Clapton: The Autobiography reads like a three act play. In the first Act we’re introduced to our hero who learns the unhappy truth about his family. He falls in love with music and learns to play the guitar. He moves from band to band, each bigger than the last. In the second act he discovers drugs, each one worse than the previous- with alcohol almost destroying his career and taking his life. His love life isn’t much better. After marrying the girl of his dream: Patti (Boyd) Harrison, the famous ‘Layla’, he drives her away with his womanizing and drug use. In the third act Clapton slowly regains his senses and learns his sobriety is more important than anything even his family and career. With his sobriety under control, he rebuilds his career and finds the family life and peace he’s always wanted.
As a music fan, and a Clapton fan, I was more interesting in his career: the guitars, the musicians, the tours, the songs, the recording sessions, and albums. Clapton covers everything in the book, but he does tend to gloss over these areas. He believes the focus of his story is one of drug and alcohol treatment- he’s probably correct, yet I’m more interested in his creative life. From the book, it get the distinct feeling that Clapton has never been 100% comfortable as a solo artist, that he would rather just be a sideman, playing guitar- not singing or force to write songs.
Clapton is a better guitar player than writer, but he’s not bad as a writer either. I found the book to be quite readable: he has a relaxed tone that comes across very friendly even when he’s confessing something rather horrible. Clapton seems to hide nothing, and everything he says sounds authentic. Like Dylan’s autobiography, Clapton rarely ever says anything bad about anyone. He has nice things to say about everyone even people he might be tempted to slag off. This is probably a smart move, but it does weaken the story a little bit. It could also be that Clapton is just a nice guy when he’s straight. By his own admission he becomes a monster when pushed, especially when he’s been drinking.
Excerpts From My Kindle
On return visits to New York, I used to go down to the Village with Jimi Hendrix, and we’d go from one club to another, just the two of us, and play with whoever was onstage that night. We’d get up and jam and just wipe everybody out. – location 1193-1194
It’s difficult to talk about these songs [About Conor] in depth, that’s why they’re songs. Their birth and development is what kept me alive through the darkest period of my life. When I try to take myself back to that time, to recall the terrible numbness that I lived in, I recoil in fear. I never want to go through anything like that again. Originally, these songs were never meant for publication or public consumption; they were just what I did to stop from going mad. I played them to myself, over and over, constantly changing or refining them, until they were part of my being. – location 3576-3580
We invited our closest family members and a select little group of friends to come to Julie’s christening service, and on New Years Day 2002, we gathered in the church of St. Mary Magdalen in Ripley, which already held so many memories for me, and baptized our six-month-old girl. Melia’s mum and dad were there, and my auntie Sylvia, and the godmothers and godfathers. It was a simple, moving service, and at the end Chris announced, At this point there is usually a closing prayer, but the parents have asked for something different, and he started, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here together, to join the hand of this man, and this woman, in holy matrimony.” You can hear a pin drop anyway in that ancient old building, but this was like two thousand pins dropping. It was fantastic. I looked around at the shocked and stunned faces of my in-laws, family, and friends, and realized that they had no idea what was happening. We had succeeded in keeping it a complete secret. It was the perfect way to do it, and so romantic, we couldn’t have planned it better, and not a journalist in sight. – location 4086-4094
Our daily schedule had quite a few decent holes, so I was able to get my teeth into my book quite early on. By the time we reached mainland China, I was pretty well hooked, and it was all I could do to stop writing, pecking away with my one finger like a demented chicken. I have always enjoyed the different aspects of English literature, ever since I was a little boy, and spelling and grammar have been a source of great fascination for me. The only classes I did well in at school, other than art, were English and English literature, though that doesn’t necessarily qualify me to write this and assume that it will be interesting to others. – location 4523-4527
By the time we got to Fargo, North Dakota, on my birthday, I was exhausted, and had had enough, but Melia and the girls came to visit, and that did a lot to restore my equilibrium. We had a big party before the gig, and I got some wonderful presents from the band and crew. I found it really moving to have everyone in the same room together, and when I tried to speak to say thank you, I started choking up. I really believe that this crew of techs and managers, from the riggers to the computer boffins, are the best in the business. They have been with me forever, and I rarely give them enough credit. – location 4579-4583