Sunday, January 27, 2008

Book Review - Clapton

Santa was very good to me this year, spoiling me with CDs, DVDs and books I am too lazy to go out and get myself.

One of the books I got was Eric Clapton’s autobiography, Clapton, which I plowed through in just a few days. It’s organized well and moves at a good clip.

I really wanted to read this book despite the fact that I am still an emerging fan of Clapton. I have always been a fan of his when he sits in with other people or does one off jams. For example, his work on Roger Waters’ The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking, or his blazing rendition of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” from the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary concert.

But I find his solo work spotty and totally overrated for the most part. My faves are things like the RUSH soundtrack, 24 Nights and the album he did with B.B. King, Riding With The King. I find most of his 70s and 80s work pretty forgettable.

The book helped me appreciate his work much more, however, because I got the impression that Clapton would agree with me about the spotty nature of his career! I mean, I always knew he had addiction issues – heroin in the 70s and booze later on. But I had no clue the guy was a full blown raging, pathetic alcoholic for more than 20 years. Even when he was riding high in the 80s, with all those bogus (but successful) albums with Phil Collins producing, he was growing worse and worse in his addictions.

The first thing my friend Al and I agreed on about Clapton’s book was what a total pile this guy was. He stole his friends’ women, totally corrupted a minor who eventually overdosed, fired his bandmates and managers left and right, and had zero loyalty, breaking up every successful group he ever played in. Of course, when you spend most of your childhood raised by your grandparents, who tell you your mother is your sister when it’s really your mother, you’re bound to have issues.

The book is a fascinating and sobering (no pun intended) look at addiction. For example, at one point Clapton has a bottle of booze and a shotgun and is going to kill himself because he has hit bottom. But he doesn’t do it because he thinks, “If I am dead, I won’t be able to drink anymore.” Wow. That is serious addiction. I can’t even fathom that level of addiction and it made me reel out a mile more rope with which to cut Clapton some slack.

But somewhere in the late 80s, when he finally kicks his addictions and his unhealthy relationship patterns, he turns into a pretty good guy. And miraculously, he stays clean (and has been for more than 20 years), even when his son dies tragically by falling out a 40 story window in downtown New York.

Now, Clapton helps people beat addiction through his Crossroads facility in Antigua, is a caring father and husband and by all accounts has his shit fully together and is the happiest he’s ever been in his life. Not the ending I would have predicted.

The books reminds the reader that life is a journey and it’s never over. Yeah, you may be an addict – and a total prick to boot – but you can always change. You can always turn it around and there is always hope. And now, I want to go and re-visit all of the albums I looked over, now that I feel that I know the man a bit better.


Guitarman5150 said...

I think your review is great as well. You go more indepth than I did. I thought I would just gloss over some of the highlights. Great site.

Sol said...

Good review. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving the link.

Sharon said...

Hey, great review. I totally understand where you're coming from in your comments. One thing I kept wondering to myself, as I read it, was how would I have been able to cope with being thought of as a god by so many people when I knew, in my heart, that I was a hopeless addict without the ability to maintain a healthy or living relationship with another human. I'd like to think I would have handled my life differently, but you never really know unless you've been there.

Thinking of it in that way helped me appreciate the honesty in which he told his story and cheer for him, in the end, when he actually got it all together.

I do think that so many people from his early years must have felt ripped off in a way that they were not a part of his life after he was able to turn it around.

I think he did a great job of thanking those that inspired him along the way -- giving credit where credit is due. I've read a few reviews that didn't get that out of the book at all.


Alannah Ryane said...

I appreciate the fact that you actually read the book ..i didn't just the interviews, and you stated Crossroads and how Eric "turned it around". I left mine as an observation you completed it with the upside..bravo.

Gitbuddy said...

Hey man - awesome review. I also have the Ronnie book which I plan to read as soon as I've finished "Jimmy Page, Musician, Mage, Man"!.


Sue said...

I was amazed to find your comment on my blog, which I just started.

Your review of Clapton gave me new insight. I always give people the benefit of the doubt, and I'm sure that was true of him

csd said...

You give a pretty spot on review of the book. Good job, and nice site.

Further on up the road said...

Thanks for looking me up.

Interesting view.

I agree on the patchy nature of his career - but I actually quite like Behind the Sun and August but acknowledge he had little to actually to with it as he was out of it.

Off to see him in Hyde Park - scene of the Blind Faith's first gig. I'm mostly going as it's obvious from the book with his hearing going etc. it won't be long until it's really difficult to ever see him again.

pk fairaday said...

Yes, that's it!

Don Capone said...

Good review! Did you read Pattie Boyd's book too? I read it right after Eric's for the other side of the story.

Like the blog.

magpie said...

thanks a lot for the tip!
i just read your text and wow!you sure knows a lot abiut rock n roll!
m gonna visit your blog more often!