Eric Clapton DVD Revealing

Eric Clapton

The 1960s Review

Sexy Intellectual 559, 2010, 120 minutes

* * * *

In 1963, Eric Clapton was little known outside of Surrey clubs; four years later “Clapton is God” graffiti was sprayed all over English walls. A fascinating new DVD tells the tale of Clapton’s meteoric rise through the 1960s groups he graced: The Yardbirds, John Mayall & the Bluesbfreakers, Cream, and Blind Faith. It is a portrait of a man with a wanderlust spirit obsessed to the point of intolerance by American-style blues. Clapton was such a purist that he left The Yardbirds after its monster hit “For Your Love” because he deemed it inauthentic and commercial. He made a big splash with The Yardbirds, which turned into a tidal wave when he joined forces with John Mayall. Indeed, the Clapton bandwagon was so mighty that Mayall—a man known for having an outsized ego—was forced to give Clapton equal billing. This did not prevent Clapton from leaving the Bluesbreakers in 1966 to form my personal favorite band of the 1960s: Cream. With drummer Ginger Baker and bass player/vocalist Jack Bruce, Cream singlehandedly defined the power-rock trio.

The film is earnest in showing Clapton coming to grips with his own white skin. Apparently Jimi Hendrix was the catalyst. When Hendrix came to England, Clapton was gobsmacked by his raw energy. Several of Clapton’s colleagues speculate that he and other British blues players came to understand the difference between playing black and being black. There is a stunning sequence in the film with Hendrix playing “Voodoo Child” with a passion that borders primal—Hendrix never rivaled Clapton for technique, but neither could Clapton hope to match Jimi’s emotion. Clapton moderated his obsession and broadened his repertoire, but he did not quell his restless spirit, quitting both Cream and Blind Faith when they topped the charts. The balance between interviews with colleagues and concert footage makes this a true portrait of an artist with heavenly talent. The only missing elements are more from Clapton himself—who is surprisingly little seen as a talking head—and a copy editor to get rid of that god-awful misplaced apostrophe on the box!

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