Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars
A look at the life and work of guitarist Eric Clapton, told by those who have known him best, including BB King, Jimi Hendrix, and George Harrison.A look at the life and work of guitarist Eric Clapton, told by those who have known him best, including BB King, Jimi Hendrix, and George Harrison.A look at the life and work of guitarist Eric Clapton, told by those who have known him best, including BB King, Jimi Hendrix, and George Harrison.
I liked the insight to Clapton's early life. Finding out that his mother was actually his grandmother and the woman who he thought was his sister was his mother who had abandoned him and gone to Canada.
The young Clapton was good at art, loved blues music and had an inferiority complex at school. There is film footage of his family and various still of Clapton's artwork.
When Clapton decides to enter the music industry, he has skill as a guitarist, horned after listening to all those blues records and copying their style. Clapton though was not a good bandmate, leaving The Yardbirds at short notice because they were heading in a commercial direction.
The second half was more problematic. It zig zags the chronology, going back to the issues of mistrust with his real mother and grandparents.
The film is hazy as to when Clapton became clean or did he just relapse too often? I recollect that Clapton said he had cleaned up in the mid to late 1980s from drugs and booze. Here it seems he was was still on the booze in the early 1990s and certainly admits to recording albums where he remembers being drunk as we see the later 80s albums in this montage. Did he lie back then? If he lied then, he might be lying now.
Clapton deals with his notorious racist outburst in 1976 in a concert in Birmingham. Up to this point of the documentary, Clapton cited his influences of the blues and friendship with black US musicians. He was a supporter of the civil rights movement. Clapton also admired music and literature from the east. He was a fan of the musician Bismillah Khan. A Persian poem inspired the song Layla. Ahmet Ertegun, the Turkish born head of Atlantic Records was a big champion of Clapton.
Yet under the influence of booze and drugs, this racial outburst shocked his fans. In retrospect Clapton is rightly embarrassed with his outburst. He states that he comes across as a semi-racist. Only semi? I think it was a full on racist rant.
Maybe the booze lowered his inhibitions and made him say things that were swirling around his mind at the time. Birmingham in the mid 1970s would look very different to an English lad born in Ripley in Surrey. Racism is complex, Clapton admits to having black girlfriends but he knows that he will never be able to live down his words.
I was also horrified with his casual attitude to sex in an era of Aids. He had flings with several women and they became pregnant, Clapton does not seem to believe in using a condom. His interest in engaging with married women did not stop with Pattie Boyd.
I found the latter half of the documentary to be self serving. Yet at times it does have flashes of brilliance as well. It helps that Clapton was cooperative with this film, he allowed access to his private documents.
Looking at the reviews, it is clear that the documentary has skimped other people who should have had a part in this story such as Pete Townshend who helped Clapton become clean.
- Jul 1, 2018