i—Blues is all about pain. Eric (‘lapton is. and wants people to know it. all
about the blues.
l lidden behind a constantly changing visual image. the latest : edition of which is the baggy-but- srnart de-addicted Eighties man. he's been called the greatest guitarist in the world. He's been called (iod. lle's called himself a dinosaur. and he's said ’I am and always will be a blues guitarist.’ lle‘s playing the lidinburgh Playhouse on January 18 and his manager warns people without tickets to forget it. The London black market price is £20” at press-time. and the ('lapton camp want that stuffstamped out here before it starts. It's really important to them. Those who have got the right piece
; of paper to get past the door will get
edited highlights of ‘everything from ('ream onwards.‘ which means all the old favourites (yes. l’hil (‘ollins has cancelled Buster premieres in .lapan and Australia for this) like ‘Badge‘. ‘l.ayla’. ‘l5orevcr Man'. ‘Behind 'l’he Mask‘. some straightish blues and then some. No new material since his ‘Sb Ll’ .-lugusl. but maybe one or two of his recent personal favourites which fell offthe final selection for the album. plus pleasantly titillating rumours (and that’s all they are ) of appearances from Mark Knopfler and (ieorge llarrison.
lfyou've just tuned in. here's the story so far: born a few weeks before the end of World War 'l'wo. the illegitimate son of teenager Patricia (‘lapton and married ('anadian soldier lidward Fryer. liric was brought up by his grandparents. Rose and .lack ('lapp. in Ripley. Surrey. l lis mother married another (‘anadian soldier. Frank McDonald. and disappeared abroad. liric assumed his grandparents were his parents till his mother returned for a while ~ he acknowledges this as a huge personal trauma.
His first guitar was bought on HP when he was l3. l4. l5. lbor 17. depending which source material you clttmsc It) believe. Whenever it was. all sources correctly list the hire purchasers as his grandparents. Rose (‘lapp had been told by some school teacher. who deserves sainthood at the very least for observation. that liric was musical. l lowever. the need for a guitar was l 'ncle Mac’s fault. l’ew reading this will remember the days before Radio ()ne and pop at the push of a button. but way back in the days they make movies about. and snitch songs from. to advertise blue jeans. the BB(".s Light Programme gave kids surrogate aunties and uncles. l'nele .‘ylac played (‘lara (huff. (‘onnie Francis. Alma ( 'ogan and chucked in the occasional Berry or Big Bill Brooan to confound his junior nieces and nephews.
liric heard the blues and that was it. l-‘ound the Broonzy platter. checked out the other names on the sleeve. bought their records and so it grew. In the silence of his lonely room he practised to his grandmother’s distraction till he could match the music on the gramophone.
‘ "7"»: ~ 339?; _ ' ‘3; 3.! § ‘ . i I "t.
Still regarded by many as the L’
eatest guitarist alivie.
Eric Clapton has often permeated his music with the pain in his own life. Ellie Buchanan tells the Clapton story.
At 14 he went to the junior department of Kingston A rt ('ollege: he left the seniors at In. took temporary jobs as a labourer and postman before forming the Roosters with bassist 'l'om .‘ylc( iuinness. Singer. actor and Radio 'l‘wo blues anchorman l’aul .lones darted into their line-up fora ig or two when he was still l’. l’. ond (trivia freaks will know Jones and .‘vle( iuinness both still play in the Blues Band as and when). For three weeks or so liric then joined (‘asey .lones and the lingineers. but escaped to the Yardbirds in ()ctober ‘63. replacing struggling lead guitarist Anthony "l'op‘ 'l‘opham. 'l'hough he was a major factor in their success. he was never really one of the lads. and when bass-player l’aul Samwell-Smith engineered a shift away from straight R& B to a more commercial sound. resulting in their biggest hit to date. ‘For Your Love'. you couldn‘t see Eric for dust.
l le surfaced soon after in .lohn .‘ylayall's Bluesbreakers. disappearing for three months in 1065 to hurtle around (ireece en voiture. playing in a six-piece called The (ilands with a bunch of pals before returning to the serious business of breaking blues with
Mayall in Swinging London. .lack Bruce. then playing in the (iraham Bond ()rganisation alongside drummer ( iinger Baker. had periodically replaced John .‘ylcVie (later of Fleetwood Mac) on bass. He joined Mayall’s line-up officially while (‘lapton was in (ireece. leaving for Manfred Mann a month after liric got back. But the damage was done.
‘Jack was a very strong player. very dominant.‘ he said in a BB(' special two years ago. ‘You couldn't miss what he was doing. 'l‘he band came alive. Suddenly. instead of being how it's played on the record. there was this dynamic bass playing going on behind me. and I realised there was something more than just doing it by the book.‘
'l'he Next Big Thing was ('ream. recognised as the world's first supergroup. liric and Jack both say it was (iinger Baker‘s idea to get together with liric. but by now Eric wouldn’t travel without Jack. whom (iinger was trying to get away from at the time.
‘lt was doomed from the start.‘ (‘lapton observes wryly. ’l'he ego clashes which led eventually to separate planes. hotels and
limousines for a trio who latterly only met — and warred — on stage. were like a bad marriage.
It's more than 20 years since (‘ream split. but when people talk to lﬁric (‘lapton it doesn‘t take them long to get round to .lack Bruce. and ifone avoids Eric when interviewing .lack
he still hangs around in the air like a
question mark. Since the pairs official reunion. on Jack‘s l 'S victory
tour a few weeks ago. however. .lack now describes [jrie as ‘a pussycat'.
While (iinger Baker provided what
Eric called ‘the fire‘ on stage and in
the studio. the rest of the time he was. according to l larvcy (ioldsmith. ‘()ut to lunch. I mean permanently out to lunch’. Between times. according to(‘lapton. he fought with .lack. while liric got caught in the middle. siding with (linger long enough to form Blind Faith. a band normally prefixed by ‘the ill-fated' because it didn‘t last long.
(linger went his own way ((iinger always went his own way). surfacing last to play with .lohn Lydon and l’il.. .lack went solo and l‘iric joined a succession of bands. including Delaney and Bonnie and Derek and the Dominoes. before settling into his current mode of interspersing solo tours with Royal Visits to other well-known line-ups (cg Dire Straits). lle alsojoined a long line of junkie musicians. following that dependence with years of alcoholism.
‘()nce you start taking [heroin] it becomes part of your bloodstream. part of your system. so that when you run out you need to get more. I wasn't suicidal. I didn't want to die — I just wanted some peace. some
tranquility. and obviously a chemical
was required to give me that in some way.‘ he admitted to .‘ylelvyn Bragg last year. 'Blake said the road of excess leads to the path of wisdom. I believe that. It'sonly for certain people. though. lwouldn‘t recommend it to everyone.‘
'l'he oblivion he sought was to quell
the pain he was in. first smack and then booze were alternative analgesics to the music which both caused and soothed it. 'l‘he pain which drove (‘lapton at that time. apart from the deaths of his grandfather. Jimi Hendrix. w ho'd become a close personal soul-mate. and later Duane Allman. was his consuming passion for l’atti llarrison. for whom he wrote Layla.
“It was an impossible quest. You don‘t fall in love with the wife ofa Beatle. It‘s not good form.‘ But he did. and eventually married her in 197‘). 'l'hey've now split. and though strange stories circulate in the tabloids about his love life. it's clear the pain is still there. His 1%‘7 (‘hristmas single. 'l loly .\lother‘. may have been tonally softer than earlier classics. but was still the cry from the heart he defines as blues.
'I started writing that in a state of complete dejected loneliness. Just completely rock bottom. didn't know where to turn. The words just came out. Why Holy Mother‘.’ I don‘t know. Yes I do. it‘s a spiritual thing. It‘s just “someone come and nurse me. please".‘
10 file List 13 -- lo January