Rocktober Day 20: Eric Clapton - Slowhand


 

This one hurts.

Like many of you who grew up in the 80’s I grew up LOVING Eric Clapton. Behind The Sun had hits all up and down the radio. You couldn’t escape “Forever Man” or the Phil Collins powered cover of “Knock On Wood” if you tried. And it wasn’t like it was good. It wasn’t. AT ALL.

But then came the Crossroads box set, and with it the whole history of the legendary guitarist was cracked open for all of us newbies to explore. Taking in the hits of The Yardbirds, Cream, John Mayall, Blind Faith and so many more all at once was a positively mind blowing event, but there it was. A straight mainline of rock into my brain that would alter my DNA for pretty much ever.

After about a month of cramming all of that awesome into my ears I decided to pick up guitar. I got a Fender Strat (just like Clapton), a bitchin’ Fender amp (just like Clapton) and a wah pedal (JUST LIKE CLAPTON) and my destiny was set. As I struggled to rock out on “Sunshine Of Your Love” (illegal in 36 states) I dove deeper and deeper into Clapton’s catalog proper. Hearing “the hits” was one thing, but seeing how they fit into the context of an album was a whole other beast entirely.

I burned through the Yardbirds stuff in a day. GREAT. Took only a few weeks for Disraeli Gears to turn my stereo into some sort of fountain of rock. DOUBLE GREAT. Then it was onto the 70’s for an extended stay with Derek and the Domino’s masterpiece Layla, and Other Assorted Love Songs. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!! THIS STUFF IS UNREAL!!!

I got stuck there in 1972, the year of my birth, for good long while, and it wasn’t until my Senior year in High School that I dove headlong into the “other” 70’s of the Clapton-verse.

I bought my first copy of Slowhand for $4 used at  flea market in Oxford, Ohio. I still have that copy, and it still finds it’s way onto a multitude of playlists weekly. With hits like the J.J. Cale penned “Cocaine”, “Lay Down Sally” and the ubiquitous Junior Prom nightmare of “Wonderful Tonight”, how could it not. Even to this day, these songs remain staples of classic rock radio, and with good reason. They’re freaking great.

But then there’s the rest of the album.

ORLY?As much as I love this record (so boundless) I would be the first person to have to tell you that the song “The Core” is as bad a song from the 70’s, or any era as you will ever have to hear in your life. I’m sure that somewhere back in the van-tastic year of 1978, amidst mountains of cocaine, smack and studio “assistants”, someone thought that this type of vague musical mini epic would stand the test of time, but I’m here to tell you IT DOES NOT.

As far as cheese goes, you’re going to have to chew on this track with one giant self-indulgent cracker. It represents every single last thing that was wrong with late 70’s rock and roll, and does it in a shockingly brief (for the time) 8 minutes and 45 seconds. “The Core” is, without a doubt the finest example of coke-rock to ever be put to wax and so I guess it was fitting that it birthed from the mind of the man that many used to refer to as “God”.

And the awesomely bad goodness doesn’t stop there.

No, tracks like “We’re All The Way”, “Next Time You See Her” and album closer “Peaches and Diesel” make a pretty good case for someone travelling back in time and offing the 70’s music scene’s grandma so that it can never be born. What would be the ramifications of that? WHO CARES! Because at least the world would be rid of these musical assaults on the populations sense of good taste.

But I can’t travel back in time any more than I can avoid actually loving this stuff after over 20 years of hearing it. It has seeped into my marrow. It has tricked my brain into believing in some false history where this stuff was actually cool at one point, and apparently I’m not the only one. Slowhand is ranked at number 325 of Rolling Stones list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, which is kind of a wonky number if you think about it, but hey it’s in the running! Add that to the fact we know Clapton was capable of far, far worse transgressions (see all 80’s output) and what you’re looking at is a masterpiece in mediocrity that will force you submit to it’s power whether you like it or not.

I for one, choose to go willingly into that long, craptacular surrender. 


 

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