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Unsold Eric Clapton op-ed

Wednesday 9/1/21

Another wasted piece.


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The real cost of Eric Clapton’s angry, obtuse, hollow-bodied protest Muzak.


Recently I was giving a radio interview that touched on what I think was a fiery performance by the rock band Cream from 1968, with this insane Eric Clapton guitar solo, when the host voiced his displeasure. “I don’t know,” he said, “It made me laugh. Sounds like Spinal Tap to me.”


I can’t say I didn’t see this coming. I get it all the more when Clapton releases one of his “singles”—which sound like turgid, hectoring bone-dry demos he blow-torched together in fifteen minutes—such as the new “This Has Gotta Stop,” bemoaning all things vaccine.


The man sets himself up not only for failure, but for attacks on the music he made that actually counted for something. There’s no longer a separation between the church and state of a person’s morals— the word “politics” being a near-synonym—and their body of work. Each time Clapton spews forth his monotone nonsense, there’s a pushback from the art.


The deal with Clapton is that there wasn’t a lot of art to begin with, given that he ceased innovating in 1970, but his laughably bad modern day protest efforts end up producing laugh-inducing responses.


Twitter is a largely witless medium, but I’ve noticed that games are elevated when the likes of Clapton—or his partner in ill-advised whining, Van Morrison—do their new thing.


“I bet you’d take the vaccine if she was your best friend’s wife,” was one piece of bon mot I just encountered, a reference to Clapton’s affair and eventual marriage to Pattie Boyd, his buddy George Harrison’s wife.


If all you do is produce top-level, magisterial work, people will leave you alone, however stupid you want to be. They want that work. It feeds their life. There’s an alchemical process where it becomes separate from its creator, which is how it should be, despite today’s obsession with what I simply call access.


Access is when you see someone hop into a comments section on Twitter and start talking to Bob Dylan or whomever like they’re having an actual conversation. With the obsession for access, everything pools. The first person voice in the song is the voice of the writer. The boneheaded comment becomes an indictment on the art of thirty years back. When what you’re making sucks, you’re setting yourself up a takedown.


What makes Clapton worse is you don’t think he really cares. He doesn’t come off as a this once-great talent who lost that talent—for so it goes—but nonetheless acts in good faith for the well being of humanity.


He’s more like a guy who doesn’t have much to do in his day, needs an outlet for his bad case of the grumps, and wants to tour and get what he’s accustomed to getting and seeing out on the road. No changes. Which is akin to how you can sum up his music, more or less, going back fifty years.


I’m a recommender. I share art that I love, art that is consequential. I participate in what used to be called turning someone on. I have, as they say, amazing recs.


But it’s true, when Clapton pops off in dumbass musical form, with music as unimaginative as the “argument,” you’re more apt to pick your spots when you suggest that killer Cream tape from Detroit in 1967.


You’re also blown away that the maker of that could be the maker of this. Where did all of that imagination and those fresh ideas go? Clapton himself might want to sit down with it, shattering experience though it may be.