The Bibliophile Recommends…

18 Oct

Since football season has started, my life hardly seems like my own. I live and breathe Vikings football. When I take a break from the Vikings it’s to set the line-up for my fantasy football team. So, I have been remiss and have neglected to write about things other than football. My bad.

But, somehow, in between all the football stuff that I’ve been reading and writing, I have been reading Eric Clapton’s 2007 autobiography. And, it gets the Bibliophile stamp of approval.

To be perfectly honest, I was kind of afraid to read Clapton’s autobiography when it first came out because I got depressed once reading a biography on John Lennon. By the time I quit reading about Lennon I didn’t like him as much as I had when I started and I did not want to run the risk of that happening with Clapton.

I really like Eric Clapton’s music and I was afraid that if he turned out to be a total prick it would kill the music for me. However, I found a used paperback copy of his autobiography and decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

There’s a big difference between hearing about someone’s life from some random egghead who thought it would make a compelling story and hearing about that person’s life straight from that person. The book is written in such an engaging conversational tone that it almost feels like you’re hanging out at a coffee shop just talking with Eric Clapton. And, while I would feel the temptation to gloss over things that were embarrassing or times when I’m stupid, Clapton feels no such compulsion. He shares his foibles in all their badness along with his achievements. Somehow he manages to convey all this without sounding like he’s glorifying his faults (he did a whole lot of drugs) or bragging about his accomplishments—they just are.

Here are a few interesting things I learned about Clapton from this book:

  • People were already scrawling the graffiti “Clapton is god” on subway walls before he was in Cream.
  • He tried to play, and then abandoned, the violin when he was a kid.
  • Prior to being in Cream when he was in his early 20s, Clapton had already been in a fistful of bands.
  • One of his bands opened for the Beatles.
  • He was in on the Beatles recording of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.
  • John Lennon once paid him for playing a gig by giving him a few pictures—which Clapton has since lost.

If you like Eric Clapton’s music and have ever been curious about his life, I would recommend this book. While sometimes it’s hard to follow because the timeline isn’t always clear and there are so many names thrown at the reader that it can be difficult to keep track of who he’s talking about, the engaging candor with which Clapton writes and the rare glimpse into not only the life of a rock legend, by a person who lived through one of the most exciting times in rock music makes Eric Clapton’s autobiography worth reading.

Clapton:  The Autobiography

Published by Broadway Books 2007

*Hey Purplegrey, this is for you 🙂


Posted by on October 18, 2010 in Books, Lifestyle, Series


Tags: , , , , , ,

21 responses to “The Bibliophile Recommends…

  1. Purplegrey

    October 20, 2010 at 3:33 AM

    Why thank you Chin and I must say that you couldn’t have picked a better book to review than “God” himself. Honestly, I’ve been one of Eric’s biggest fans since I first heard “Layla” back in the early 70’s! That album still ranks as one of my top 5’s. The beautiful blending of blues and slide guitars by him and Duane Allman makes for one of the great rock masterpieces of all time. So, I must confess…I bought the book when it was first published…but you already knew that, didn’t you? I’ve seen him in concert several times over the years but my favorite one was in Sept. of 95 at the US Air Arena near D.C. He was on his “From The Cradle” Tour and the promise was that it would be an evening of “Nothing But The Blues”…Boy, was that an understatement! He walked on stage and sat down with an acoustic guitar and played for about a half hour. It reminded one of his epic “Unplugged” set. Then after that he calmly got up, set the guitar down, and picked up his black Strat which brought the house down. He played like a man possessed that night, blowing the audience away with solo after solo…After every song, I felt, “Wow, how is he going to top that?” and you know what? He did. Towards the end of the evening he finally collapsed in a chair draping a towel over his head while the band played on. He then finished the show and walked off the stage to a thnderous ovation. Good times. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again but I’ll always wonder how he could possibly top that performance. I’m afraid I’d be disappointed. I mean, once you seen what had to be his best, anything else would be a letdown. I guess I just prefer to savor the memory ( I still have the t-shirt btw, lol). Clapton. To me he’s still the best and the epitomy of what every guitarist should aspire to be. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be anybody out there now to carry the torch for him, Stevie Ray, Jimi, or many of the other legends who are getting long in the tooth or have passed on.

    • chinspeaks

      October 20, 2010 at 4:37 AM

      A Vikings fan and now a Clapton fan too? If possible, your coolness factor just went up even higher. When my brother-in-law said Clapton was nothing special and not that great, I had to fight back the urge to slap him and tell my sister that she had grounds for divorce.

      That had to be one incredible concert you went to, I’m jealous. Want to give me your concert t-shirt? No? Well, can’t blame me for asking 🙂 I wish I could have seen him in concert with Steve Winwood last year because one of my all time favorites is “Presence of the Lord” by Blind Faith. I tell everyone that, in the event of my untimely death, I want that song played at my funeral. I think the guitar solo in church would be fan-freaking-tastic.

      You’re right, I’m having a hard time thinking of who would be the next generation heir-apparent(s) to the guitar gods. John Mayer, in between dumping women who are too hot for him and then crooning songs about treating women well (can’t do both of those things and not come across as a douchebag), seems to have some interest in serious blues guitar, if his inclusion in the Crossroads Festival is any indication. Not sure who else might fall into that category–must be too much football on my brain.

      • Purplegrey

        October 20, 2010 at 4:23 PM

        Steve Winwood is one of those guys that makes one wonder if there are any limits to how talented one person can be? I have a copy of Eric’s Crossroads Guitar Festival from 2007 and I was blown away by Steve’s performance of “Dear Mr. Fantasy”. I’ve known of Steve’s work from his early days as a teenage prodigy in the Spencer Davis Group but I never knew he was that accomplished on the guitar. His solos were incredible. I too was tempted to go see him and Eric on tour. All of those guys are getting up in age and you have to wonder how much longer they’ll tour.

        People who make ignorant statements about Eric are just clueless. Not knocking your brother-in-law but he probably thinks the Beatles were “nothing special’ either. To have lived through the wild 60’s to now, overcoming severe heroin addiction along with his bouts with alcohol in later years…the man is a survivor. How many people are left that can say they played with Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Duane Allman, Phil Collins, Stevie Ray Vaughan (another favorite) and many others alive and dead and still has the ability to rock with the best on stage at any given time? If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Last Waltz”, you see Eric at his best jamming onstage with Robbie Robertson of the Band to “Further On Up The Road”. I saw him play that song as an encore at one of the his concerts and you could tell he was having fun and that the song has special meaning. It wasn’t long after he had married Patti Boyd and during the show I noticed an attractive blonde sitting by the side of the stage watching the entire performance. I’m not totally sure but have reason to believe it was her.

        I doubt you’d want that old t-shirt. It’s old and faded from it’s original black color but I’ll always treasure it. The back of it has the words, “An evening of nothing but the blues”. That was a HUGE understatement. ” Presence” Of The Lord is such a beautiful song. BTW, Eric and Steve play a version of it on that same “Crossroads” dvd. I have several other live versions of it on vinyl, cassette, and cd. It’s one that you really want to see performed onstage. It’s funny that you mention it because he does another song called “Holy Mother” that I have thought would be perfect for a eulogy. If you’ve never heard it, you can find it on his August cd.

        I’ve wondered about the heirs many times over the years. After the tragic death of Stevie Ray (who, according to legend was given his seat on that helicopter by Eric) I just haven’t seen anyone new who has risen up. Maybe they will one day. Don’t know if you’re a fan of SRV but if you are, his box set is a must have. In the summer of 89 Stevie was touring with Jeff Beck and they would both appear onstage doing Jeff’s song “Going Down” and they ROCKED. A version of it is on that compilation.

      • chinspeaks

        October 24, 2010 at 5:44 PM

        I’m still discovering how talented Steve Winwood is. I grew up with “Higher Love” and “Roll With It”, so I have a fair amount of catching up to do on all of his many groups and projects. Until reading Clapton’s autobiography I didn’t know how very young Winwood was when he started out on the London music scene–just 15!

        As for my brother-in-law suggesting that Clapton is overrated, well, my b-in-l is one of those guys who thinks it makes him look clever to disagree with people. Clapton was one of the people who created the entire sound we associate with rock. To simply nullify his role in 1960s rock and the decades of music that have followed…I just don’t get it. Shoot, just finding out how many studio sessions Clapton played for other artists like Aretha Franklin and the Beatles was cool.

        I’m just sort of discovering the blues now. Mostly, I grew up with pop radio. It wasn’t until I was in college that I started branching out in my musical tastes to jazz. Oh, I do like some classic jazz 🙂 Billie Holiday is fantastic. She had just a little over an octave, but she made better use of her one octave than a lot of people do with a much better range. So it is kind of through rock and jazz that I’m getting interested in the blues now. Not quite sure where to start.

  2. Purplegrey

    October 25, 2010 at 5:34 AM

    Ahh the blues….Sweeter music has never been invented…Where do I begin? Well, for starters I don’t have the time or the space here to get rolling (wouldn’t want to overload your site!) I guess that Stevie Ray Vaughan is one of the best places to start…along with Eric, Hendrix, Johnny Winter, Albert King (who many say Stevie Ray got his style from) Here are a few recommendations:

    Eric Clapton- Derek and the Dominoes, Layla and Other Assorted Lovesongs (a must for any Clapton fan), E.C. Was Here (mostly blues but considered by many to be one of the best live recordings ever), From The Cradle (the album that Eric always wanted to make that was possible due to the success of Unplugged)

    Stevie Ray Vaughan- Everything! You can’t go wrong with the artist credited with introducing the blues to a whole new generation.

    Jimi Hendrix- His early albums; Are You Experienced?, Axis Bold As Love, and especially Electric Ladyland (the first album he had control over), and of course his live performances.

    Johnny Winter- The old Texas Bluesman himself (brother of Edgar Winter of Frankenstein fame) The guy is another survivor from the 60’s. He’s played with them all, survived heroin addiction, and still rocks out. He’s albino (almost totally blind) and in his 60’s now but his legacy is secure. His best stuff is on his Alligator Records Labels.

    Albert King- Thursday Night in San Francisco A great live recording that shows him at his best.

    I’m wondering if your brother-in-law still thinks he’s clever when he’s proven wrong? Bet that happens quite a bit when he makes statements like that. Anyway, I’ve heard a few of Billie Holiday songs and I was struck by her voice. It’s so soulful and you can feel her life pouring out in the words. From what I’ve read about her, she had a hard life. So tragic. She left us way too soon.

    Sorry about the long respose again but music and it’s history is one of my favorite subjects. Take care.

    • chinspeaks

      October 29, 2010 at 5:21 AM

      Thanks for the listening list! Sometimes it is intimidating to know where to start when I’m getting into a new interest–be it music or hobbies or whatever. So much good music out there, so little time 🙂

  3. Purplegrey

    October 31, 2010 at 1:49 AM

    No problem. I hope I was a little help. If I had to choose over any of the list, I’d pick Derek and The Dominoes, Layla. Since you’re already a Clapton fan, that cd is considered his best studio album of all time (and it’s over 40 years old!) A true rock masterpiece!

    • chinspeaks

      November 1, 2010 at 3:17 AM

      And that album was also a musical love letter to Patti Boyd. A good place to start 🙂

  4. Purplegrey

    November 1, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    You won’t be disappointed.

    • chinspeaks

      November 18, 2010 at 12:56 AM

      I’m sure you’re right 🙂

      • Purplegrey

        November 18, 2010 at 8:24 AM

        One cd I forgot in the Clapton collection is his “24 Nights”. This was recorded live in the early 90’s during his Royal Albert Hall performances. One of my favorite songs on the set is “Old Love” where he takes off on a blistering guitar solo, playing with the passion you would expect from one of the greatest of all time. Just thought I’d toss that out there….

      • chinspeaks

        November 19, 2010 at 9:56 PM

        Thanks, I’ll add it to the list 🙂 So much good music, so little time…

  5. johnnyviking

    November 30, 2010 at 6:15 PM

    Hey PM!! Haven’t stolled over from DN in a while..Just read this.. here is some ammo to fire at your bro-in-law re the talents of the aforementioned “slow hand”..

    He is the #4 guitarist of all time according to rolling stone!!

    where is his fave six-stringer on this list??


    ps, i just saw my first actual chinchilla at a pet store not long ago .. cute-but-rather hard to hang on to little creature.. hmmm wonder if that description also applies to it’s namesaked blogger??? 😉

    • chinspeaks

      December 1, 2010 at 6:37 AM

      Sadly, my brother-in-law is a fan of Jimi Hendrix so this list doesn’t give me as much ammunition to annoy him with.

      Oh, and this might make you laugh. The only time I saw a chinchilla in a pet store the little beastie bit me. And, I think cute but hard to hang on to might not be a bad description LOL 😉

      • Purplegrey

        December 2, 2010 at 3:56 PM

        You don’t need a list. For the record, Eric and Jimi were well aware of who each other were when Hendrix first went to England and started wowing crowds there. In fact, they were both in awe of each other as each brought different styles and talents to the table. There are stories of them jamming together in nightclubs well into the night (where the hell are those tapes??? you’d think somebody would have recorded something!) Jimi was a pioneer that blazed trails with his guitar that other musicians are still struggling to duplicate today but the same can be said about Eric. No less an authority than Jeff Beck (a great gutitarist in his own right) said while watching Eric go through a blistering solo at one of his many charity performances that Clapton was still the best at that style and couldn’t be touched. To leave him out of the discussion when talking about Hendrix makes no sense at all. They were both “godfathers” of rock guitar. Sadly, Jimi left us way too soon but Eric came very close to suffering the same fate. He survived though and we’re all the much better off for it.

      • chinspeaks

        December 6, 2010 at 7:18 PM

        Preaching to the choir man, preaching to the choir. I can appreciate that Eric and Jimi were both good and had tons of respect for each others abilities. It is just my brother-in-law who doesn’t grasp this–I blame his doting mother for convincing him that everything he says (even the dumb stuff) is brilliant. It really is a wonder that Clapton has lived as long as he has, kind of like Keith Richards and Ozzy Osborne.

      • Purplegrey

        December 7, 2010 at 6:39 AM

        Sounds like your brother-in-law is an only child…so sad…Anyway, after reading that list off Rolling Stone, I’m thinking..WTF??? Some of the best guitarists of this or any other era are so far down on the chart that I’m wondering what those guys who composed it were smoking at the time. I’m beginning to believe that it was just a popularity contest. I mean SRV not in the top five? Unbelieveable. One thing that you can use against your brother is this; It takes a GREAT guitarist to be front man for a power trio…and there were only a few in rock history, Jimi Hendrix with the Experience, Billy Gibbons with ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan with Double Trouble, and of course Eric Clapton with Cream. Not a shabby player in any of those groups.

  6. johnnyviking

    December 1, 2010 at 5:35 AM

    oops… ignore your choice of one of the double posts.. didn’t see the original one for hours, then i repost only to see them both!! ugh..

    • chinspeaks

      December 1, 2010 at 6:39 AM

      No problem 🙂

  7. johnnyviking

    December 1, 2010 at 8:10 PM

    i think this webpage has dandruff

    • chinspeaks

      December 2, 2010 at 4:45 AM

      What, not a fan of the snow flakes? Where is your Christmas spirit?


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