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Born illegitimate in 1945 and raised by his grandparents, Eric never knew his father and, until the age of nine, believed his actual mother to be his sister. In his early teens his solace was the guitar, and his incredible talent would make him a cult hero in the clubs of Britain and inspire devoted fans to scrawl “Clapton is God” on the walls of London’s Underground. With the formation of Cream, the world's first supergroup, he became a worldwide superstar, but conflicting personalities tore the band apart within two years. His stints in Blind Faith, in Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, and in Derek and the Dominos were also short-lived but yielded some of the most enduring songs in history, including the classic “Layla.”
During the late sixties he played as a guest with Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, as well as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and longtime friend George Harrison. It was while working with the latter that he fell for George’s wife, Pattie Boyd, a seemingly unrequited love that led him to the depths of despair, self-imposed seclusion, and drug addiction. By the early seventies he had overcome his addiction and released the bestselling album 461 Ocean Boulevard, with its massive hit “I Shot the Sheriff.” He followed that with the platinum album Slowhand, which included “Wonderful Tonight,” the touching love song to Pattie, whom he finally married at the end of 1977. A short time later, however, Eric had replaced heroin with alcohol as his preferred vice, following a pattern of behavior that not only was detrimental to his music but contributed to the eventual breakup of his marriage.
In the eighties he would battle and beat alcoholism and become a father. But just as his life was coming together, he was struck by a terrible blow: His beloved four-year-old son, Conor, died in a freak accident. At an earlier time Eric might have coped with this tragedy by fleeing into a world of addiction. But now a much stronger man, he took refuge in music, responding with the achingly beautiful “Tears in Heaven.”
Clapton is the powerfully written story of a survivor, a man who has achieved the pinnacle of success despite extraordinary demons. It is one of the most compelling memoirs of our time.
Clapton's heartfelt memoir is given the perfect gift in its reader: acclaimed actor and fellow Brit Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean; Love, Actually). Nighy reads Clapton's tender, dignified remembrance of his legendary career as if it had all truly happened to him. He is simply a cut above the run-of-the-mill reader and ably handles the unvarnished first-person recounting of Clapton's rise to fame, his struggles with addiction and relationship problems, and his return to sobriety and musical success. Clapton picks through the wreckage of his past, including the tragic death of his son, Conor, and Nighy reads with vigor and restraint. Clapton's tone is apologetic and nostalgic, and Nighy admirably conveys both sentiments. Joining the two together is an audio match made in heaven. Simultaneous release with the Broadway Books hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 20). (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Guitar wizard Clapton bares his soul in a starkly honest first attempt at autobiography. Beginning with his childhood in rural Ripley, England, he describes growing up with his grandparents who led him to believe they were his parents, his mother's reappearance with a husband and two children, and her subsequent disappearance. Clapton relates his discovery of sexuality after reading a handmade pornographic comic book on the school-yard playground, which led to a thrashing from the headmaster and years of sexual dysfunction. He chronicles his liberation from confusion and loneliness through music, especially a purist version of the American blues, which resulted in stints with the Yardbirds and John Mayall. Retracing his ascent to stardom with Cream, Blind Faith, and then his solo career, Clapton also recounts his struggles with addiction, first with heroin and then his major 15-year battle with alcohol. He writes of the loss of his son and his destructive relationships with women, ending the book with his new life of sobriety with his wife, Melia, and his daughters. This bold, intimate, and revealing look at an icon of rock 'n' roll will satisfy all readers, especially his myriad fans. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ6/1/07.]
“An absorbing tale of artistry, decadence, and redemption.”
—Los Angeles Times
“One of the very best rock autobiographies ever.”
— Houston Chronicle
“A glorious rock history.”
—New York Post
“This book does what many rock historians couldn’t: It debunks the legend . . . puts a lie to the glamour of what it means to be a rock star.”
—Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune
“Strong stuff. Clapton reveals its author’s journey to self-acceptance and manhood. Anyone who cares about the man and his music will want to take the trip with him.”
—Anthony DeCurtis, Rolling Stone
“Clapton is honest . . . even searing and often witty, with a hard-won survivor’s humor . . . an honorable badge of a book.”
—Stephen King, New York Times Book Review
“An even, unblinking sensibility defines the author’s voice.”
—New York Times
“An unsparing self-portrait.”
Those three words typify the diffident tone of Clapton's memoir. When he remembers acclaim, it's bashfully. When he describes the various ways in which he made a disaster of his life, he sounds rueful rather than wracked with grief. Given Clapton's status as one of our most stoic rock stars -- he rarely unburdens himself in interviews -- the detailed history in this book will make it essential for Clapton worshippers and a pleasant surprise for casual readers.
Clapton may have been valorized by at least some of those graffiti writers for the wrong reason: his sheer instrumental virtuosity. One unfortunate side effect of his career is the notion that guitar wankery is heroic, culminating with such dubious rock icons as Steve Vai and Yngwie Malsteen. But unlike many of his successors, Clapton learned lessons from blues music that extended beyond guitar prowess, and pursued mastery in both singing and writing songs. That's what let him sustain a connection with the public across the decades, even if fans thought they were just genuflecting at the feet of a guitar god. Compare Clapton with the nimble-fingered Jeff Beck, who followed him as the Yardbirds' guitarist, and who, similarly, was never able to stay with one group for long. Beck, however, needed a vocal foil like Rod Stewart, and is now more vaguely admired than loved.
One version of Clapton's life is the musical odyssey from passionate young innovator to a self-styled "journeyman" churning out pop mush to a dignified third act as an aging bluesman. But the central narrative of this book is Clapton's battle with addiction: He spent years using heroin, and then moved on to alcohol. His art was marked by his virtuosity and control; his personal life, he makes clear, was where everything got messy. Clean today, he has devoted some serious personal resources to building treatment centers for alcoholism.
Clapton is clear-eyed about many of his bad choices and their consequences: Describing his junkie lifestyle, he writes, "The doors remained closed, the post went unopened, and we existed on a diet of chocolate and junk food, so I soon became not only overweight, but spotty and generally unfit. Heroin also completely took away my libido, so we had no sexual activity of any kind, and I became chronically constipated."
He's less forthright about some other aspects of his life, not addressing, for example, his decision to endorse Michelob while struggling with alcoholism. He also glosses over his years-long support for British anti-immigrant politician Enoch Powell as quickly as possible, deploying a rapid-fire series of excuses, pleading the effect of drink on some of his public statements and defending himself against charges of racism by asserting (for example) his sympathy with the plight of Jamaican immigrants, and mentioning that his girlfriend "had just been leered at by a member of the Saudi royal family."
Clapton has apparently been keeping a diary for at least some portion of his life; no coauthor is credited on The Autobiography, which reads smoothly if a touch blandly. (It presumably wasn't Clapton, however, who thought it was a good idea to add parenthetical notes for American readers explaining that "quid" means "pounds" and "crisps" are known to us as "potato chips.")
Clapton: The Autobiography is at its most vivid when he's describing road trips: the inside of the van he rode around in with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (Mayall built himself a bunk bed); a hippie adventure across Europe with a pickup band called the Glands (they got so hungry in Greece, they ate raw meat at a butcher shop); a whirlwind trip to Canada to play a rock festival with John Lennon (when they arrived at the Toronto airport, Lennon and Yoko Ono jumped into a limousine, leaving the rest of the band to travel with the luggage in a van).
At times, Clapton's prose can devolve into a dull list of British blues musicians. Better are the sections that unearth quirky details about his family, such as his uncle's invention of a vinegar dispenser that he could hide inside his clothing, with a tube coming down the sleeve. And Clapton deftly evokes the unique intellectual horizons of the 1960s, when Baudelaire and Tolkien seemed equally mind-expanding to him.
Perhaps the most emotionally potent aspect of the book deals with the great passion of Clapton's life (other than blues music), the fashion model Pattie Boyd. Boyd was married to his good friend George Harrison -- the Beatle who, like Clapton, was more comfortable expressing himself with a guitar than in conversation. "I think initially I was motivated by a mixture of lust and envy, but it all changed once I got to know her," Clapton writes. He wooed Boyd away from Harrison in 1974; they married in 1979 and divorced in 1989.
The Boyd/Harrison/Clapton triangle has become one of the mythic tales of rock -- not because it was particularly unusual for rock stars of the era to tumble in and out of each other's beds but because Clapton wrote one of the greatest rock songs ever, "Layla," about Boyd and his then-unrequited love for her.
As it happens, Boyd has published her own memoir, Wonderful Tonight (named for another song Clapton wrote for her -- there are many more, including "Bell Bottom Blues," inspired by some jeans he brought her from Miami). Public interest in one of rock's greatest muses hasn't flagged -- the book hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.
It's not often that two books about a love affair that ended almost two decades ago come out within weeks of each other, and it provides a rare opportunity to play rock 'n' roll Rashomon, comparing the two accounts. Clapton and Boyd agree on most major points (allowing for some details being a touch fuzzy due to the passage of time and the prodigious amounts of drugs and booze they were consuming), but the differences are telling.
Some of the variances are just things that it's easier to judge from outside. While Clapton remembers that he won a school prize for "neatness and tidiness" (!), it falls to Boyd to report that as an adult, Clapton "was not a naturally tidy man.... The bedroom carpet was lamb's wool, and filthy, and the bath was full of his sweaters and shirts -- that was where he stored them."
Clapton is fuzzy on exactly when and how he began seriously pursuing Boyd, but she can pinpoint it: a passionate letter in the spring of 1970 "in small, immaculate writing, with no capital letters." Assuming it was from a crazed Beatles fan, she initially laughed it off, even showing it to Harrison.
They both say that Clapton ended up giving her an ultimatum: If she didn't leave Harrison for him, he would become a heroin addict. "He did as he threatened," Boyd says. But Clapton makes it clear that he was just bluffing: "In truth, of course, I had been taking [heroin] almost full-time for quite a while."
Clapton didn't treat Boyd well, they agree. Aside from the cruelty of telling a loved one that your heroin addiction is her fault, once he had successfully wooed her, he almost immediately started screwing around (bedding, among others, his backup singer Yvonne Elliman, who went on to have a No. 1 single in 1977 with the Barry Gibb composition "If I Can't Have You").
One of the most arresting turns of phrase in Clapton: The Autobiography concerns the state of Harrison and Boyd's marriage, which had become rocky after the Beatles returned from studying with the Maharishi in India: "[T]hey were living in virtual open warfare at Friar Park, with him flying the 'Om' flag at one end of the house and her flying a Jolly Roger at the other."
Wonderful Tonight, however, makes it clear that this is not metaphor, but (slightly mangled) fact: When Boyd found out Harrison was shagging Ringo Starr's wife, Maureen, she went to the top of the house and hauled down her husband's "Om" banner in favor of a skull and crossbones. Three decades down the road, it seems Boyd is still Clapton's greatest inspiration. --Gavin Edwards
Gavin Edwards is a regular contributor to Rolling Stone and Wired, among other publications and is the author of books including Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton's Little John?
Excerpted from Clapton by Eric Clapton Copyright © 2007 by Eric Clapton. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted December 18, 2007
Witty, sexy, romantic, fun: that's how Pattie Boyd described Clapton in her memoirs, Wonderful Tonight. I didn't get it in her book and I really don't get it in Clapton's. He goes from weird to downright frightening, sober or drunk. I was already aware of Clapton's ghastly views about women but was stunned by the depths of his demons, especially with respect to Boyd, his muse and whipping post. 'Clapton' makes me question the efficacy of the recovery movement because Sober Eric = Drunken Eric with all the same weird issues and a new batch of excuses. As another reviewer said he's now in a marriage that resembles the outcome of a contest. Despite years of AA, and an overwhelming tragedy, he isn't humbled enough to make amends for his many mistakes, including his racist outbursts in the 70's. I don't see the changed man he insists he is. Sorry, but a multimillionaire building a rehab for rich addicts doesn't impress me when he hasn't made amends to the people he directly hurt. My patience with the book and author wore thin fast. Too many gross descriptions of substance bingeing, too much self-serving recovery-speak, too many bimbos, and just too much freak show. Clapton's musical genius aside, he's led an embarrassing life and it makes for a cringe-inducing read.
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Posted January 1, 2008
Well I can repeat back almost every artist that inspired Mr. Clapton, but I can't tell you much about him besides the fact that he enjoyed drugs, women, and held a huge grudge against his mother. I feel disappointed I thought i'd really get an in depth read into his life, but honestly I still dont feel like this book is showing us the REAL Eric Clapton. Also his ghost writer wasn't that great, whoever it was skipped around from subject to subject, making it a unbearable read. The book seemed so fake, like he was just letting you know the surface, why write a book if your not going to pour yourself into, he should of stuck with interviews where its ok to be fake!
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Posted October 30, 2007
'Cruel and vicious' is how Clapton describes himself, specifically, the day he threw wife Pattie Boyd out of their house for refusing to sleep with him after she learned his mistress was pregnant. If this is how Clapton treated Boyd -- indisputably, the great love of his life -- you can imagine his callous treatment of the multitudes of other women he bedded and discarded, and in some cases, got hooked on drugs and drink. Clapton notes the overdose death of his ex-fiancee with a smug 'It made me realize how lucky I am.' I guess she couldn't afford the pricey tab at Eric's Caribbean rehab. (You'd think he would have given her freebie admission, considering he's the guy who got her hooked on smack.) Clapton's treatment of women goes beyond chauvinism, beyond misogyny Eric Clapton is a sadist. Why am I writing about Clapton's mistreatment of women ad nauseam? Because he does. The woman Clapton thought was his sister was actually his mother, therefore, Clapton has been on a lifelong mission to punish every female in sight for his pregnant 15 year-old mother's 'betrayal.' It's page after page of loathsome confessions from a man with a perverse love for recounting his moral transgressions, yet who lacks any remorse for the damage he's inflicted. Clapton resents Boyd because her mere existence caused her to fall in love with him. He resents her for resisting his pleas to run off with him, then when she does, he resents her even more because he realizes he's not good enough for her. He demands Boyd join him on his drinking binges and then resents her for that. Eric resents Pattie for being so loyal to such a lout (him). Finally, Eric joins AA while Pattie joins Al-Anon. Happy ending, right? Wrong. Boyd is infertile and Clapton resents her for that, too, so he starts knocking up other women. Oh grow up, Eric! Clapton proves his new-found 'maturity' by comparison shopping for his next bride during a ménage a trois. Tellingly, he didn't propose to the winner until she was in her third trimester. (This guy is a homing pigeon for women with zero self-esteem.) Clapton is oblivious not only to how pathetically controlling he still is, but also to the fact that these concubines would never have competed for him -- a now middle-aged, grizzled sadsack -- if he weren't a wealthy rock star. I developed great respect for Pattie Boyd after reading her memoir. I now appreciate just how generously she treated Clapton in her book: she's said in interviews she omitted the graphic details of Clapton's abuse in her memoir. Turns out, Boyd didn't owe her ex-husband that enormous favor as he certainly never showed her any kindness. Clapton: The Autobiography is a confession without contrition from an arrested adolescent who never became a man because he wouldn't make the effort. I was going to give this two stars as some passages are very well-written, but this is a memoir, so it's character that counts and Clapton doesn't have any.
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Posted January 25, 2011
I am writing this review a couple of years after I read the book. I have to tell you that this book has staying power with me. Especially after recently finishing Keith Richard's "Life". Clapton does not feel narrated. At least, not obviously so. He relates his life in clear and effective prose. Not prone to the rambles of others on this genre. I found it entertaining, and very easy to enjoy. He relates clearly what the drug and alcohol did to him. (As brilliant as he played on "The concert for Bangledesh", he remembers none of some of his finest work) He pulled no punches when he spoke of the pain and processes he overcame to face recovery. How could anyone express more clearly the torture he endured when he lost his son, Connor. I can easily recommend this tome to one who loves Clapton's music as well as anyone that loves a great biography. I think I love his music even more now that before I read his book. I hope you enjoy it too.
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Posted May 9, 2010
I thought the book Clapton was amazing. I learned a lot about Eric Clapton and his career. I found myself feeling badly for him with the drug addictions but inspired by how he overcame his addictions.
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Posted May 6, 2010
Posted November 26, 2012
I found this book about my guitar hero very interesting .
Clapton has had one hell of a life .
I find myself feeling sad for Clapton . Broken as a child , he wandered thru life seemingly unable to function normally as an adult . From his substance abuse to his awful somewhat pathetic professional and romantic relationships . Hmm familiar .
Clapton and I proved to have a lot in common. Including finding ourselves in AA . The best thing that ever happened to either of us . Like mine , his story takes a turn for the better.
I find myself inspired by his continued commitment to helping others seek sobriety . A beautiful example of what we in the program should strive to do everyday .
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Posted April 30, 2012
Wonderful read. Highly recommended to anyone who loves the blues or Clapton.
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Posted March 7, 2011
Posted January 7, 2012
Posted March 9, 2009
Posted October 28, 2014
Posted June 3, 2014
I feel Eric Clapton is the luckiest person in the world. I was so disappointed in him after I read his book. I was shocked he was a drunk, druggie and cheater. His music didn't give him away. I thought he truly loved the woman he wrote "Wonderful tonight" and I felt so bad for what I thought was him and his wife when his son dies. It was all a farce. Yet, now he is married to the prettiest woman ever in his life and has three beautiful daughters with her. God is a forgiving God for sure.
Posted April 26, 2014
Posted December 24, 2013
Name: Lightkit <p>
Age: 1 moon <p>
Rank: Kit, idiot! <p>
Mate: Kit, idiot! <p>
Crush: Cranepaw <p>
Family: Aspen; mom. Owlkit, Leaf; sisters. Darkkit; brother <p>
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Posted December 14, 2013
Posted November 10, 2013
Posted February 19, 2013
Eric Clapton has become a rock and roll/blues superstar. For over forty years he has had a huge influence on other musicians. He is
indisputably one of the greatest guitarists of all times. Clapton was born in Surrey, England in 1945 to Patricia Molly Clapton but it was
his Grandmother Rose and her husband Jack Clapton who raised him. His autobiography chronicles his years with various blues and
rock and roll bands including his early years with the John Mayall Band, Blind Faith, Cream, and Derek and the Dominos and ending
with his days touring as a solo act. He was and continues to be instrumental in promoting the careers of other musicians. He also writes
very candidly about the drug and alcohol addictions that haunted him for much of his life creating chaos in both his personal and
professional life. A major theme throughout the book was the obstacles he had to overcome to "beat" these addictions and why he has
put sobriety as his number one priority in life. Clapton's brutal honesty and "no excuse" approach to his addictions is shocking and at
times tedious. The details he gives about his escapades leaves the reader wondering how he survived the early years of his career.
His recollections of playing with other famous musicians give the reader insight into the life of a musician on the road and perhaps
why it is so easy for them to turn to drugs, sex, and alcohol. It was particularly interesting to read about his relationship with Jimi Hendrix
and George Harrison. What is missing from this autobiography is how Clapton's reckless actions affected those around him. He has a
very self-centered and almost cavalier attitude about his behavior. If you're a Clapton fan, this is a "must-read" book. His words are
spoken from the heart. Blues fans and rock and roll fans will also enjoy this book. I would not, however, recommend this to those
who are not music fans. At times, Clapton's amateur writing style becomes monotonous and gives the reader unnecessary information.
Sometimes it reads like a diary written by an adventurous teenager. I would give the book an overall rating of 3 out of 5 stars. Other
books that may be of interest to Clapton fans would be biographies written by Pete Townsend, Greg Allman and Ozzy Osbourne.
Posted February 19, 2013
Clapton: The Autobiography
Eric Clapton has become a rock and roll/blues superstar. For over forty years, he has had a huge influence on other musicians. He is
indisputably one of the greatest guitarists of all times.
Posted December 19, 2012
So much detail, not just of his mistakes and such, but of his heart, of his music,
of those he listened to and how he admired their music. Excellent book. And a
good reminder for those of you thinking of sleeping with musicians, don't.