Classic Rock Review

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Clapton: The Autobiography by Eric Clapton (2007)

music_phases14From amazon.com

I love biographies, especially of celebrities, having read them all my life. As I have gotten older, though, my attention span wanes, and I read less and less. This book, Clapton:The Autobiography, is an exceptional one, and as a pseudo musician (I can play several instruments, but I certainly wouldn’t say I play any well), the prospect of reading about Eric Clapton, from the source, so-to-speak, was a prospect that excited me. I feel blessed that one can pre-order a book and have it on ones doorstep the day it hits the streets, as was the case with this book and the accompanying CD.

First of all, this is an exceptional book, but unlike some biographies, and fewer autobiographies, it is not one that would be a “page turner” for everyone because it is not full of cute anecdotes that make for sharing stories around the water cooler the next day.

A case in point is the time when Eric first met Jimi Hendrix. Chas Chandler of the Animals was trying to develop a career as a promoter and came across Hendrix in New York. Promising him a chance to meet Eric Clapton, he took Jimi to London. After meeting several musicians (Eric Burton, Andy Summers, et. al.), Chas took Jimi to hear Cream play. Backstage, Chas introduced Jimi, and they asked if Jimi could sit in with them for a few numbers, which seemed kind of ballsey. In Clapton, Eric writes that Jimi played Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” in true Hendrix fashion playing “the guitar with his teeth, behind his head, lying on the floor, doing the splits, the whole business.

It was amazing…..They (the crowd) loved it, and I loved it, too, but I remember thinking that here was a force to be reckoned with. It scared me, because he was clearly going to be a huge star, and just as we were finding our own speed, here was the real thing.” In other accounts I have read and heard about from others, Eric after seeing and hearing Jimi perform, goes over and sits down, looking rejected. Another musician comes over to ask him, “What’s wrong?” In some accounts it’s Jack Bruce, in other accounts it’s Peter Townsend. Eric replies, “I’m (expletive-deleted). If I’m “God,” who’s he?” Which to me would have been a funny anecdote.

It is still an exceptional book because it is so personal…. Filled with the flaws and mistakes of an exceptionally talented man who carried around for most of his life the baggage of being a “bastard” to some in his own family, for his mother had had an affair with a soldier during WWII and left him as a child to be raised by his grandparents. While learning that his “parents” were actually his grandparents, he writes at length of the insecurities of not having his mom there, and, the heartbreak of finally meeting her, and asking her if he could call her “Mummy now?” Only to be told, “”I think it’s best, after all they’ve done for you, that you go on calling your grandparent Mum and Dad.” Of that moment, he wrote, “In that moment I felt total rejection.”

Growing-up wasn’t all that bad, though. Eric showed some talent in art, and music was something that his Grandmother Rose loved. He wasn’t a diligent student, but in art, and later in the guitar, he worked long and hard at learning and later creating.

This is a very thorough book, almost a true musician’s book because it leaves out nothing of the ups-and-downs that seem to be the norm for all musicians. In the book, he talks of why some tunes were written a certain way, how he evolved in his musical craft, and what he was wanting to achieve in each group he played with. He mentions names on individuals in even the earliest of groups he played in, what they did together, and is very thorough in providing the reader his a written history of their achievements.

One wonders, though, where all this would have led had Eric not had so much alcohol and drugs in his early life, of if in some way, this was the catalyst to help him overcome those insecurities of his youth (Actually, he states this in a roundabout way that it was, but one still wonders just how much of what we have now would there have been with less alcohol and drugs.)

I can’t think of any aspect of Eric’s life that he doesn’t discuss in Eric: The Autobiography: His love life, particularly his infatuation with Patti Boyd, George Harrison’s wife; His relationships with other musicians and what he respected them for; His heartbreaks such as the loss of his son Conor.

I’ve given this book four stars, not because it is not exceptional, but because it isn’t one that will be readable and enjoyable to all. However, if you are a lover of rock and blues music, or one who really wonders just what has gone through the head of someone as influential as Eric Clapton, I would recommend it to you.

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May 22, 2013 Posted by | Book Clapton: The Autobiography by Eric Clapton | , | Leave a comment