Clapton: The Ultimate Illustrated History: Updated Edition, by Chris Welch
I happen to admit that this is a very good book, although the author generally puts the best foot forward about Clapton. Let us take one minor example. In 1998, Eric Clapton released a successful album with Pilgrim that featured exactly one good song (the top 40 single “My Father’s Eyes,” which is an amazing song, admittedly) and one okay song (“Circus”) and a lot of filler. Yet when this album is briefly talked about in this book, only the stellar hit single is referenced, and the fact that the album is a colossal disappointment is not discussed, as that would disrupt the upbeat tone. That said, this book was clearly an authorized look at Clapton’s life and career from a journalist who has probably kissed a lot of arse, and in order to get to write about Clapton. As someone who enjoys reading about rock & roll stars , this book was generally enjoyable as it provided a thoughtful and expansive view of Clapton’s career and discography. And if that is something that sounds appealing to you, there is a lot to enjoy in this book.
The contents of this book take a chronological approach to Clapton’s life and career, along with a great many photos that provide evidence of Clapton’s life, his concern for his family, and his career, including photographs of tickets, posters, album covers, guitars, and the like. A key aspect of the narrative of the book as a whole is Clapton’s immense career instability towards the start of his career as he would start a band with a good deal of enthusiasm before something went wrong and Eric Clapton would pull away and then leave quietly before immediately starting another project that would have the same trajectory. And so we have groups like the Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek & The Dominoes, among others. Some of the groups would survive for a few albums, and some, like Blind Faith, would only last a single album, although Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood would perform together a lot in later years, thankfully. The album is mixed between the main text, a discussion of classic albums in the Clapton oeuvre, and plenty of visiuals that help bring the point of the book home that Clapton has had an immense influence in popular culture over the course of decades of a successful career as a pop, rock, and blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist.
If you are a fan of Eric Clapton or you have a fondness for reading about the history of rock and roll music and have an enjoyment of the promotional advertisements used to sell concerts and physical music, this book has a lot to offer. Sure, the author tends to insert himself a bit too much into the history he is writing and it is a bit too much on the hero worshiping side (although, to his credit, the author notes that neither he nor Clapton himself consider Clapton to be any sort of guitar deity), but this book still has a lot to offer and is an enjoyable read. One gets to see a lot of material that shows some of the lesser known acts that Clapton was able to encourage (Player, for example, famous as a one hit wonder for “Baby Come Back” was one of those, among many others) and also shows how Clapton had a good relationship with many of his peers and was even able to bury the hatchet when it came to ugly band drama and work with people again after previous disagreements and problems. All in all, this book is certainly one to enjoy and appreciate and recognize as being an “official” source about Clapton and his tumultuous and dramatic life.
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