Eric Clapton Borrows The Beatles' "Day Tripper" Riff in Cover of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say"

by Damian Fanelli
Posted Sep 22, 2015 at 5:34pm

The late Ray Charles—the great American singer, songwriter, musician and composer—was born on this date (September 23) in 1930.

No, this factoid doesn't have a lot to do with guitars.

It does, however, remind me of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers' interesting 1966 version of Charles' 1959 hit "What'd I Say." The Bluesbreakers version features a young Eric Clapton on guitar.

To put it bluntly, even though it appears on a groundbreaking, legendary guitar album—Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton—"What'd I Say" is not a "standout track" by any means. It just sort of sits there, and its lengthy drum solo (played by Hughie Flint) isn't exactly "Moby Dick." Who knows, maybe it was a crowd favorite at the Bluesbreakers' live shows.

Anyway, there is this oddity: When the rest of the band comes back into the song after Flint's drum solo, Clapton is playing the very-hard-to-miss guitar riff from the Beatles' 1965 hit "Day Tripper"—over and over again. Is it theft? Is it plagiarism? Not really, folks. I mean, he's just having a bit of fun, quoting a famous song within another song, just as he did when he quoted the melody to Rodgers & Hart's "Blue Moon" in the guitar solo to Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love."

As a member of a cover band, I can tell you it's fun—and often funny—to insert the "Day Tripper" riff wherever it fits, which is almost any classic rock or upbeat blues song in E major. Try it!

Damian Fanelli is the online managing editor at Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado. His New York-based band, the Blue Meanies, has toured the world and elsewhere. Fanelli, a former member of Brooklyn jump-blues/swing/rockabilly band the Gas House Gorillas and New York City instrumental surf-rock band Mister Neutron, also composes and records film soundtracks. He writes GuitarWorld.com's The Next Bend column, which is dedicated to B-bender guitars and guitarists. His latest liner notes can be found in Sony/Legacy's Stevie Ray Vaughan: The Complete Epic Recordings Collection. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram.


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