How Does Eric Clapton Suck? Let Me Count the Ways


CLAPTON IS GOD!


Say what you want about those early Yardbirds sides — they were truly great — but the sore fact remains plainly evident, etched in vinyl and bits for all to hear:

Eric Clapton sucks.

You need evidence?  Try these:

  • I Shot the Sherriff
  • Lay Down Sally
  • Promises
  • Cocaine
  • After Midnight
  • Forever Man
  • Tears in Heaven

And these are his HITS, fer gawd’s sake!  Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been torturing my buddy J.-P. by humming “Lay Down Sally” every time I walked past his office.  This campaign of terror grew in magnitude until last week, when it culminated in my placing a $2 copy of “Timepieces: The Best of Eric Claption” on his desk.

Honestly, I never thought he’d actually listen to it.

But he did.

I’m sorry.

The main reason I’m sorry is that he reminded me that I did, in fact, know the song “Promises,” and then he proceeded to hum some of it for me, and yes, I do in fact remember it, and the remembering HURTS.

But back the main point:  WHY does Clapton suck?  Clearly, as revealed by some of his playing in Cream and those aforementioned Yardbirds tunes, the man can play guitar.  But look at what he chooses to do with it — I mean, just LOOK at that list above. Insipid songs, insipid singing, mawkish sentimentality. I’m being charitable.

And that’s not even mentioning the monstrosity that is called, in dark shadows and hidden places, by creatures who should know better than to speak its unhallowed name, “Wonderful Tonight.”

When you listen to stuff like that, the terrorists win.

I’m going to go listen to some Black Flag now.  LOUD.  It’s the anti-Clapton.

 

UPDATE 6/10/11:  As amusing (and sad) as the comments about this confessedly somewhat tongue-in-cheek post have been over the last 2.5 years, I’m disabling comments now.  I mean, is there really anything more to be said?  Thanks to those who offered substantive comments, and even those who only suggested I do nasty things to myself.  If you’re really so offended that my fellow guitarist and I don’t dig Clapton’s solo work that you feel compelled to comment, please accept my best regards, and my sincere wishes that you begin having a more interesting day.

51 Comments

  1. Lighten up, man.

    For the record, I’ve done a lot, musically and non-musically. I raised a kid. I worked real jobs. I sustained relationships. And I made and make music.

    I like the music I’ve made better than the music Clapton makes. Hell, I like the music the Shaggs make better than the music Clapton makes. And I’m entitled to that opinion, just as you’re entitled to disagree with it. I’ll agree that on some objective level, at least if you want to measure greatness by units moved or whatever, Clapton qualifies as possessing some degree of “greatness.” But so does Celine Dion, by that measure. And Zamfir, master of the Pan flute. And I’d prefer not to listen to any of that stuff. Your mileage, obviously, may vary. And it’s that kind of diversity that makes the human race so interesting.

    I’d point out, however, that I didn’t resort to impugning Clapton as a person, tempting as that might be. Nor am I calling you a, in your charming parlance, “butthole,” either.

    But thanks for being the first person to write in to defend Eric Clapton’s greatness here. No doubt he appreciates your stalwart defense, and can rest easy knowing his legend will remain intact this day.

  2. Clapton is a rock and roll artist who inspires a great deal of polarization among those who bother to pay attention. Check out not just the initial article in CultureSpill’s “Zeroes” but the extended back and forth in the comments section for a dramatic example:

    http://culturespill.com/?cat=6

    Some people want to listen to music that can easily be forced into the background of their consciousness, tame as lap dogs and comforting as warmed milk. They would be no better able to understand why you (or anyone) would want to listen to Black Flag as you are able to understand why they’d want to listen to “Lay Down Sally”.

    When it comes to the Garden Variety Guitar Gods of Classic Rock, I don’t know that I come to this blog to praise Clapton (or defend his “greatness”), but I certainly don’t come to bury him either.

    With the Yardbirds, Clapton’s style always seemed more of a studied, accomplished imitation of electric blues guitar styles of yore than something original and individually his (Beck did a much better job of bringing his own personality to his work with the instrument and arguably still does, check out last year’s “Performing This Week – Live At Ronnie Scott’s” and ponder yet again why great music like this never sees the light of day on the radio). But in a weird way, Clapton’s work even at its most imitative of others is individually his because he worked so hard on getting it down perfectly. Maybe some guitarists are actors and some guitarists are writers, if that makes sense on some bizarre metaphorical level. I haven’t listened to my fair share of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, but knowing what I know of the group, I would expect Clapton’s work there was more diligent studies of replicating past blues masters’ licks than forging his own sound.

    Glad you mentioned Cream, though. Here Clapton demonstrated his sheer power all over the place and while I won’t presume to speak for others, my rock and roll library would be weaker without moments like “I Feel Free”, “I’m So Glad”, “Crossroads” and even the wee bit overexposed “Sunshine of Your Love.” Some of Cream’s songs had the powerful plod and shred that, I theorize, would influence Black Sabbath who, in turn, made their impression on a young Greg Ginn (the consistent creative center of Black Flag). Cream was often more overbrimming than channeled energy–but just as often as not that’s the stuff of great rock and roll.

    Clapton’s indisputable masterpieces, though, are “Layla” and, in a somewhat lesser echo of greatness, “Bell Bottom Blues”. Structurally he comes as close as anyone else has to inventing a “new (white?) blues” that departs from the standard 12 bar idiom “Layla”. Jim Gordon is an unsung hero of the composition. And having Duane Allman as your guitar god wing man doesn’t hurt. But I’ll forgive Clapton for quite a few “lay down sally” type exercises knowing he was the driving force and creative center of Derek and the Dominoes, particularly those two songs.

    Considering the beauty of both these songs, it becomes all too easy to forget that Clapton did the six string heavy lifting for Blind Faith and showed he could be genuinely (and not boringly) laid back and a little bit gritty with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends.

    So despite the undisputed (at least by me and clearly by you) schlock that is on “Timepieces: The Best of Eric Clapton” (although, I like “Willie and the Hand Jive”), Clapton has a resume that shouldn’t be scoffed at. For a retrospective that demonstrates the serious amount of juice Clapton used to have in his game before he mellowed beyond appreciation, for folks like you and me, in his dotage: History Of Eric Clapton, a double CD set that is no longer in production, but that may be available 2nd hand or on iTunes.

  3. Wow, Mark! Bustin’ out the dissertation! Thanks so much for weighing in on this little teapot-tempest.

    Your points are, of course, all valid — and to some extent my posting about Clapton was (I hope) obviously tongue-in-cheek, although my GAWD it makes me want to retch every time I hear “Wonderful Tonight.” But hey, if it’s some peoples’ bread and butter, that’s fine.

    And to some extent it’s obviously a case a familiarity breeding contempt: some of us probably listened to Black Flag when we were 12, but I wasn’t one of them, so in addition to Clapton’s ouevre I can easily rattle off chapter and verse of every Yes and ELP record and many others whom I’d now disavow in a second. But without exploring that stuff as deeply as I did, I wouldn’t have begun reading Creem, thereby discovering Lester Bangs and Christgau and delving deeper into rock culture to find things like Television, Wire, Mission of Burma and other music that isn’t necessarily easy on the ears (at first anyway) but offers a whole different take on what rock and roll can mean and be.

    Anyway, I agree wholeheartedly about Cream, and I’ll even go to bat for some of the Derek and the Dominoes stuff if you catch me on the right day. (Although, like “Stairway to Heaven,” I think “Layla” has really suffered from overexposure.) And if Clapton wants to ride that gravy train of schlock, it’s his right, just like Rod Stewart has every right in the world to do his American Songbook thing. And like Michael McDonald has the right to do Motown covers. There’s a market for it, and people gotta eat and pay the servants, I can dig it. I’m not so blind as to assert that I maybe wouldn’t do the same thing myself, given the opportunity.

    But I find the notion that the man who made those Cream sides really thinks that “Forever Man” is in the same ballpark as his best work — is even the same sport — horrifying.

    What cracks me up a little bit about all this, though, is that no-one posts anything here for months (although I wasn’t doing much to promote things at the time, either), and literally SIX HOURS after my petty little Clapton diss, someone drives by to offer a little vituperation in response. I mean, honestly!

    Clearly, a great promotional strategy for the new Long Afternoon album will be to insult all the great guitar heroes. Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix: I’m looking at you. And in true “Kill Yr Idols” spirit, Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd should be next!

  4. Hmmm. Methinks musicial taste is mostly about association.

    I am not keen on the above, mainly because I’ve been bombarded with them over the years enough to make my ears bleed. There were periods of time when I did like some of them, because of the associated social context. Then the context changed, I heard them too many times… they stopped being nostalgic and started being annoying.

    I am not keen on Black Flag either, partly because I have no positive associations for their music, and partly because of synaesthesia– their tunes are too monochromatic for my taste. I have the same problem with AC/DC and the Pretenders. No idea why.

    On the other hand, there are a couple AC/DC tunes I like in spite of their blah palette, mainly because of good times I had when the songs were popular…

    Maybe I’m alone in seeing things this way… but there’s my $0.02.

  5. For some reason “Lay Down Sally” always makes me think of Richard Nixon.

    In my opinion, the worst song on that list is “Promises”

  6. “Promises” really is exceptionally awful. And I’m not sure why, but the association between “Lay Down Sally” and Nixon definitely works for me. I’ll never hear that song the same way again. Which is probably a good thing. There’s not much I could say this about, but an association with Richard Nixon actually IMPROVES the song for me!

  7. I love it. It completely escapes me how Clapton has maintained any sort of relevancy at all in his old age. The transformation from guitar pioneer to completely boring soft-rock standby is just plain embarrassing. And so many of your posters are correct….even his very best work has been overplayed and radio saturated to the point that it just blends into the background, which is kind of tragic. It kind of makes me cringe to imagine what would have happened to Hendix had he lived.

    In full disclosure, Black Flag never did a thing for me, either…..

  8. Just read your blog. Taste is subjective. Just wanted you to know I listened to some of your tracks off signifying nothing and by track two I couldn’t take it. The guitar part couldn’t even stay in rhythm during the triplet muting part (for an example of how to do that, try listening the the great Tab Benoit). I liked your energy, but overall I was suprised that the same person who wrote a piece called “eric clapton sucks” would then push forth such a sorry example of what was good.

    Taste is subjective. And while I do believe everyone is entitled to their own sense of taste, I absolutely loathe the holier than thou attitude that is required when someone makes that leap from “here is my taste” to “my taste is best”. Reeks too much of a music critic (and usually music critics become such people because they love music and yet were not successful enough at it to actually create.

    So, I will say its obvious our taste in music in not in line, I will be the first to admit – I may be wrong. And actually by definition, what I should say is both of us ought to be able to exist with our own taste without having to trash someone elses original art (both yours or claptons). I too am a musician and I know what it takes to create, and yes you write some good ones and some bad ones. I think Claptons life work speaks for itself, he was a hard worker who diligently studied the blues masters. He had impeccable taste to know who to study in the first place, and a hard work ethic to master each style in the process, from country blues to freddy king style. Eric’s crowning achievement as a guitarist was his stylist mastery of the blues, and his ability to use that form in new ways in world of rock music. He invented some great riffs, and could improvise with the best (btw, you think Clapton sucks, tell that to Eddie Van Halen who learned every clapton solo he could growing up).

    I think your list of songs is suspect, and logic flawed for only including songs you hate from his later material. It’s like looking at Bret Favre’s work as a Viking and saying, Favre sucks (which he isnt doing of course, at least yet) – and here’s my proof – then listing off games he played after the most important part of his career was over. To me, the greatness of an artist should be judged by his best work, and for Eric Clapton, that was John Mayalls Bluesbreakers, The Yardbirds, Cream (see the movie “fresh live cream”), and Blind Faith. Derek and the Dominoes was pretty good too. You basically say “yeah all that happened, but THEN he wrote lay down sally (which I like btw) and for that I’m given an excuse to dislike him overall. Bu that point in his career, he was past the point of trying to impress anyone with his guitar playing and I give him credit for continuing to grow as a musician and just write good songs. We can debate whether those songs are good songs indeed, and we will obviously disagree on some of them as Lay Down Sally bears witness. However, for you to look over the first five major bands of his career and go straight to those songs is a bit shallow isn’t it? And I don’t mean to offend by what I’ve written about your music, I did that merely to show if you go in looking for bad things its easy to find them.

    Eric Clapton has inspired many great musicians, and I am inspired by his worst music 1000 times more than any of the songs I heard on your blog (maybe I only heard the **bad** ones).I have not written this to convince you, you’re free to like or dislike who you want – I written this to let you know I think your blog piece is a PIECE (of ****). Have your own opinion, joke around the office, but the minute you put up a public blog implying your opinion is KING, I will defend a person who has a great ear for simple melodies and who has worked hard to acquire the skills necessary to give those melodies life through his guitar. gooday

  9. Hi Terry, and thanks for taking the time to write. Sorry my opinion of Clapton’s solo output causes you and some other Clapton defenders so much consternation. It’s just my opinion. I’m pretty sure I’m allowed to post it on my own site. You’re welcome to disagree with it, though, as I wrote to another overworked poster, do you really think Clapton cares A) what I think about his work, or B) that you stepped up to defend it? I kind of hope he’s got better stuff to do than care what either of us think.

    And no, I’m hardly offended by your take on my music, which I didn’t make to entertain you. I’m a big boy, and I don’t expect everyone to like what I do. Especially when I freely cast stones at Eric Clapton. *sigh* However, I don’t believe in expressing my antipathy toward Clapton’s, erm, greatest hits that I ever suggested I’m better than him. In fact, the main point of my piece is that HE’S better than that. That’s why I did stick up for Clapton’s work with the Yardbirds, and I’ll even give props to Cream if you catch me at the right time.

    By the way, I also know exactly the part you’re talking about on “Building.” Thanks for noticing that! It’s left in there on purpose. It would seem you value smooth; I prefer to have a lil’ bit of grit remain.

    Thanks for informing me that Eddie Van Halen learned every Clapton solo as a kid. I don’t care for his work very much, either. That goes double for Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, too.

    To each their own, and peace be with you.

  10. Yeah I once left a band cos they wanted to play Wonderful Tonight,it pains me that people think its a great love song, but then again people love Celine Dion

  11. Yes, None of these are ones I’d play. I think it’s fair to say that one’s “hits” are not the ones that are one’s best. I can’t listen to Timepieces, for several reasons, I’ve just heard them to much or I don’t like them,,,,
    people sometimes don’t like it when artists stray from the familiar box the public ascribes to them. Remember Joni Mitchell? She doesn’t care if you don’t like her jazz,,, She’d appreciate you liking her paintings, though.
    I’m sure the slow songs referenced here are personal to Clapton. He knows how to write “hits” pretty well and Wonderful Tonight and Tears in Heaven are not too different. The music buying public is used to buying pablum. You should know that by now, and Clapton shouldn’t be judged by his work that the public goes nuts over.
    Most musicians could retire happy just by writing something like Layla. Clapton’s excellence comes out in the details, the small stuff most people miss.In Layla he’s not playing the lead part. He’s doing the fills that are quite golden. You might check out his work on his debut solo album with some of the Wrecking Crew. Listen with some phones, and then let’s see if he sucks.
    He didn’t ask for the, “Clapton is God” gig. nor does he find it comfortable.
    I think the measure of a man’s greatness is the respect he has from his peers. If you’d like to check with the Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, or any of his fellow musicians over the past few decades, and countless others he’s influenced, well go ahead.
    You’re just trying to judge him by his weak work that you’ve plucked out. Yes some of those songs kinda suck.
    You think he sucks as an artist and musician? How embarrassing. Must be lonely for you at those parties.

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  13. Ha!!!! Count me among those who has never really had much use for Eric Clapton (and who has occasionally idly wondered what all the fuss is about — and CERTAINLY post early 1970s, beyond those who really like listening to dentist office “adult-oriented classic and light rock”!!).

    Now, Eston. Please do me the favor of writing a screed on how much Guns ‘n Roses suck and especially how incredibly overrated “Slash” (whoa, dude. Cool moniker) and Axl Rose are. Axl Rose. Yes. I read somewhere that HIS name is an anagram of “oral sex”? Clever. What’s up with that?

    But it may all be besides the point now given that they are largely in the dustbin of history, especially Axl. But yeah, Clapton just keeps showing up like a bad penny!

    Anyway, they suck too!

  14. That guy that just left that comment outta be strung up!!!! I LOVE Eric Clapton!!! I LOVE Gins n’s Roses!! Axl Rose is a Rock GOD!!! Go crawl back underneath your ROCK you low-life!!!

    – Chico the Man

  15. Crapton is the sucks!
    Eston, man up and defend yourself. OF COURSE musical taste is subjective — that’s undeniable. That notion, however, shouldn’t preclude us from standing up for what we believe in and talking down to those clearly in the wrong — those whose taste in bad music does ntohing but continue to propagate even worse music! There is nothing more dull, insipid and banal than a Crapton lead, vocal melody or lyric.

    “When you listen to Crapton, the terrorists win.”

  16. Finally someone tells it like it is,Eric Clapton is essentially Blues music for people who don’t really like blues music and could never fanthom the true depth of cheaply recorded,passionate early blues music or true bluesmen like Bo Diddley,Howling Wolf,Muddy Waters,Johnny Lee Hooker or Blind Lemon Jefferson,plus he’s part of what I call the whole guitar god/hero syndrome,where someone will just worship someone cause they can “wail” or “wank out” on a guitar,and I include the following guys in this category(Eric Clapton,Steven Ray Vaughn,Steve Vai,Joe Satriani,Yngwie Malmsteen,any dickhead in a progressive metal band or lots of Progressive Rock band,Richie Blackmore,dudes in 80’s cock-rock bands,Queensryche and many more I can’t think of at this time),just guys some of whom made interesting music at one time or another but now just specilize in boring bland wank out exercises,and people who really like these guys,will most often dismiss or put down guitar players who although not as technically proficient still have a great style all their own such as Ron Asheton(The Stooges),Pete Townsend(The Who),Greg Ginn(Black Flag,a vastly underrated guitarist who was probably very influential to indie and punk rockers proceeding him and who ironically who become someone who would go on to the bland,boring wankout territory in later projects),Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore(Sonic Youth),Johnny Marr(The Smiths),Bob Stinson(The Replacements,a lot of times he was bombed out of his head when he played which made him even more awesome),Keith Levine(Public Image Limited)John McGeogh(Magazine,Souixie and the Banshees,and later P.I.L)J.Mascis(Dinosaur Jr,could be considered an Indie Rock guitar god),Lindsay Buckingham(Fleetwood Mac)Dave Grohl(Nirvana,Foo Fighters,amazing drummer as well)Roger Miller(Mission of Burma,good to see someone else likes Mission of Burma on this blog)Craig Scanlon(The Fall)Johnny Thunders and Sylvan Sylvain(New York Dolls) and many more I could go on all day but those guys as well as being great guitar players were also great songwriters too,and actually cared about songwriting more than guitar solos,and unlike Eric Clapton who’s good musical output ended about halfway through The Blind Love album(and I’m sorry Derek and Dominoes is just lame white guy blues,and his solo career was just basically to fund his evergrowing drug habit),these guys are still making great interesting music or did so a the end of their lives,and I think people should follow and I try to imitate great songwriters and not “guitar gods”,to wrap it more Alex Chiltons and Elvis Costellos and less Eric Claptons and John Satrianis

  17. Clapton is without a doubt the most overrated guitarist of all time . This scumbag(clapton) has been getting away with playing the same three chords his whole life .Claptons guitar parts are for simple minded idiots. This scumbag(clapton) goes around now apologizing for being a jealous prick back in the seventies .I saw him play with stevie ray vaughan and he looked liked a feeble guitarist next to stevie . I would also like to say that jimi hendrix is the second most overrated . my friends and i play circles around these two fools. People in there 50’s know jack shit about good guitar players . hendrix and clapton totally sucked

  18. So Clapton sucks despite his early work with Yardbirds, Cream, and Derek and the Dominoes because of his later solo work? Why don’t we just say every musical artist sucks then, since it’s extremely rare for anyone to keep churning out music of the same quality so many years after they first broke out. Okay, so you like Black Flagg, but what do you think of Henry Rollins? I’m not a big fan of Black Flagg even pre-Rollins to begin with, but I’m sure even you can agree that Rollins solo work has been horrible and he’s been a gigantic sell-out while pretending to be this hardcore punk rocker. I’m not the biggest fan of Clapton, but to judge him simply on the basis of the stuff he recorded when he was past his prime seems overly harsh. It’s a shame, but the same thing happens all the time, I don’t know your musical tastes but if any of Pearl Jam, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rolling Stones, the Who, Faces, U2, Green Day, BB King, Buddy Guy, Stevie Wonder, or Springsteen are among them, then you’re looking at artists who enjoyed periods of greatness but also put out way more than their fair share of dreck. Would you say all of them suck?

  19. well, that’s to you mark, you really leaved the most important part of claptons growing style out, the john mayall bluesbreakers album, the year is 1966, jimmy page still plays shitty studio work, jeff beck did the same, no wait, he took claptons place in the yardbirds just like page did later, hendrix was still playing backing guitarist for sessions, little richard and the isley borthers, and the stones never were that big of guitar heores, hilton valentine of the animals also wasn’t exactly the guitar hero, but he had some nice jimmy page style solos on their 66 work.

    but back to clapton, on Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton he INVENTED blues rock, he really invented the sound of it, it was the first time ever anyone had heard a Gibson Les Paul guitar through an overdriven Marshall amplifier, remember, that’s the sound page got after leaving his beloved strat behind him after the first zep album and still uses to this day, just listen to the album as a whole, just listen to all your love, hideaway or steppin’ out, he really takes the whole blues thing and makes it rock like nobody did before, and with the later clapton, well, listen to his live stuff, he’s like jeff beck live, on some nights he has the old fire in his fingers on others he doesn’t sound that good, but from 75 onwards zeppelin always sounded floppy, they weren’t tight anymore, their reunion rocked, just like creams did, but claptons woman tone is what any guitar player should study.

  20. The reason that Eric Clapton has all these hits and everything is because he was a HUGE part in the movement of electric guitar, and if there had been no Clapton there would be no Eddie Van Halen, and no Eddie would mean no Metal Bands and without Metal bands there would be no Black Flag the hits of Clapton remain here because everyone is trying to recapture the essence of old blues style guitar and apply it to there music, I mean you have your own opinion and I’m not here to tell you you’re wrong I just wanted to let you know my thoughts on this! 😀

  21. I totally agree. What a boring overrated guitarist. His tunes make me wanna take a dirt nap.

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  23. The Mayall album, the “Blues” album, the Yardbirds, and DATD, all classic work. As to the fool who said Hendrix was overrated, you’re saying modern rock and its flourishing creativity is overrated. Each of these guitarists took a stance on a newly developing phenomenon and made it what is, for all the black flags, televisions, etc. Of course they couldn’t be perfect in their approach, because it’s impossible. Yes wonderful tonight sounds like a personality-less cliche song sometimes, but clapton did not mean it to be a renegade song in the world of rock and roll. Considering the emotional rollercoaster this guys life was, you can understand the consistent, drastic changes in his output. Every famous guitarist is famous for a good reason, including vai and satriani. However, my favorites would have to be Santana, Hendrix, Peter Green, Albert King, and SRV. Peace

  24. listen to derek and the dominoes live at filmore east. Especially “key to the highway”, “have you ever loved a woman”, ‘WHY DOES LOVE GOT TO BE SO SAD”, and any other song in that. You should also get Blind FAITH live at hyde park dvd. And for some good modern clapton playing, get Eric clapton and steve winwood live at madison square garden. Listen to all the songs, but more importently listen to “Double Trouble”. You should also listen to the album he made with bb king. “three o’clock in the morning” and “ten long years show how tasteful he is. Finally get live cream vol 1 and and wheels of fire and goodbye. Then you will see how good he is. My personal favorite is the derek and the dominoes one.

  25. Man… if u dont like his famous work listen to “Me and Mr. Johnson”
    and stuff like that its way better

  26. He states it perfectly,

    Your website is an embarrassment to the human race!

    Terry
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 10:58 AM

    Just read your blog. Taste is subjective. Just wanted you to know I listened to some of your tracks off signifying nothing and by track two I couldn’t take it. The guitar part couldn’t even stay in rhythm during the triplet muting part (for an example of how to do that, try listening the the great Tab Benoit). I liked your energy, but overall I was suprised that the same person who wrote a piece called “eric clapton sucks” would then push forth such a sorry example of what was good.

    Taste is subjective. And while I do believe everyone is entitled to their own sense of taste, I absolutely loathe the holier than thou attitude that is required when someone makes that leap from “here is my taste” to “my taste is best”. Reeks too much of a music critic (and usually music critics become such people because they love music and yet were not successful enough at it to actually create.

    So, I will say its obvious our taste in music in not in line, I will be the first to admit – I may be wrong. And actually by definition, what I should say is both of us ought to be able to exist with our own taste without having to trash someone elses original art (both yours or claptons). I too am a musician and I know what it takes to create, and yes you write some good ones and some bad ones. I think Claptons life work speaks for itself, he was a hard worker who diligently studied the blues masters. He had impeccable taste to know who to study in the first place, and a hard work ethic to master each style in the process, from country blues to freddy king style. Eric’s crowning achievement as a guitarist was his stylist mastery of the blues, and his ability to use that form in new ways in world of rock music. He invented some great riffs, and could improvise with the best (btw, you think Clapton sucks, tell that to Eddie Van Halen who learned every clapton solo he could growing up).

    I think your list of songs is suspect, and logic flawed for only including songs you hate from his later material. It’s like looking at Bret Favre’s work as a Viking and saying, Favre sucks (which he isnt doing of course, at least yet) – and here’s my proof – then listing off games he played after the most important part of his career was over. To me, the greatness of an artist should be judged by his best work, and for Eric Clapton, that was John Mayalls Bluesbreakers, The Yardbirds, Cream (see the movie “fresh live cream”), and Blind Faith. Derek and the Dominoes was pretty good too. You basically say “yeah all that happened, but THEN he wrote lay down sally (which I like btw) and for that I’m given an excuse to dislike him overall. Bu that point in his career, he was past the point of trying to impress anyone with his guitar playing and I give him credit for continuing to grow as a musician and just write good songs. We can debate whether those songs are good songs indeed, and we will obviously disagree on some of them as Lay Down Sally bears witness. However, for you to look over the first five major bands of his career and go straight to those songs is a bit shallow isn’t it? And I don’t mean to offend by what I’ve written about your music, I did that merely to show if you go in looking for bad things its easy to find them.

    Eric Clapton has inspired many great musicians, and I am inspired by his worst music 1000 times more than any of the songs I heard on your blog (maybe I only heard the **bad** ones).I have not written this to convince you, you’re free to like or dislike who you want – I written this to let you know I think your blog piece is a PIECE (of ****). Have your own opinion, joke around the office, but the minute you put up a public blog implying your opinion is KING, I will defend a person who has a great ear for simple melodies and who has worked hard to acquire the skills necessary to give those melodies life through his guitar. gooday

  27. With music you have four types of talent that shouldn’t be mixed: technicians, innovators, song writers, and then just performers.

    1. Technicians (any guitar God or guitar institute grad) who can play just about anything,
    2. Song writers (Beatles, Neil Young, Elvis Costello) write or perform songs that people want to hear,
    3. innovators (Sonic Youth, Can, Husker Du) might not have the technique or even write songs that are going to sell millions but they somehow pave a new route in music,
    4. Performers (Elvis, The Who, Kiss) just put on a good show, or one that people will pay to see.

    Often there will be some overlap (i.e. Eddie Van Halen was always fun to watch), but most musicians fall into one or two categories at best.

    The test for who is the best technician is fairly objective. Basically see who can or could play the other’s solo first and you have the winner. For example, compare any guitar god (Steve Morris, Eddie Van Halen) to any song writing God (Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Neil Young). Obviously Steve Morris would learn every note of the Elvis Costello song in about 5-10 minutes, whereas Elvis Costello would still be on the first 10 second of a Steve Morris solo two days later. Any Guitar Center Teacher can probably play more technically proficient licks than most of the stuff playing on the radio; however, they aren’t making the big bucks either because they technique is the least marketable of the above, (except of course Swedish Guitar Gods who have made a career off of playing fast).

    The other three categories are more subjective and probably where Clapton would fall.

    Here is how I would rank him on the above 4 categories.(on a 1-10 scale)

    1. Technique–5–most bar band guitar players can learn his solos in 10-15 minutes, or at least wing them. I doubt that he could leave his idiom (the blues–always a basic idiom technically speaking at best) and really fly in the jazz, metal, or even country realms.

    2. Song writing–7–even his most mawkish stuff somehow sticks in one’s head. Thanks I’ll have “promises” in there for the next week and want to kill myself. Perhaps the truest test here is to play the music for a 6 year old or a 85 year old–if they can hum it back, it’s a catchy song. I’m not saying that I like these songs, but “Promises,” “Tears in Heaven,” etc., do stay in one’s head, and they are catchy. I place them in a special room with “Betty Davis Eyes,” “Escape,” “Open Arms,” etc. . . I don’t want to listen, but I just do even after I’ve turned them off the radio.

    3. Innovation–8 if we can only trust those who say Clapton influenced them. If Eddie and all the others who claimed that they learned all the Clapton solos are really lying than this would be a 4 at best. He basically recycled the blues, which tons of other British bands had already been doing for a while by the time the Yardbirds hit; however, the Yardbirds, and Clapton’s holier than thou blues aesthetic is what everyone remembers.

    4. Performance–3. He never really wanted to be a “show” piece, and he is very dull to watch on stage. And those solos really don’t go anywhere, and if anyone else were playing them they would be considered noodling at best. Try this–learn a solo of his note for note and play it in a guitar shop–I doubt anyone will stop and listen to what you are doing. Of course, this doesn’t stop 100,000 of people from seeing Clapton each year and saying his playing was amazing (these same people also said the Eagles reunion, and REM concerts were musically amazing as well).

    For the record, I’d give Black Flag a 4, 4, 9, 8. They were innovative and just fun to watch especially in 1983 when they really were underground.
    My opinion on Clapton as an artist–I’ve gone through a phase where I’ve listen to each of his phases. In my subjective hindsight, Cream was probably his best band and had his best playing (a trio is a challenging environment to play in, especially with someone as great as Ginger Baker). I think his guitar playing over-rated, but in 1973 most people didn’t know what other genres had to offer in terms of technique. In the end, he has made more money than I ever will playing guitar and I just can’t write catchy songs, and lord knows my signing is terrible.
    I could easily sit in on any Clapton gig or even sight read it (I doubt he could sight read his own stuff), and I doubt that he could solo over some of the stuff that I can play well (i.e. “Giant Steps” at Coltrane pace Eric?), yet he is the better musician because he writes better songs than I ever will and he will always be “known” for starting something and inspiring thousands of guitar players; neither of which I or most people will ever do.

  28. An excellent and thought-provoking commentary, Chris. Thank you for taking the time to share it. Your points about the differences between technicians and innovators are most well-taken. I clearly prefer the innovator track, and that may be the source of much of my antipathy toward the solo phase of Clapton’s career.

  29. Clapton totally sucks . He plays the same three chords over and over. Jeff Beck Can’t write a good song for shit,and Jimi Hendrix is the most overrated guitarist ever. Thank god that drug addict scumbag is dead !!

  30. I heard Eric Clapton’s son jumped out a window screaming that he couldn’t stand another replay of “Wonderful Tonight.”

    I have to agree, Clapton put out some great music with Cream, Bling Faith, and Derek and the Dominos. Then he listened to his manager — a beast from the dark side — telling him about all the money he could rake in as a boring pop hitmaker. So for several decades, that’s what Clapton was.

    Now he’s once again trying to promote himself as a blues great, but guess what? It’s too late! His technical ability is still there, but somehow the blues he plays now have been drained of all power and emotion. In recent years he’s recorded bluesy albums, including cuts with B.B. King, a reformed Cream, and Steve Winwood. But all he’s been able to prove is that his music needs Viagra.

    Clapton, it seems, has become the antithesis of Robert Johnson. Clapton went to a crossroads at midnight, met the devil, and told him “I wanna make a lot of money playing Top 40 schlock.” The devil said, it’s a deal, but you got to give up all ability to play great blues. And Clapton said okay.

    Of course, once you sell your soul to Satan, you can never get it back.

  31. Eric Clapton is soooooooo boooooring. But I just heard your band The Long Afternoon and is also pretty boring [not as bad as Clapton thou]. White people shouldn’t try blues, they lack the soul that it requires. Just check out YouTube for B.B King and Buddy Guy ”Rock Me Baby” with CRAPton and Vaughan to see what I mean.

  32. That guy that just left that comment outta be strung up!!!! I LOVE Eric Clapton!!! I LOVE Gins n’s Roses!! Axl Rose is a Rock GOD!!! Go crawl back underneath your ROCK you low-life!!!

    – Chico the Man

    ————————————————————————————————————————–

    This has almost got to be a troll. If not, it only reinforces my conviction that that world is populated primarily by crap machines (as it’s the most reliable, consistent item these individuals produce). Chico the Man. As opposed to “Chico the Woman”.

    But really, back on track, truly, veritably…how the hell has Gen-Eric Clapton stuck around for so long, so long to the point that he’s currently still active. I told what I’m about to reveal to my buddy the other day, and he replied, “Sounds like you’re jealous!”…but, no, I wasn’t. At all. Baffled, flabbergasted, frustrated, and angry is more like it.

    I’m not normally one to indulge in the profane, but this fucking asshole has been been on the scene for forty years now…and what does he know how to play? I’d say a generous answer might be: the first two positions of minor pentatonic, the fourth, A-B-C-D-E-F-G major and minor. That’s it. THAT’S IT. People go on, all sappy and devotional as they quote his ‘Layla’ as proof of his genius…guess what? He didn’t write the music. Duane came in (probably just to took the needle out of his arm), and said, “Hey, the riff and fills go like this…the leads go like this,” and who knows what he said next? Maybe, “Eric, you got those school-boy class love-sick youth lyrics ready, you pussy-whipped little junkie?” If not, he should have.

    Every song that man had turn into a hit was NOT written by him. JJ Cale, Bob Marley, Duane Allman, Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson, etc. etc. etc. The only songs he churned out that were considered hits all had the same kind of writing in common: pussy-whipped, female worshipping, “Oh god how could I have messed up this badly, boo hoo???”. Weak playing, weak singing, weak songwriting, weak everything. Can somebody just…never mind. I’ll sign off here.

  33. Quote ‘Halcyon Days in 1994’: “White people shouldn’t try blues, they lack the soul that it requires. Just check out YouTube for B.B King and Buddy Guy ”Rock Me Baby” with CRAPton and Vaughan to see what I mean.”

    Dude, no offense intended, but you need to have your head checked. White people “lack the soul that it requires”? Puh-leeze man. Ask the blacks if they feel that way. You’ll get a resounding, “Hell yeah they got it! Stevie blew everybody, EVERYBODY away during the short while he was with us….” and so on. Ever heard of Joe Bonamassa? Why don’t you go listen to “Blues Deluxe – Live at the Rockpalast” and “If Heartaches Were Nickels”. Then come back and we’ll see if you stand by your initial statement.

    BTW: I’m sure I’ll get bombarded with hate jabs for this, but IMO, quite frankly, BB King SUCKS. I’ve been playing guitar for 21 years, mainly blues, and I could cop, duplicate all his work (as with Crapton’s) within my first year of playing. The man never even plays a fucking chord, for chrissakes! All he does is play the same five notes in the second position minor pentatonic (the “BB Box”) with the occasional deviation to a couple notes about five or six frets away. Oh yeah, and of course he’s got his ever so difficult, impossible for white people to play “wake-up call note to the band”. This he plays (invariably) at the 19th fret of the high E string (he’s always in the key of B). Never playing a chord, knowing about ten notes, two pentatonic positions and an exaggerated vibrato…oh yeah. That’s soul in your book huh?

  34. Quote Jim: quite frankly, BB King SUCKS. I’ve been playing guitar for 21 years, mainly blues, and I could cop, duplicate all his work (as with Crapton’s) within my first year of playing. The man never even plays a fucking chord, for chrissakes! All he does is play the same five notes in the second position minor pentatonic (the “BB Box”) with the occasional deviation to a couple notes about five or six frets away.
    ————-
    BB might bore you yeah, it’s quite possible that being a musician yourself you have a refined taste in music and you judge the ‘soul’ in a song by the skills the player shows, but for me judging music like that is crap, a good song is a good song and even when the one who performs it isn’t the most skilled artist ever he can still come up with a great version. That’s what I mean with ‘soul’ But if you didn’t get the feel those 2 african guys put into their perfomances in a way so natural and don’t either feel the difference when compared to the boring, lifeless and dull playing of the two whites then you just don’t have an ear for the real.

    Yeah… some whities can play; that Joe Bonamassa rocks at guitar man, but check out the lyrics and voices, they’re trying to sing like blacks… you can’t find true blues there, they lack the BLUES. And when they get close to it they still owe it all to the blacks who invented it and made it naturally beautiful right away. Ritchie Valens, a non-white, non-black, played better rock n roll than any white guy before The Damned came out with their first 3 records.

    So I’m always right? Ok yeah that’s true, I can feel the real music and dismiss the pose.

  35. I watch a lot of PBS programs about the Blues. Eric Clapton is a master of the Blues and has had the pain and suffering that goes into and out of the music. Pity here is that one or two or hell even 100 opinions that are negative about the man will not amount to a hill of beans!

    Clapton was a musician of the 60’s and 70’s. He has continued to ENTERTAIN MILLIONS in the last 40+ years. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

  36. Are you f**king kidding me? Eric Clapton is the best musician ever… Don’t like him…then don’t listen to him…What do you have against Tears in heaven?? This song was written about his 4 year old son who died…and all of this songs are meaningful…I just hate when people judge without even knowing….no one cares if you like him or not but don’t say he sucks and don’t make fun of him….you don’t know what real music is…I have 3 words for you: Clapton is God <3

  37. Who the hell are you to say Eric Clapton sucks? Have you been inducted into the fucking Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times? I DON’T THINK SO! Did you ever have eight number one hits on the U.S. Billboard Charts? Absolutely not! You are a fucking horse’s ass for even thinking that because Eric Clapton is better than you will ever be, and you know it.

  38. Actually, I think the “fucking Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” sucks, too. But thanks for the comment, and good luck.

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