think it has a few classics on there, like Presence Of The Lord and Can’t Find My Way Home

“So we didn’t make a bad second, album but we did go on the road. And therein lay another problem. Because of our stature – me in Traffic and, more so, Eric and Ginger in Cream – we were booked into big places that were more suited to heavy rock stuff, whereas we were into messing around with tinkling guitars and subtle music. The Hyde Park debut, our free concert on June 7, 1969 was in front of at least 100,000 people, but the audience who came had no real idea what we were about."

"People saw Blind Faith before they heard them. It was a great gig, actually, even though we were still wrestling with the concept. We didn’t really know what we were about. We should have paid more attention to the record, in hindsight. But that’s easy to say now. 

“Management was also a problem. Three people had three different managers. Later I realised some awful decisions were made on our behalf. Everything becomes contractual – you appear ‘by arrangement with…’ It becomes business, which is dispiriting for the musicians. It wasn’t easy to resolve. 

“It didn’t take long until things came to a head, in America, because by now Eric already had his eye on many other things, like Delaney And Bonnie. And we just sort of disintegrated in the States. Blind Faith only lasted a few months, and by the end of it I didn’t really know where I was going.”

Steve Winwood was speaking with Max Bell.

Max Bell worked for the NME during the golden 70s era before running up and down London’s Fleet Street for The Times and all the other hot-metal dailies. A long stint at the Standard and mags like The Face and GQ kept him honest. Later, Record Collector and Classic Rock called.