Jan 292008
 

Another early theme in Clapton’s autobiography is a preoccupation with his ranking among other British rock guitar greats. It’s funny that almost anyone who might be considered in his league is quickly considered not comparable because he’s from a “rockabilly,” rather than blues, background. He uses this distinction, for instance, to shake off any heat that he might have felt from Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, and later Albert Lee, who’d joined one of his touring bands in the late-’70s or early-80s. Reading stuff like this in the early chapters, I kept thinking, Is this guy completely unaware of how insecure and conceited he sounds? In the moment, so to speak, of his autobiography, he does not stop to analyze himself. It’s only in the later chapters, after he’s been through years of therapy and rehab, that he’ll comment on him shortcomings in a very dry, direct way. I can’t judge if Clapton’s blooz ever reached the level of understatement and truth he’d long desired, but his writing in this book occasionally does.

Matter of fact

In keeping with his matter-of-fact tone, the book is not big on all the scandalous, debauched aspects of the man’s life. All the stuff you might have imagined would have made for a racy, vicarious thrill-ride – fighting with Ginger and Jack, the whole Patty/George triangle, riding the white horse during the making of the Derek and the Dominos album, doing blow with Robbie Robertson and getting so high he didn’t know his strap fell off – is downplayed, if in there at all. Actually, it’s unfair to say it’s downplayed. I think it’s discussed in Clapton’s natural voice, which is generally a bit self-critical and thoroughly unimpressed with his own doings. It’s cool the guy is aware that he’s not half the guitarist some would have made him out to be, but his guitar took him all too far. Rarely does he invest much emotion in the retelling of a particular unhinged life experience. Even the inevitable chapter on his son Conor, who fell out an apartment window to his death, is dry and direct. As a bit of a drama queen myself, who relishes life’s highs and lows and feels the need to milk them for all they’re worth, I was intrigued by Clapton’s perspective.

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  9 Responses to “Clapton Is Man”

  1. 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.

  2. “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
    it…”

    Sounds like a quote from Nigel Tufnel.

  3. alexmagic

    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.

  4. 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”.

  5. Mr. Moderator

    You callin’ my wife a liar?

    That’s funny, Homes.

  6. 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.

  7. hrrundivbakshi

    For the record, I suspect foul play in the most recent Poll numbers.

  8. Mr. Moderator

    What foul play? Huey’s earning his votes fair and square!

  9. sammymaudlin

    Nice write-up Mod. Thanks. I realize now that it really is in the way that you use it.

 
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