Who could forget Samantha Mumba, Tatu, Kriss Kross & 5ive? Thankfully, most of us with the singers never having any longevity they were rightly destined for obscurity. Even boy bands backed by established singers suffered the same fate as seen with ‘Boyz 2 Men’ who were signed to Michael Jackson’s label, although personally we think it was more likely that the Prince of Pop thought they were a home delivery service (‘You’re fired!- Ed)….but we digress. But then of course there are the singers who think they’re bigger than the band they came from only to find themselves slinking back to the safety of the band after a dismal solo career flounders.
One of the few who did this and survived and thrived was Eric Clapton who, according to the slogan, was God although this was news to God obviously. With rock documentaries having something of a resurgence we have, of late, had several decent docs covering influential bands with ‘Montage of Heck’ (Nirvana) and Supersonic (Oasis) and Amy (Winehouse). It’s bizarre that legends like Clapton have been overlooked for so long especially when numbnut oxygen thieves like Justin Bieber have already had two documentaries about them although admittedly they worked admirably in curing insomnia for anyone watching them.
This is the first on Clapton with which he’s been wholly co-operative with the film makers and it’s a credit to him that he’s been so open about the extremely grim episodes of his life. It’s only the very start of the film that we only ever see him as he is today and the rest of the documentary is all voiceover where he openly talks about the chapters in his life that the rest of us would be keen to forget about.
Starting with his childhood as an only child where his mother effectively rejected and abandoned him to be raised by his grandmother and his career path was determined on a chance hearing of a Muddy Waters track for the first time. It’s startling to see just how many bands he was involved in starting with The Yardbirds, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominoes, all of which he was bigger than and quickly outgrew. As riveting as the old footage is it’s the bonkers mad haircuts which were more diverse than the excuses our Editor uses to avoid buying a round of drinks.
What the film does set out is how single minded he was to walk away from bands yet equally willing to work with those talent he respected which didn’t just include the well known greats but also those far from household names such as Duanne Allman whose contribution to tracks such as Layla were immeasurable. It’s that seminal track with the unforgettable riff that illustrates the darker side of his life namely his obsession with George Harrison’s wife Patti Boyd. These morally murky moments in his life is where the film shines a light from his almost embarrassing infatuation with her followed by the drink and drug addled years where he lumbered around the stage being verbally abused by his fans to the distressingly heartbreaking tragic accident that led to the death of his four year old son. Watching him drunk on stage struggling to play guitar gives the film’s title an unintended double meaning.
Facing parental rejection, depression and addiction Clapton makes it clear that music saved him from himself and the money that he has made he has ploughed into a drug rehab centre, though being built in a tropical idyll in the West Indies it seems that only fellow multi millionaire musicians can afford it.
At just over two this is overlong but with a life so packed with incident and controversy (his extraordinary alignment with the comments of Enoch Powell are a shock ) this is still essential viewing.
Here’s the trailer…….