Miscellaneous Rumbles

Cocaine left me flat..

1

It came on the radio and reminded me why I’m not a Clapton fan. Such a boring rock song with what has to be the most lack luster vocal of all time. I just don’t get the hype?

2

If you didn't like that tune, you should probably avoid JJ Cale's recordings, too.

Clapton was paying tribute to Cale's song & laid-back, slinky-groove style.

3

It came on the radio and reminded me why I’m not a Clapton fan. Such a boring rock song with what has to be the most lack luster vocal of all time. I just don’t get the hype?

– Hipbone

Amen to that

4

Nobody likes everything. Life would be boring with no diversity. I like a lot of Clapton, but this has never been a favorite of mine. "Layla" is OK---UNTIL---the absolutely horrid slide work at the end.

On the other hand, listen to Clapton and Cales' "Ride the River" from the Road to Escondido album. That one works for me.

5

I usually catch flak for expressing my opinions about The Clap. Glad I’m in good company. He’s had a few sparks of wonder with Cream, but basically a 60 year career of boring two chord songs. Hendrix should have been the end of his career.

6

I like some Clapton and other stuff...not so much. It's one of those situations where I appreciate that he's a great guitar player, but he doesn't always move me. A bit of a sore spot for me is the Live George Harrison album from Japan. I really appreciate that Clapton was basically responsible for getting George to play live again and provided his own backing band.....some of Clapton's solos on George's songs just suck the air out of them (obviously not While My Guitar Gently Weeps) . The only thing they have in common with the songs is that they are in the same key.....just Clapton solos plunked into George Harrison songs. The most egregious is what Clapton does to Taxman. I just want to emphasize that this is my own very subjective opinion that is probably in the minority.....not trying to spark any who was the better player, etc debate that seems to crop up every time a Beatle is referenced. Clapton is a living legend and very deservedly so. I also very much admire his charitable work.

7

Usually a songwriter might lead you to an artist covering the tune . for me was the opposite hearing the Clapton songs led me to JJ Cale. Listen to the JJ Cale versions and they have Groove for days

8

I can agree that most of the 70's I didn't find Clapton all that interesting.

"Cocaine" is a generational song, meant to spite "the man" to some extent, but also to call out that Cocaine is "overrated" and "foolish".

But, Clapton is a great guitarist, has lots of other material, and the Cream probably are the most exceptional band I can think of...

9

With out all the drugs he might have been a lot better, still he a lot better than me! Thanks John

10

Clapton was at his transcendent best during Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek & the Doms. Nearly all of “Disraeli Gears” and “Wheels of Fire” is epic. The live Cream albums document incendiary moments of magical musical mayhem: three guys playing furiously, aggressively, even combatively - yet as one fused musical organism. (That said, they can be a challenging listen and you gotta be in the mood.)

And what is there to say about “Layla” (and its progenitor “Had to Cry Today”)? I can think of something: that great as the Clapton-birthed bones of those songs may be, it’s the collaborative contribution of other great talents to them that lift them to the heights. The Layla main theme is a soaring and majestic thing, the tonality shift to the verses is brilliant, and the piano outro takes a great song from merely marvelous to magical.

But we can de-construct: Clapton wrote the verse progression as a ballad (a la the unplugged arrangement), ALLMAN wrote the epic Dm hook, and Jim Gordon wrote and played the beautiful piano ending (and may have lifted it from his girlfriend Rita Coolidge). And listening to the electric solo sections carefully with headphones reveals multiple points where Tom Dowd crossfaded between alternate lead takes - and you can hear where the faded-out parts are going off the rails.

We know Eric had his demons, and it was clear by 1970 (when the Dominos recorded) that Clapton was not God. Followed several years of bad times for him (his first, pretty good, solo album notwithstanding), then the consistent, pleasant - but not fiery or compelling - “Ocean Boulevard.”

Which kinda set the theme for his career since then, wherein he has continually improved as a singer and pleasant pop-blues-rock songwriter, often turned out fine listenable (but hardly ground-breaking) albums, and occasionally turned in fine guitar performances in which we hear reflections of the old passion and fire.

(I can’t consider the arc of EC’s career, however, without mentioning how much I enjoy his two-album Robert Johnson songbook project - in which you hear the love in which he labored, and the deep comfort and nourishment he’s always taken from his hero. Easily my favorite post-1970 Clapton.)

But I’m not sure anything he’s done since 1970 would have given him the stature as an artist he continues to enjoy. Lots of that work has been fine, and might have made him a persistent radio presence, and a part of many aging boomers’ album collections. We’d think “oh yeah, I remember Eric Clapton! Some good songs, and pretty decent guitar player too.”

Point is - Clapton’s career since 1970 was enabled by the regard he earned from 1966-70. After that he seemed to abandon that adventure and experimentalism - and given the resolutely blues-pop direction of his later career, that must be what he’s really about. Maybe it was Baker, Bruce, Winwood, and Allman who were responsible as collaborators (and in-band competitors) who pushed him to breakthrough greatness in the early years. Certainly he’s never tried to revisit the fire, fury, and mystery of Cream.

When we consider his post-1970 career in the context of the early years, it can’t help but pale. For me, Clapton will always mean Cream, Blind Faith, and (some of) The Dominos. Later material is always competent and yeomanlike, full of craftsmanship, honorable, usually pleasant and listenable, sometimes affecting, occasionally great - but it’s rarely compelling. (And I say that as someone with all possible respect and regard, even admiration, for the man himself - his music, his tenacity and determination, his work ethic, his long productive career.)

And in all the long trajectory of that career, the song “Cocaine” is the absolute low point. Bad song, pedestrian non-arrangement, lackluster idea-bereft playing. (I don't mind the vocals - trying to do anything with those lyrics is futile.) Even almost any other material from that era is better (and overall it’s pretty weak sauce).

Here’s what I’m saying: don’t judge Clapton on “Cocaine.” In fact, don’t judge him at all without listening to everything he did from 1966 - 1970. That’s where you take his musical measure.

11

How about the movie, Life in 12 Bars. Sheesh. Well worth watching historically, plus the guy has had an incredible life story. Some of his early stuff just exploded, amazing amount of control and sheer fireworks. I watched it and found stuff there that I really loved... and some dopey shite from later days. Wonderful Tonight, God she should have hit him with something or left him to his drunken stupor.

12

Additional stuff I thought of after posting...

Clapton's career kinda went wanna-be blues to two versions of still-wanna-be-blues-but-these-guys-make-me-crazy to ok-get-back-to-blues...and variations.

In the Blues Breakers, he did his best to emulate the American bluesmen who were his idols and his musical template. In Cream (and Blind Faith to a lesser degree) he was trying to play blues, but the strong musical personalities around him pushed and molded his lick vocabulary into unexpected and often experimental forms, or simply blew the blues up to such an epic scale of volume and impact that it became something else.

And it seems clear from everything from the Dominos on that the 4-year period of adventure and experimentation were the anomaly - NOT what EC wanted to do. (Or maybe Baker and Bruce just wore him out.)

Thus his escape to what he must have considered the purer American bluesology of D&D - though it's such a big band, performing and recorded with such rock cues, that it's still not really the pure roots thing he thought he wanted. Thus the escape to Delaney and Bonnie, and then the more western JJ Cale thing...

But always it's his collaborators who determine where he goes musically - and Clapton's skill set itself (and no doubt his mood and chemical condition at the time) which determine how well he goes there. The rural Americana of both D&B and JJ Cale is better expressed in those bands without Clapton. He was just trying his best to get back to that American blues thing which had always motivated him...which begs the question, why didn't he pursue more collaboration with black blues artists? (The latter-day album with BB King almost doesn't count, because by that time both were elder statesmen with firmly-established reputations and aesthetics, and ain't neither one of them ground breaking or even truly meshing musically on said album.)

I think the Robert Johnson songbook albums are where Clapton finally feels he did American blues right - or as right as he now knew he possibly could - and he had paid that debt.

But that leaves the rest of his post-Dominos career as variations on pop, with bluesy influences. Perhaps not what he ever wished or intended - but what the market would bear, and where it turned out his combination of talents took him.

We could say Clapton went from an early period of Wild to a long stretch of Mild - and maybe one reason he pursued a career over the decades when many others dropped out (or he should have been worn out) was that he never thought he'd achieved the blues purity he sought as a kid, and it took him that long to accept himself for what he was, and to appreciate his own not inconsiderable legacy (both from the early years and in the high points which came later).

Anyway. "Cocaine" ain't it.

13

I'm still a fan -- it's hard to remember now that Layla was a flop at first, until it was re released as a single 2 years later, and then attention went back to that album... Everyone wanted him to reprise Cream style and he refused to do it.

He let others run with the hard/blues rock thing he started... he was the first to match up a Les Paul and Marshall, after all.

But after 6 years of British blues rock in 1970 he changed his sound and style, worked on singing and songwriting and he knew that you are only on top of the flash guitar pile for a short time.

Sure some albums weren't great, and alcohol was to blame for a lot that. Cocaine wasn't a brilliant song-- just a moment in time.

And was what good about 2005 Cream reunion -- they just played the way the play now (well, then) and did not try and recreate how they played in 1968.

He inspried a lot of people to get serious about gutiar. What happend in the late 60s was groups like Cream/Hendrix just raised the standards of required musicianship .Before in the Top 40 boom a of pleasant bands that really weren't all the great got signed and sold records. But after people like EC, you had to be good to be taken seriously

14

“From The Cradle ... “

Derivative? Sure. But I still enjoy it each time I listen.

15

It all depends upon your point of view. This is a relatively recent track that I like.

16

Of course, it's Tony Joe White's influence just as it is on this track.

"Church door was locked, Lord I stood and prayed Waiting for an answer but it never came."

17

I'd forgive him anything for the solo on Badge. 20 seconds or so.

18

I, too, heard something on the radio today I did not like. Should I start a thread?

19

I, too, heard something on the radio today I did not like. Should I start a thread?

– Bob Howard

Sure, why not? My point of the Cocaine thread was to point out what I feel Is a horrible song that became iconic. Makes for good conversation.

20

Here’s what I’m saying: don’t judge Clapton on “Cocaine.” In fact, don’t judge him at all without listening to everything he did from 1966 - 1970. That’s where you take his musical measure. Proteus

Amen to that, brother Proteus! I'm in agreement with just about everything you said. As usual, you crafted a very good explanation of what many of us were thinking, better than I could have. So I'll defer to your eloquence, and agree with you once again!

21

Cocanie left me irritated and moody, also slightly paranoid. Crazy I know

22

This album was very important to me as a teenager. Bad Boy, long long way from home held special meaning.

23

I lose interest as soon as he picks up an electric guitar. There are few, however, so clearly tapped into the acoustic Blues genre.

24

I can remember all those years ago when I first heard the Beano album and thinking - oh, so this is why people rave about Clapton! The guitar sounds on that album are incredible. Sizzling and on the edge of feedback. Plus I thought some of the soloing was amazing. I particularly loved All Your Lovin'.

Then I heard Otis Rush's original All Your Lovin'. Oh. Clapton almost plays it note-for-note. I ended up enjoying Otis' version better. Same with the Freddie King covers. Why listen to a middle-class English guy play them when you can have the original?

There is no doubt that Clapton is a good player and helped introduce a new audience to the old blues guys, yada yada yada... But (heresy alert) I found the vast majority of what he played after the Bluesbreakers to be a huge yawn. Crossroads? Even he admits he was playing a 1/2 beat out of time for most of the song! I do like Badge and one or two others, but no more than any other great song from the '60s.

It's the Claptons and Becks of the world who sucked the humour out of the Blues. Listen to T-Bone Walker, BB King and even Otis Rush and you'll hear pathos but also humour. Even JJ Cale had a better sense of humour than Clapton.

Now don't get me started on Joe Bonnamassa!


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