Clapton: The Autobiography (Anglais) Relié – 9 octobre 2007
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Early in my childhood, when I was about six or seven, I began to get the feeling that there was something different about me. Maybe it was the way people talked about me as if I weren’t in the room. My family lived at 1, the Green, a tiny house in Ripley, Surrey, which opened directly onto the village Green. It was part of what had once been almshouses and was divided into four rooms; two poky bedrooms upstairs, and a small front room and kitchen downstairs. The toilet was outside, in a corrugated iron shed at the bottom of the garden, and we had no bathtub, just a big zinc basin that hung on the back door. I don’t remember ever using it.
Twice a week my mum used to fill a smaller tin tub with water and sponge me down, and on Sunday afternoons I used to go and have a bath at my Auntie Audrey’s, my dad’s sister, who lived in the new flats on the main road. I lived with Mum and Dad, who slept in the main bedroom overlooking the Green, and my brother, Adrian, who had a room at the back. I slept on a camp bed, sometimes with my parents, sometimes downstairs, depending on who was staying at the time. The house had no electricity, and the gas lamps made a constant hissing sound. It amazes me now to think that whole families lived in these little houses.
My mum had six sisters: Nell, Elsie, Renie, Flossie, Cath, and Phyllis, and two brothers, Joe and Jack. On a Sunday it wasn’t unusual for two or three of these families to show up, and they would pass the gossip and get up–to–date with what was happening with us and with them. In the smallness of this house, conversations were always being carried on in front of me as if I didn’t exist, with whispers exchanged between the sisters. It was a house full of secrets. But bit by bit, by carefully listening to these exchanges, I slowly began to put together a picture of what was going on and to understand that the secrets were usually to do with me. One day I heard one of my aunties ask, “Have you heard from his mum?” and the truth dawned on me, that when Uncle Adrian jokingly called me a little bastard, he was telling the truth.
The full impact of this realization upon me was traumatic, because at the time I was born, in March 1945—in spite of the fact that it had become so common because of the large number of overseas soldiers and airmen passing through England—an enormous stigma was still attached to illegitimacy. Though this was true across the class divide, it was particularly so among working–class families such as ours, who, living in a small village community, knew little of the luxury of privacy. Because of this, I became intensely confused about my position, and alongside my deep feelings of love for my family there existed a suspicion that in a tiny place like Ripley, I might be an embarrassment to them that they always had to explain.
The truth I eventually discovered was that Mum and Dad, Rose and Jack Clapp, were in fact my grandparents, Adrian was my uncle, and Rose’s daughter, Patricia, from an earlier marriage, was my real mother and had given me the name Clapton. In the mid–1920s, Rose Mitchell, as she was then, had met and fallen in love with Reginald Cecil Clapton, known as Rex, the dashing and handsome, Oxford–educated son of an Indian army officer. They had married in February 1927, much against the wishes of his parents, who considered that Rex was marrying beneath him. The wedding took place a few weeks after Rose had given birth to their first child, my uncle Adrian. They set up home in Woking, but sadly, it was a short–lived marriage, as Rex died of consumption in 1932, three years after the birth of their second child, Patricia.
Rose was heartbroken. She returned to Ripley, and it was ten years before she was married again, after a long courtship on his part, to Jack Clapp, a master plasterer. They were married in 1942, and Jack, who as a child had badly injured his leg and therefore been exempt from call–up, found himself stepfather to Adrian and Patricia. In 1944, like many other towns in the south of England, Ripley found itself inundated with troops from the United States and Canada, and at some point Pat, age fifteen, enjoyed a brief affair with Edward Fryer, a Canadian airman stationed nearby. They had met at a dance where he was playing the piano in the band. He turned out to be married, so when she found out she was pregnant, she had to cope on her own. Rose and Jack protected her, and I was born secretly in the upstairs back bedroom of their house on March 30, 1945. As soon as it was practical, when I was in my second year, Pat left Ripley, and my grandparents brought me up as their own child. I was named Eric, but Ric was what they all called me.
Rose was petite with dark hair and sharp, delicate features, with a characteristic pointed nose, “the Mitchell nose,” as it was known in the family and which was inherited from her father, Jack Mitchell. Photographs of her as a young woman show her to have been very pretty, quite the beauty among her sisters. But at some point at the outset of the war, when she had just turned thirty, she underwent surgery for a serious problem with her palate. During the operation there was a power cut that resulted in the surgery having to be abandoned, leaving her with a massive scar underneath her left cheekbone that gave the impression that a piece of her cheek had been hollowed out. This left her with a certain amount of self-consciousness. In his song “Not Dark Yet,” Dylan wrote, “Behind every beautiful face there’s been some kind of pain.” Her suffering made her a very warm person with a deep compassion for other people's dilemmas. She was the focus of my life for much of my upbringing.
Jack, her second husband and the love of her life, was four years younger than Rose. A shy, handsome man, over six feet tall with strong features and very well built, he had a look of Lee Marvin about him and used to smoke his own roll–ups, made from a strong, dark tobacco called Black Beauty. He was authoritarian, as fathers were in those days, but he was kind, and very affectionate to me in his way, especially in my infant years. We didn’t have a very tactile relationship, as all the men in our family found it hard to express feelings of affection or warmth. Perhaps it was considered a sign of weakness. Jack made his living as a master plasterer, working for a local building contractor. He was a master carpenter and a master bricklayer, too, so he could actually build an entire house on his own.
An extremely conscientious man with a very strong work ethic, he brought in a very steady wage, which didn’t ever fluctuate for the whole time I was growing up, so although we could have been considered poor, we rarely had a shortage of money. When things occasionally did get tight, Rose would go out and clean other people’s houses, or work part–time at Stansfield’s, a bottling company with a factory on the outskirts of the village that produced fizzy drinks such as lemonade, orangeade, and cream soda. When I was older I used to do holiday jobs there, sticking on labels and helping with deliveries, to earn pocket money. The factory was like something out of Dickens, reminiscent of a workhouse, with rats running around and a fierce bull terrier that they kept locked up so it wouldn’t attack visitors.
Ripley, which is more like a suburb today, was deep in the country when I was born. It was a typical small rural community, with most of the residents being agricultural workers, and if you weren’t careful about what you said, then everybody knew your business. So it was important to be polite. Guildford was the main shopping town, which you could get to by bus, but Ripley had its own shops, too. There were two butchers, Conisbee’s and Russ’s, and two bakeries, Weller’s and Collins’s, a grocer’s, Jack Richardson’s, Green’s the paper shop, Noakes the ironmonger, a fish–and–chip shop, and five pubs. King and Olliers was the haberdashers where I got my first pair of long trousers, and it doubled as a post office, and we had a blacksmith where all the local farm horses came in for shoes.
Every village had a sweet shop; ours was run by two old-fashioned sisters, the Miss Farrs. We would go in there and the bell would go ding–a–ling–a–ling, and one of them would take so long to come out from the back of the shop that we could fill our pockets up before a movement of the curtain told us she was about to appear. I would buy two Sherbert Dabs or a few Flying Saucers, using the family ration book, and walk out with a pocketful of Horlicks or Ovaltine tablets, which had become my first addiction.
In spite of the fact that Ripley was, all in all, a happy place to grow up in, life was soured by what I had found out about my origins. The result was that I began to withdraw into myself. There seemed to have been some definite choices made within my family regarding how to deal with my circumstances, and I was not made privy to any of them. I observed the code of secrecy that existed in the house—“We don’t talk about what went on”—and there was also a strong disciplinarian authority in the household, which made me nervous about asking any questions. On reflection, it occurs to me that the family had no real idea of how to explain my own existence to me, and that the guilt attached to that made them very aware of their own shortcomings, which would go a long way in explaining the anger and awkwardness that my presence aroused in almost everybody. As a result I attached myself to the family dog, a black Labrador called Prince, and created a character for myself, whose name was “Johnny Malingo.” Johnny was a suave, devil–may–care man/boy of the world who rode roughshod over anyone who got in his way. I would escape into Johnny when things got too much...
Revue de presse
“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.”
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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First of all, this is an exceptional book, but unlike some biographies, and fewer autobiographies, it is not one that would be a "page turner" for everyone because it is not full of cute anecdotes that make for sharing stories around the water cooler the next day.
A case in point is the time when Eric first met Jimi Hendrix. Chas Chandler of the Animals was trying to develop a career as a promoter and came across Hendrix in New York. Promising him a chance to meet Eric Clapton, he took Jimi to London. After meeting several musicians (Eric Burton, Andy Summers, et. al.), Chas took Jimi to hear Cream play. Backstage, Chas introduced Jimi, and they asked if Jimi could sit in with them for a few numbers, which seemed kind of ballsey. In CLAPTON, Eric writes that Jimi played Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" in true Hendrix fashion playing "the guitar with his teeth, behind his head, lying on the floor, doing the splits, the whole business. It was amazing.....They (the crowd) loved it, and I loved it, too, but I remember thinking that here was a force to be reckoned with. It scared me, because he was clearly going to be a huge star, and just as we were finding our own speed, here was the real thing." In other accounts I have read and heard about from others, Eric after seeing and hearing Jimi perform, goes over and sits down, looking rejected. Another musician comes over to ask him, "What's wrong?" In some accounts it's Jack Bruce, in other accounts it's Peter Townsend. Eric replies, "I'm (expletive-deleted). If I'm "God," who's he?" Which to me would have been a funny anecdote.
It is still an exceptional book because it is so personal.... Filled with the flaws and mistakes of an exceptionally talented man who carried around for most of his life the baggage of being a "bastard" to some in his own family, for his mother had had an affair with a soldier during WWII and left him as a child to be raised by his grandparents. While learning that his "parents" were actually his grandparents, he writes at length of the insecurities of not having his mom there, and, the heartbreak of finally meeting her, and asking her if he could call her "Mummy now?" Only to be told, ""I think it's best, after all they've done for you, that you go on calling your grandparent Mum and Dad." Of that moment, he wrote, "In that moment I felt total rejection."
Growing-up wasn't all that bad, though. Eric showed some talent in art, and music was something that his Grandmother Rose loved. He wasn't a diligent student, but in art, and later in the guitar, he worked long and hard at learning and later creating.
This is a very thorough book, almost a true musician's book because it leaves out nothing of the ups-and-downs that seem to be the norm for all musicians. In the book, he talks of why some tunes were written a certain way, how he evolved in his musical craft, and what he was wanting to achieve in each group he played with. He mentions names on individuals in even the earliest of groups he played in, what they did together, and is very thorough in providing the reader his a written history of their achievements.
One wonders, though, where all this would have led had Eric not had so much alcohol and drugs in his early life, of if in some way, this was the catalyst to help him overcome those insecurities of his youth (Actually, he states this in a roundabout way that it was, but one still wonders just how much of what we have now would there have been with less alcohol and drugs.)
I can't think of any aspect of Eric's life that he doesn't discuss in ERIC: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY: His love life, particularly his infatuation with Patti Boyd, George Harrison's wife; His relationships with other musicians and what he respected them for; His heartbreaks such as the loss of his son Conor.
I've given this book four stars, not because it is not exceptional, but because it isn't one that will be readable and enjoyable to all. However, if you are a lover of rock and blues music, or one who really wonders just what has gone through the head of someone as influential as Eric Clapton, I would recommend it to you.
"Cruel and vicious" is how Clapton describes himself upon throwing Boyd out of their house for refusing to sleep with him after she learned his mistress was pregnant. "Cruel and vicious" pretty much sums up this book and the man behind it.
Every attractive woman who gets near Clapton goes from inamorata to enemy in a heartbeat. He threatens to become a heroin addict when Boyd refuses to leave her husband, but once he wins her, he berates her. When a supermodel romances Clapton for the express purpose of meeting fellow reprobate Mick Jagger, and the inevitable happens, Clapton is reduced to plotting murder.
Every predictable action is met with Clapton's predictably insane reaction. Clapton is attracted mostly to women as ruthless or vapid as he is, guaranteeing disappointment. The prime exception is Boyd, the indisputable love of Clapton's life. Boyd was a compassionate but insecure woman, and she was also married to close friend George Harrison, which is why Clapton wanted her.
Clapton resents Boyd for resisting his pleas to run off with him. 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. He resents her for pushing him into rehab. He resents her for being infertile. He resents her most of all when she divorces him and slips out of his control forever.
The book's, and Clapton's, nadir, is when he and his equally selfish mistress decide to get pregnant with no regard for what this will do to Boyd's already decimated ego. After the child's tragic death, Clapton resents the mother because she needs comforting and he's touring and is too busy for her.
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 (she was only 15 when she got pregnant), therefore, Clapton is determined to punish all females. It's page after page of loathsome confessions from a man who revels in his misdeeds but lacks compassion for the people he's wounded.
37 years after threatening to take heroin if Boyd didn't yield to his demands, Clapton finally admits he was already addicted when he made that ultimatum. He shows no remorse for letting Boyd carry that burden for four long decades.
When his ex-fiancee, the fragile Alice Ormsby-Gore, dies from an overdose, Clapton just says it made him realize how lucky he was. He'd gotten Alice hooked on smack when she was 16, but he doesn't lament his role in her fate.
Now in his sunset years, Clapton proves his newfound "maturity" by comparison shopping (yes, yet another round of love triangle) for his next bride. Clapton doesn't realize young women wouldn't compete for him in his grizzled middle age if he weren't a wealthy rock star. He may be sober now, but he doesn't act it.
It isn't all about women who done him wrong. He also takes cheap shots at his friends, including an unflattering, score-settling story about Harrison that sounds very dubious. Clapton is willing to spend millions on a rehab center to help total strangers, but he can't demonstrate simple decency to the friends and the ex-wife who showed him love and loyalty at his worst moments.
Clapton: The Autobiography is confession without contrition. I was going to give this two stars as some parts of the book are actually quite compelling, but this is a memoir, so it's character that counts and Clapton doesn't have any.
The opening chapters are interesting, although very little new information is provided for any one who has read at all about the music scene of the 60's and 70's. As the book progresses, it moves into a second stage which is, frankly, rather boring. Like much of Clapton's music from this era, it lacks focus and tends to ramble.
However, it's the last third of the book that I find most disturbing. I'm not only very familiar with the guitar, but also addiction and recovery. To those familiar with 12-step programs, Clapton's almost complete disregard of his commitment to anonymity, and lack of true humility, is shocking and a red flag to anyone who knows about recovery. This guy may not be drinking or drugging anymore, but is clearly selective as to which parts of the program he cares to follow. An argument can be made that he needed to tell the story of his recovery, but this could have been done in a much more careful way -as many before him have done. Reading this book, I for the first time now truly understand why the rule of anonymity is so important in recovery. If the program that made Clapton "sober" produced the kind of man that is revealed in the last chapters of this book, then many people may decide to not try that route for themselves.
Clapton lacks generosity toward many of the musicians that he played with (he gives selective praise to a few), takes inordinate credit for many of his successful partnerships, and pointedly shows little compassion for the death of his "friend" George Harrison. John Lennon who gave him several high profile gigs, is barely mentioned, and his murder not at all. Cream is mentioned, but a shameful low swipe is made at Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce in some of the final pages - alluding to their aging bodies and stating that he (Clapton) at least helped them get some pocket money by allowing a brief reunion. Not very humble. Not very honorable. Shame on you Eric.
I'm no angel myself, but I find his treatment and attitude toward women shocking. He makes excuses for his beastly behavior toward the many women he is involved with as they role past one by one (or sometimes two by two as when he hooks up with two young women half his age and "dates" them alternately in one of the last chapters). We all had periods of craziness during these days, but his attitude toward the women he was involved with, and his lack of true remorse at his own behavior is very depressing. I hope that he has finally found a loving relationship that he sticks with - both for his sake and that of the young woman he is now with.
Clapton's tone in the final pages is very disturbing. Self congratulatory, filled with references to wealth and power, and describes a rather pathetic picture of an older English man from the lower classes trying now to cast himself as a "Lord of the Manor", pheasant hunting and fly fishing with tweed-jacketed, pipe-smoking upper-crust types. He doesn't seem to have learned that all of that money is not going to bring him happiness.
The guy has played some brilliant guitar, but I can't help but feel that his acknowledgment and thanks to the black blues players of America is more a calculated way of saying "see what good taste I have" rather than a true showing of humble gratitude. Little or no time is spent talking about the other great musicians he played with. Rip out a hundred pages of talk about your house renovations, cars and hundreds of guitars you own and instead talk about what it was like to play music with some of the many great musicians you were lucky enough to have associated with.
Lastly, the book is very poorly written and produced. The few pictures provided are oft-seen and out-of-focus shots at the beginning of each chapter. Couldn't you have given us a picture section? Poor printing, miss-spellings and typos in the book just ad to the feeling that I had been fleeced in purchasing this book.
To Clapton, I wish him peace and happiness in his remaining days. Perhaps he needs to go to India and really reflect upon his life for a few months.
To readers considering purchasing this product, get Pattie Boyd's book instead. At least it's a fun read and much more professionally produced.
An update for those who care....
I can't believe I have spent so much time writing and responding to the comments here. I have never done anything like this before on Amazon (or anywhere else for that matter). Hopefully. we all have better things to do. So for my own sanity, I will post this last comment and then retire from this back and forth.
If I was too harsh in my comments and offended anyone, I do apologize. I've thought about my comments after seeing the several passionate responses to my original post and have mixed feelings about what I originally had to say. But - my comments were true and from the heart. No mean spirited intentions. I can't count the hours that Eric's playing have given me ecstatic pleasure.
Perhaps I am holding Mr Clapton to too high a standard. When I was just 15 years old I was lucky enough to be at Atlantic studios in New York as an unseen kid in the corner and watch Cream work on an album. Friends were recording their own album with the same producer (Adrian Barber - an unsung genius of the time). After that, I then literally wore out my Cream records learning every guitar line that Eric played and pursued a career in music for myself - I claim no status as an "important" musician or "producer" - music is simply one of the things that makes life good for me.
Clapton's playing surpassed everything I had ever heard. I'm from the south and was familiar with the blues from my dad who knew many of the original heroes of Clapton. I followed Clapton's career in the years that went by. Some of his later music was great and some modest, but always followed by me. I had my own hurdles and was inspired by his struggle with sobriety. I have great admiration for him as a musician and man. So maybe I had too high a goal set for the man...I expect a lot from him.
I do, however, stick to my guns when it comes to the quality and content of this book. Maybe he didn't even do most (or any) of the writing. The writing is poor, the production shameful. In any case, as a sober, grown man I'm sure that he would agree that I am entitled to my personal opinion of his autobiography.
Writing one's autobiography, especially when such a prominent figure is no insignificant project. I wrote what I felt in my heart after reading his book. I was saddened and depressed by his comments about money, women and status. I had expected far more from him. My number one example is his exit from the Yardbirds on the principal of the ART of music versus the commercial, crass alternative. Everything in this book seems to fly in the face of that noble ideal...I had looked forward to a totally different experience after reading this book. In case you read this Eric - you still have a long way to go in this life and have a great gift. I'm rooting for you and hope that as Jack Bruce said at Covent Garden "these are the good times" - not those days gone. Let's see your best now, I know you can fly much higher...
Well, Clapton confirmed that. He was just a kid, bought himself a really cheap guitar, and spent hours mimicking styles of Muddy Waters, etc. Then he moved into the Yardbirds, and the rest is history.
Would that it were so smooth.
Actually, I listened to the recorded version as I really don't have the time to read a showbiz autobiography. I find such texts to be so laughably self-indulgent. And I hoped for more from Eric. He is, after all, quite talented, that's obvious. Yet for most of his life, all he did is over-indulge. He got strung out on junk, then used some accupuncture means of overcoming his addiction--I challenge that such a practice would work, but for the time being, I'll take his word for it as well.
Then he switched substances and drunk until he dropped. He attached himself to George Harrison's ex-wife over whom he'd had a fantasy for some time. In the meantime, he spent more time with more women than most of us will be able to fantasize.
To make a long story short, after his son died, he decided to dry up. Then he met a woman half his age and since they've had four kids and he's pleased as punch while still attending his 12 step meetings and, oh, life is so wonderful.
I'm sorry but I get really tired of showbiz autobiographies. Most of us who are music fans I think anticipated that Cream were skilled musicians with great tours. What was important was the talent and music, not their personality clashes and constant indulgence in more drugs than you could find in any city on any day.
Such an autobiography makes its writer look like an ordinary guy. But, no, Eric, you had more money than most of us will see in a lifetime. You bought a new home at the drop of a hat, travelled more in a year than the rest of us will be able to in a lifetime. So, no, you're not just one of the guys.
As I indicate in the title, I think as rock stars are getting riper--Clapton is now 63--the PR stunt, that which gets more of us to buy their albums is to write an autobiography so we don't forget them either. And the "one of the guys" is a shrewd means of getting us to identify with them. But it's not particularly honest, whether the author thinks it is or not.
Anyway, it was written pretty well, I guess, but finishing off with "I'm all recovered now" is just another dimension of the cliche of the showbiz autobiography.
I hoped I'd respect Eric Clapton more when I finished the book. Now I find I'm getting more cynical in general for the celebrity crowd.