Rock Blog: It's Eric Clapton's Birthday

March 28, 2017

Ron Elkman

Each year around this time I think about Eric Clapton. Nothing weird or nostalgic, just that we share the same birthday,  March 30th. I loved Clapton as a kid and when I found out we had the same birthday, I felt like we were brothers. I met him once and told him. He wasn’t impressed.


I’ve had this weird relationship with Clapton’s music. Absolutely loved it in the 70s, and learned about his first bands, The Yardbirds, Cream and Blind Faith after I discovered Derek and the Dominoes. I saw him play at Madison Square Garden when I was 14, and on paper, a night of legends. Clapton and his band headlined and Santana opened. At the time Clapton was huge, and selling a ton of tickets and records, but his performances were not great. Heroin slowed it all down. Santana was no longer selling as much as he was earlier in his career, but live he was a monster.

The show I saw had Santana tear it up with a very esoteric Jazz set, followed by a not so hot Clapton set. After his last encore Eric Clapton came back on stage with his band, along with Carlos Santana and members of his band. Then John McLaughlin and members of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. If you aren't familiar with McLaughlin he blows Clapton and Santana away. The music is a little out there, but as a guitarist – wow!


It seemed like 20 people on stage, overplaying their instruments, and out solo-ing each other for 45 minutes to “Eyesight to the Blind”, a song Clapton performed in the Tommy movie. This was one of those “greatest things you’ll ever see” moments. Especially for a very stoned 14 year old kid who idolized Clapton. But I knew then and there that Eric Clapton just didn't deliver the goods on that night at MSG!


20 years later, 1994 in Chicago. It was an industry show at a tiny blues club. That means 150 douchwaffles from across America are packed like sardines into a club for a secret show. Journalists, publishers, radio and record guys, hangers on and maybe a few mega fans who somehow found their way into the club. I lived in Chicago, so I knew what we were there for. To see Eric Clapton play a blues set in a tiny hellhole club. Long story short, me and 3 pals stood 4 feet in front of Clapton for 90 minutes watching him play, while the rest of those tools chatted it up in the back of the club. Who cares. I just saw another “Greatest things you’ll ever see” shows. It was like a religious experience. This time a phenomenal Clapton performance, coming of the downside, or slowhand side of his career. But for a very drunk 34 year old fan, magic.


Clapton's work with The Yardbirds, John Mayall, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominoes, Delaney and Bonnie, his session work are unmatched. I believe Cream was his best work. His early 70s and mid to late 80s solo work is tremendous. Most of the remainder I can pass on. But for a guy who has been laying tracks for over 50 years, he’s earned his place.

Happy Birthday Eric Clapton!




Sergeant Hairclub AKA Dave Richards