The American R&B world – segregated from white society – may have been highly stylised but the English rock scene was a social system as rigidly stratified as every other area of English life: a hierarchy in which everyone knew their place and more often than not stayed in it.
The Beatles and The Stones ruled the pop world but in 1966 the newly emerging Rock world belonged to those perceived as virtuoso musicians.
To the top of this scene floated Cream.
It is hard to imagine today the degree of awe in which Cream were held.
Nobody got onstage with them (nobody was foolish enough).
So when on October 1 1966 at the London Poly – a slightly gawky unknown left-hander appeared among the Trinity the audience thought they were about to witness a ritual humiliation.
Some dumb American who didn’t know the form.
Ginger Baker scowled.
Clapton discreetly barred the way to his Marshall amp so Hendrix plugged into Jack Bruce’s bass amp.
Within thirty seconds of ‘Killin’ Floor’ Clapton’s jaw dropped and the hierarchy of the English rock world experienced a profound shift.