I’m going to do my best not to make excuses anymore, d’oh!…I just did it again. For those of you disappointed when you check back and nothing has been posted for two weeks running, I sincerely apologize. Work has been consuming me 24×7 and that still might not be good enough. I had another handful of well intentioned post ideas lined up for this past month and I couldn’t get anything done. I feel like I can’t work out, I can’t blog, I can’t listen to music…I’m running on empty all of the time and still I’m not comfortable. Oh well, welcome to the new world order I guess. I was hoping to get into some kind of a sales groove that would allow me to weave my passion in amongst my craft, but I’ve been failing miserably lately. I’m definitely coming around to a calendar year on Rock Star Birthday Blurbs so you’ll see less and less of them in the coming year, although I need to catch a few I missed last year. Last month I might have gotten to five. Pitiful. I think I can do better, but lately I’ve been pretty weak. Now I try to do two posts in a row, backdating one (like this one) and telling myself I’m caught up. I know I’ve been hitting the Classic Rock artists pretty hard lately and for that I apologize. My counterpart is supposed to keeping the blog current with the Indie stuff, but he’s doing worse than I am in terms of this blog. I don’t want to lose whatever audience we’ve built up, but when you don’t have any current content your numbers are bound to fall off. After I get done celebrating birthdays, I hope to dig deep into my catalogue and pull out more surprises for all of you. Lord knows I have ‘em…even if lately my collection looks like every other aging Rock & Roll warrior’s collection. Speaking of Rock & Roll warriors, I’ve got Bob Seger and Neil Young lined up over the next ten days. I’ll try and post something, but I don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver yet again.
As March went out like a lamb around Boston town, Eric Patrick Clapton ticked another birthday off the calendar. Born March 30, 1945, I guess that makes him 66 years of age. The guy is icon, larger than life, but he seems older to me. Of course as my 51st just passed myself, age have more of a reflective effect on me. Eric Clapton has brought me many moments of great joy. I’m listening to his 2009 collaboration with Steve Winwood called Live From Madison Square Garden while I type and as he ripped into Traffic’s “Dear Mr Fantasy” you just get the feeling he’s amongst the best ever. I really liked Jimi Hendrix’s thunder and I never get tired of listening to Angus Young’s riffs, but Clapton has the longevity and pedigree. It’s an age old argument that cannot ever produce a winner, but it’s fun to consider. The guitar is the ultimate symbol of male prowess it seems; funny how I can’t play. That fits right in with everything I’ve got going on…which is to say nothing. However, the first time I heard “Sunshine of Your Love” I knew this guy was something else. I was too young to take note of “Clapton is God” graffiti or to have intimate knowledge of The Yardbirds and or John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. I came into musical consciousness, particularly as it applies to Rock music, in the late 60′s. Cream’s 1967 classic Disraeli Gears album had been out a year plus by then. It’s hard to explain what Cream meant to Rock Music all these years later. Sure, they are Rock & Roll Hall of Famers, but that doesn’t explain the fever they inspired. It seemed like their were literally a ton of great bands in the last 60′s, but Cream was right up there near the very top. The fought, they argued and they split up, but they churned out awesome English Blues Rock that has easily stood the test of time.
I can’t tell you anything about Eric Clapton that hasn’t already been written so I won’t even try. If you haven’t read his book, along with its unintentional sister companion called Wonderful Tonight by Patti Boyd, check them out. I’d bet millions Eric has read Patti’s book the same way you might look up an old girlfriend on Facebook. Since Eric is allegedly clean and sober these days I can image them both thinking what the hell were we thinking? Unfortunately, Beatle George Harrison is no longer around to add his perspective, but love triangles are always a bit messy aren’t they? Like I would know. Despite all the trouble with alcohol, heroin and whatever else Clapton has endured. I’ve seen live several times, but he’s the master. Of course, he’s one of several masters in our time, but he always delivers a pretty good show nowadays. I’ll continue to attend his concerts as he tours. He’s worth every penny, even as he’s mellowed in his later years. It’s almost restrained the way he jams along these days. I know many of you probably wince at the mellow adult contemporary sound of his last few records, but I just keep on buying ’em like the fool that I am. I just can’t help myself. I dont’ want to miss anything. The Cream reunions, the all-star jams at John Mayall’s birthdays or Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductions…I don’t care, bring ‘em on. Not too many axe men play live into their late 60′s and I’m inclined to see this thing through until the end, whenever that is (hopefully 30 years from now).
Blind Faith was great, Derek & The Dominos were pretty amazing, The Yardbirds were groundbreaking for an early 60′s band and John Mayall is John Mayall. Delaney & Bonnie were fairly interesting as well, but Clapton’s solo career is what sustained him all these years later. One could argue that Cream into Blind Faith was the peak of Eric Clapton’s career and lord knows those songs still sound great, but personally I really began paying attention when I brought home a copy of 1974′s 461 Ocean Boulevard. I was 14 back then and though Eric Clapton as the man. Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff” was all over the radio in New York City, but I just loved “Motherless Children, Let It Grow, Willie & The Hand Jive, Steady Rollin’ Man, Give Me Strength and Mainline Florida.” Only his second solo record, four years after his first, but one I will always remember. He misfired on his next two releases, at least commercially by his new standards, with 1975′s There’s One in Every Crowd and 1976′s No Reason To Cry, but in 1977 hit hit it big with Slowhand. Not only was that one of his monikers, allegedly given to him by filmmaker Giorgio Gomelsky in the 60′s, after the album was released it became a brand. Yes, there were plenty of adult AOR fodder with “Lay Down Sally, Wonderful Tonight” and even J.J. Cale’s “Cocaine,” but there were great tracks on that record like “The Core, Mean Old Frisco & Next Time You See Her.” Clapton was back. Soft Rock doesn’t get much better than 1978′s Backless in my book. That’s a sleeper of a record. Some might think Clapton has been releasing relatively Soft Rock for years, and I suppose in contrast to his earlier output that would be an accurate statement, but his mid 80′s records like 1985′s Behind The Sun, 1986′s August, 1989′s Journeyman and 1994′s From The Cradle were OK by me.
Of course no discussed of Clapton would be complete without mentioning 1992′s Unplugged CD. Millions of folks returned to the Clapton fold based on his slowed down reworked acoustic versions of songs like Derek & The Dominos classic “Layla.” It brought a lot more woman into the mix when talking about Clapton. He was cool yet again, but more importantly he was wicked commercial as they say here in the Northeast. Man did that CD sell. According to our friends at Wikipedia, it made it all the way to Number 1 on The Billboard Charts and sold 10 million copies in the United States alone. Amazing. I have to admit though, I was part of the MTV Unplugged fad. I bought Neil Young, 10,000 Maniacs, Rod Stewart, Nirvana and probably a couple of others I’m forgetting now that decades have gone by. It was fun and unusual. Everybody was unplugging. Heck, Radiohead even Unplugged “Creep” back then. It was just the thing to do. Clapton did it as well as anyone even though Nirvana remains my all time favorite amongst the genre. I’m not going to leave you with the obvious Clapton choices today. He has appeared on well over 100 albums between compilations, collaborations and greatest hits packages, but his 20 solo records are pretty compelling in their own right. I don’t know if I said anything about anything during this post, but it’s clear I’m a fan I hope. Happy belated Birthday Eric from The Giant Panther. You did it your way and it worked out fine.
Buy or Download The Cream of Clapton From Amazon Here.