The more his music sucks, the chattier he becomes about it. I had no idea that Billy Preston joined him for the recording of the Reptile album, nor did I know such an album existed – did you? I did learn that the chord progression for “Tears in Heaven” was inspired by Jimmy Cliff‘s “Many Rivers to Cross”. Why couldn’t I have read one detail like that concerning the writing of “Badge”? Perhaps it’s because the chatty chapters are about his sober years. Perhaps he simply couldn’t remember many good stories about the recording of “S.W.L.A.B.R.” and “Layla”. Perhaps the couple of sentences about the Live Peace in Toronto show with John Lennon was all his drug-addled mind could recall.
Finally, we’re treated to an entire chapter about a recent year-long tour that reads more like the unedited diary of a middle-aged office worker:
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…
The segments in which Clapton discusses his work building a rehab center in Antigua, although boring as hell, are kind of nice. His passion for recovery is as enthusiastic and humble as his passion for Da Blooz, the right trousers, fast cars, and his family (the really early chapters about his highly unusual bastard upbringing set the tone of disassociation that carries through into the chatty, sober chapters). After 60 years, the guy’s getting his shit together. He’s not fretting over whatever talent he might have squandered. He’s not celebrating some remarkable rebirth. He’s just turning out bland albums and fulfilling big tours, giving some regular folks an opportunity to think they’re experiencing a blues-rock legend.
This book is not for everyone, in fact, it may be for almost no one, but I’m thankful for having received a copy to read.
NOTE: In preparing for this piece I found an entry on the Licorice Pizza blog that discussed The New York Times‘ review of this Clapton autobiography. There’s some interesting stuff summarized at this blog as well as .mp3s from a typically mediocre Clapton live performance.