Sunday, October 5, 2014

CLAPTON: A progress report

I'm about two-thirds of the way through Eric Clapton's CLAPTON: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (2007). I don't know if I'll be able to finish it.
With all the rave reviews this book got, the reviewers left out one very important thing.
It's dull.
Now Eric would probably be the first person to tell you that he's not the most exciting guy in the world. But still....
The chapters on The Yardbirds, Cream and Blind Faith are all pretty thin. The chapter on Eric touring with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends is actually pretty good.
The chapter on Derek and the Dominoes is short, but Eric did at least mention the fatherly talk Atlantic Records head Ahmet Ertegun gave him about drug addiction, and about how Atlantic almost lost Ray Charles that way....
Clapton does talk about making little homemade recordings of his guitar playing during the years he lost to heroin -- indicating that there was something inside him that was trying to get out.
He mentions Bobby Whitlock of the Dominoes sending him a tape of some guys in Tulsa that Whitlock thought Clapton might want to play with -- that led to 461 OCEAN BOULEVARD.
But Clapton never mentions crazy drummer Jim Gordon coming to Eric's house after the Dominoes fell apart and screaming for hours for Clapton to come out....
I've followed Clapton through his pursuit of Patti Boyd, to the point where it's obvious that even though they're finally together and should be happy, she isn't going to change his life either ... and so, after pursuing her for YEARS, after dedicating an album to her, he keeps sleeping with other women....
Now I'm into his heavy-drinking and seeking-treatment phase.... The years he lost to drug abuse and drinking get more pages in this book than his bands.... Clapton did keep a diary through at least some of these experiences, so the thinness of things can't be blamed on his bad memory....
Right now I'm going back through his chapter on playing with John Mayall on the BLUESBREAKERS album, because the whole "Clapton is God" thing was really starting to cause Eric and his band problems by the early '80s ... but up to then he hadn't mentioned the whole "Guitar God" thing anywhere else in the book. At least I didn't notice it before....
...OK. There's no reason for anyone to expect Clapton to bare his soul in his memoir when he's already done it in "Layla," right? But then, why write a book if you've got nothing that interesting to say?
If you want to know where songs like "Badge," "Let it Rain," or "Let it Grow" came from, this book won't tell you. He does explain what triggered "Presence of the Lord." You might be surprised. "Badge" isn't mentioned at all.
I'm gonna try to at least get through his marriage to Boyd and when he lost his son.... but if I never update this review, you'll know I couldn't finish the book. It's an easy read, but I wish there was more depth here.
Thanks to a Regular at work, I've been listening to Clapton and Steve Winwood's live album from Madison Square Garden -- some of it's pretty great. Their version of Hendrix's "Little Wing" is gorgeous. "Can't Find My Way Home" sounds really good. Even "Dear Mr. Fantasy" is OK. And even "Glad," one of the few Traffic songs I liked, sounds OK -- and I didn't think you could do that piece without Chris Wood's saxophone.
They do a good version of Buddy Miles's "Them Changes." "Forever Man" sounds pretty great. Buddy Holly's "Well All Right" is excellent. And what a band! And Chris Stainton helps out on keyboards!
It's a lot better than Clapton's book.

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