Saturday, January 19, 2008

Clapton: An Autobiography (A Review)

There have been a bunch of musical autobiographical books on the market lately. This one by Eric Clapton and Ronnie by Ronnie Wood are probably the two that I was most interested in reading. I was actually planning on reading the Ronnie Wood book first but last week I was walking through Target and I noticed the Eric Clapton book on the shelves and I decided to pick it up so that I would have something to read at the airport or in the hotel.

I have always had mixed feelings about Eric Clapton. When I was in middle school my friends and I used to hang out at Gerber Music in the Shoppingtown Mall. This was a large store that sold both musical instruments and records (pre Compact Disc days). The store was jam back with guitars, drums, keyboards and amplifiers. They were a Music Man dealer and Eric Clapton was a Music Man spokesman. There was big poster of Eric playing a Gibson Explorer in front of a stack of Music Man amps and underneath someone had written "Roar like Clapton used to with Music Man". Even though I really was to young to remember Cream it did make me laugh since this was the 70s and Eric Clapton was perfecting his laid back style.

I spent a lot of my high school years looking for the original John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers featuring Eric Clapton and I also owned the import Blind Faith album with the original art work. When I shoot the Sheriff was a hit the local library had 461 Ocean Blvd available for loan and this recording remains one of my favorite albums. When I first heard Layla on the radio I thought it was one of the most powerful songs I had ever heard. I have always had the feeling the George Harrison was Duane Allman to Eric Clapton's Dickie Betts. After leaving the Beatles George Harrison developed the most unique slide guitar style outside of Lowell George.

The life story of Eric Clapton starts out with the similar story that seems to be common in all successful people that feel the need to write their autobiography. Eric was raised by his grandparents and thought his mother was his sister. He never knew his father and never developed a healthy rationship with his mom even after learning the truth. While the story leaves the reader feeling sympathetic to Mr. Clapton it is the other people that come into his life that you truly feel sorry for.

The woman with Eric Clapton in the picture above is Alice Ormsby-Gore who comes into Eric's life as a teenage school girl and is with him during the 3 years he spent as a heroin addict. Her story is reflective of a pattern that seems to echo throughout the book. Mr. Clapton yearns for the things he does not have while mistreating the things he does have. Ms. Ormsby-Gore's ending is one of the more tragic stories in the book but not the only one. Girlfriends, wives and band members gain notoriety and fame but often paying a high price.

There are some things that are definitely missing from the book. While Jim Gordon's name is mentioned his story is not expanded on. Also, missing is any mention of Sheryl Crow. However, a lot of models and backup singers are. The relationships do make for a great story. Especially the lengendary love triangle between George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Pattie Boyd.

The fact that Mr. Clapton was able to survive while many of his fellow musicians and hangers on did not is a fantastic story. Once the story hits the Yardbird years it is hard to put the book down. On several occasions I found myself reading late into the night even though I knew I had to get up early for work.

The book even has a mention about track bike culture. One of Eric Clapton's Japanese artist friends arrives on a Cinelli Vigorelli. It turns out that Mr. Clapton is also a collector of vintage road bikes even though he does not ride them. In fact it turns out the Eric is collector of lots of things.

Now I have to read Patti Boyd's book.


brettok said...

Nice review... I don't need to read the book now! Never was a big Clapton fan, but I like a lot of the Cream's stuff.

Isorski said...

Hey, I really enjoyed your review. I read the book and had some similar observations. I posted a review at my site, at, and am going to post on the Ronnie book as well, later this week.

"Clapton" and "Ronnie" are great to read back to back. Clapton got his act together (finally) but I feel like Ronnie is still on the edge of slipping backwards, and always will be.

Flametop59 said...

Hi Isorski,

Thank you for reading my blog. I just finished "Ronnie" yesterday. I actually was able to pick it up at Barnes & Noble for 1/2 price. I was actually planning on reviewing "Ronnie" today when I get some time.

Thanks again for your comments.