After opening my presents on Christmas morning my wife confessed to a gift she nearly bought me. The confession was a closing to an aside she had made a couple of weeks earlier, when she mentioned having consulted with Townsman Andyr on a possible gift for me. For the next couple of weeks I tried to imagine what she might have discussed with him and what his advice would have been. I’d browse lists of box sets and new rock bios, hoping that my friend would not steer her wrong. Little did I know, as my wife confessed that morning, that it was a tongue-in-cheek gift she had in mind: the Eric Clapton autobiography, Clapton. Would you believe my oldest friend in the world suggested that she not play into our typical “slave to humor” dynamic? (It’s cool, though, 35 years of friendship do not evaporate over one such bum suggestion.) Would you believe that later than day another family member, with no knowledge of my wife’s prior consideration, gave me the book as a Christmas gift?
I tore through this autobiography in a week’s time. Not because I’m a big fan of Eric Clapton but because, as I waded through the early chapters, I was fascinated at the sober, straightforward self-portrait of a man that was developing. As boring and unsatisfying as the autobiography could be – much like the man’s music – the story was refreshing in its departure from the typical rock star story of Rise and Fall and Rebirth With the Help of a Strong Woman. Ralph Fiennes can hold off on those guitar lessons. This autobiography may be second to Bob Dylan’s excellent Chronicles, Vol. 1 on the Hollywood Screenwriters Guild’s “Pass” list.
A couple weeks ago I borrowed the DVD/CD set of Clapton Sessions With Robert J (or some title like that). This was a corollary to the CD of Robert Johnson covers that Clapton did a few years ago. Despite my love of Johnson, I never bothered with that. I recall some mediocre at best reviews, so I’m not sure why I bothered with borrowing this set. Even as I checked it out, I figured I’d be returning it unplayed in a few weeks.
But I did watch the DVD (and apparently, the CD is an audio of most of the songs on the DVD, not the original CD of the Johnson covers). And I was amazed at how good it was; I can’t recall a bigger example of reality exceeding expectations by so much.
There were, I think, 14 songs, some with a band (including Billy Preston), some with only Doyle Bramhill, and a couple with only Clapton. The band cuts were good, the solo cuts were great, and the cuts with Bramhill were fantastic.
But what really made the DVD were the documentary parts. There was the usual background on Robert Johnson but without the concentration on the deal with the devil bit. Part of the filming was done at one of the two hotels where Johnson recorded his work. It’s some hotel in Dallas which still exists but is abandoned and in disrepair. Call me sentimental (alright, you’re sentimental) but it added something special to see Clapton playing in the same room that Johnson had played 60 plus years previous. I’ve never had anything against backstory.
And the best part was Clapton discussing his intro to Johnson and his love for the music. He discussed Johnson guitar style, illustrating as he spoke. He marveled at how Johnson could get the sounds he got, how sophisticated the playing was, how he hadn’t yet figured out how to do it (that’s why he said he needed Bramhill), how it would take an individual a lifetime of study and work just to do what Johnson did.
None of it came off as false modesty, none of it seemed anything but genuine love and marvel for Johnson, his talents, and his music. Listening to this, you could see why Clapton did what he did way back when.
“Thank God for the Internet. When I am away from the family for long periods of time like this, we use it alot, sometimes just to say goodnight when it’s the kids’ bedtime, but also generally to try and stay current. I honestly can’t imagine life now without
Sounds like a quote from Nigel Tufnel.
I wonder what Clapton’s bookmarks look like on his computer. I bet he just uses the ones that come pre-loaded on Internet Explorer.
I think you may be getting at what bugs me or turns me off about most of his post-Cream stuff, he just seems so humorless, and it extends to how he plays and what he writes. It’s almost like he thinks that playing the blues requires him to stay in that frame of mind 24/7. I can’t listen to that kind of music all the time, and I sure can’t imagine walking around in that kind of mindset every day like he seems to do.
Somebody should buy him a Wii or something.
Now, wait a second, Your wife did not couch this as a tounge-in-cheek gift.
When she mentioned the book we did discuss whether it would be good in a funny kind of way, and I was concerned that it wouldn’t even rise to *that* level. I was just looking out for you Bro.
Here is thw actual convo that went down
Sondra “I wanted your opinion – I was thinking of getting Jim the Clapton autobiography for Christmas, but it is really hard for me to tell from the reviews written on Amazon whether he will hate it or think it is hilarious. Do you know anything about it”
Me: “I think Jim probably wouldn’t like it too much but it would make for a great RTH post. Jim really doesn’t like Clapton”.
You callin’ my wife a liar?
That’s funny, Homes.
I appreciate this summary of the Clapton bio. It’s interesting to see him as a dull, musical tightwad, and certainly his work in recent years bears that out. It’s strange but not surprising how serious drunks, when finally sober, can turn out to be so boring. I wonder if the hit-and-miss nature of his early music would have been even more miss if he hadn’t been wasted so often.
For the record, I suspect foul play in the most recent Poll numbers.
What foul play? Huey’s earning his votes fair and square!
Nice write-up Mod. Thanks. I realize now that it really is in the way that you use it.