Eric Clapton: “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (1975)

Clapton nicked Knock while working with Arthur Louis, effectively preempting Louis’ own shot at a hit single.

Kronomyth 4.8: A nicked knock.

Blues guitarist/singer Arthur Louis had the idea to create a reggaefied version of Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. Eric Clapton, who was working with Louis at the time, liked the idea enough to try it himself, releasing his own version of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” as a single, with a Louis original, Someone Like You, on the B side. Now, it’s most likely that Clapton was trying to help rather than hinder Louis’ career but, with Clapton’s version to rally around, radio stations all but ignored Louis’ single of the same song.

In his defense, Clapton’s version is noticeably slower and features a much more distinctive rhythm guitar. The two versions are more alike than apart, but that shouldn’t be surprising as they share the same source. Jerry Garcia later did a reggae version of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” too, and in many ways the reggae version has overshadowed the original. (I prefer Dylan’s version, fwiw.) The B side, “Someone Like You,” also has a pronounced Dylan/Band feel to it, all of which was leading up to their collaboration on No Reason to Cry, I guess. Of interest, both songs didn’t appear on an Eric Clapton album until years later.

Original 7-inch single version

A1. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan) (4:21)
B1. Someone Like You (Arthur Louis) (4:30)

Promotional 7-inch single version
A1. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (short version) (Bob Dylan) (3:40)
B1. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (long version) (Bob Dylan) (4:21)

Back-to-back hits 7-inch single reissue
A1. I Shot the Sheriff (Bob Marley) (4:22)
B1. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan) (4:20)

The Players

Eric Clapton, Yvonne Elliman, Marcy Levy, Jamie Oldaker, Carl Radle, Dick Sims, George Terry. Produced by Albhy Galuten (credited to Tom Dowd on the UK single).

The Plastic

Released on 7-inch single in August 1975 in the UK (RSO, 2090 166), the US (RSO, SO-13) and Japan (RSO, DW-1102) with regional picture sleeve. Also released as promotional 7-inch single in 1975 in the US (RSO, SO-513) feat. long/short versions. Reached #38 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-released with “I Shot the Sheriff” on back-to-back hits 7-inch single in May 1982 in the UK (RSO, RSO-88) and the US (Polydor, 871 832-7). Reached #62 on the UK charts (charted on June 5, 1982 for 2 weeks).
  2. Re-issued with “I Shot the Sheriff” on B2B 7-inch single in March 1986 in the UK (Old Gold, OG 9586).

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