The renowned guitar superhero emerges as “supersurvivor” in this authoritative biography.
In the latest of his long list of accomplished rock biographies, novelist and playwright Norman (Paul McCartney: The Life, 2016, etc.) turns to Eric Clapton (b. 1945). The author concluded that Clapton’s own autobiography was the only “formidable deterrent” to writing one, but he felt it withheld “as much as it revealed.” Written with Clapton’s approval and access to family members and close friends, Norman’s fine biography, both objective and sympathetic, envisions Clapton as “one of the most thoroughly dissolute rockers of olden times” who became the “most thoroughly reformed.” His unmarried mother asked her mother, Rose, to adopt baby Eric, and he grew up believing her to be his mother. The music of Buddy Holly impressed him mightily, and Clapton was much taken by Holly’s Fender Stratocaster: “That’s the future. That’s what I want.” His doting grandmother bought him a basic guitar, and he practiced by listening to records. At the heart of the book is Clapton’s constant quest for the right band and the right guitars to get the right blues sound. After playing with fledging bands like the Roosters and Engineers, he got his big break with the Yardbirds, famous for their impromptu “rave-ups.” During this “CLAPTON IS GOD” (as a London graffito read) period, he got his famous nickname, “Slow-handclapton.” More bands followed, including John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, and Blind Faith. Clapton also changed girlfriends as often as he changed bands. Norman describes his subject as a notorious “womaniser on the scale of Mick Jagger, a sex addict before the term was invented.” George Harrison was Clapton’s best friend, but he seduced and later married Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd; Clapton wrote “Layla” for her. Norman discusses in detail Clapton’s yearslong, devastating addictions to heroin and alcohol and provides countless fascinating stories about his fellow rockers.
Extremely knowledgeable about the rock music scene, Norman tells Clapton’s story with verve and insight.