Eric Clapton: The Rolling Stone Interview
Nineteen ninety-one was supposed to have been a holiday for Eric Clapton. After spending the better part of the past two years on the road, playing everywhere from Africa and South America to the United States and Europe, Clapton was ready for a rest. More important, though, he was going to spend some much-needed quality time with his son, Conor.
That all changed on March 20th, when the four-and-a-half-year-old boy fell to his death from the fifty-third floor of the Manhattan apartment where he lived with his mother, the Italian actress Lori Del Santo. Clapton was in New York at the time of the accident, but he retreated shortly thereafter to his home outside London, where he remained in virtual isolation. Toward the middle of the summer, however, he began venturing back into the public eye. He was photographed with Tatum O’Neal, taking in John McEnroe’s match at Wimbledon. The tabloids have also kept a running tab on his alleged liaisons, most recently linking him with Cher. “It’s very funny,” Clapton said, when a copy of the paper was spotted in a wastebasket during the course of this interview. “In the English papers, it said, ‘Cher finds her bel ami,’ or something. I mean, we had dinner! I had read an interview in England where she said she liked listening to my music, and I’d seen her on TV, and she seemed like a very settled, coherent lady. So we had dinner. And that was it.
“But I think these journalists probably feel sorry for me,” he continued. “They’re trying to marry me off. If they see me with a girl, they think, ‘Ah, Eric finds happiness.’ There’s a side of it that is very sweet. And I kind of feel touched by it, because I’m not really sure that I’m looking for comfort or a steady relationship. I just like the company of beautiful women. I have a weakness in that department. And I suppose because I am fairly well off and a famous musician, I’m up for grabs. And that makes me an eligible bachelor in the press.”
Sitting in the same hotel where he’d been when he heard the news of his son’s death, Clapton chain-smoked cigarettes and sipped coffee as he talked publicly for the first time about the tragedy. Dressed in a green polo shirt and jeans, he seemed healthy and relaxed; he answered every question without hesitation.
The interview came at a time when Clapton was resuming his musical career with a flurry of projects. A few days earlier, it had been announced that he and his longtime friend George Harrison would be undertaking a joint tour starting this December in Japan. The tour would mark the first time the former Beatle had been on the road since a nightmarish solo jaunt in 1974.
In addition, Clapton is due to release a new live album, 24 Nights, this month. The two-CD set, produced by Russ Titelman, was culled from his 1990 and 1991 performances at London’s Royal Albert Hall Since 1987, Clapton’s multiple-night stands at the hall have become annual events, with the guitarist fronting a variety of musical ensembles. The tracks on 24 Nights feature his regular band (keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, bassist Nathan East and drummer Steve Ferrone), an expanded group with backup singers, a star-studded cast of bluesmen and London’s National Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Michael Kamen. (Though not included on the live album, this year’s Albert Hall shows featured performances of Kamen’s Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra. A studio version of that work, featuring Clapton on guitar, is expected next spring.)
Finally, Clapton has been writing the music for Rush, the film version of the Kim Wozencraft book about a female vice officer who becomes involved with drugs. The movie, which was directed by Lili Zanuck and stars Jason Patric and Jennifer Jason Leigh, is due this Christmas. “I saw the film and was impressed by the low-key documentary style of it, especially seeing as it came from Hollywood,” Clapton said. “I thought it would be a good thing for me to come back with.”
Clapton admitted that because of his own history of drug addiction, he related to the movie’s plot. “I was very concerned with the drug aspect of the movie,” he said, “that it be authentically depicted and not done in any romantic sort of way. I mean, it’s pretty grim, and I think that’s essential.”
Though Clapton has been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for the past four years, he did admit to one new addiction: Nintendo. Sitting on one of the end tables in his hotel room were two hand-held Nintendo Game Boys. “I’ve been playing for about two years,” he said, as he prepared to demonstrate his skills at the game Tetris. “It’s very therapeutic.”
Let’s start with the George Harrison tour. How did that come about?
George and I have been friends for a great long time, and we’ve always seemed to be around when one of us needed the other one. And when I was on tour last year, especially in the Third World and South America and places like that, people kept asking me about George, about how he was and what he was doing. And when I got back to England, I reported all this to George, and we started talking, on a very lighthearted level, about going out on the road. And then, when I looked at my schedule for this year, I saw that I was deliberately not planning to work very much, but I had all this stuff standing by, like lights and sound, and the best band in the world. And I thought, “Well, why not?” And I put it to George that he go out with us. All he’s got to do, essentially, is walk out on the stage and strum an acoustic guitar, and we’ll do everything else. Nothing for him to worry about. And I put it to him, and he was delighted and scared at the same time – really scared to death. Because it’s been a long time, I mean fifteen years or so, since his last American tour.
Which he didn’t like very much.
He had an awful time. I think he lost his voice on day one, and there was a lot of dope and drink and all kinds of mad stuff going on, which didn’t help him to recover his voice. But I think everything is different now, and I think it will be great. But he changed his mind about five different times, saying he’d do it. and then he wouldn’t do it It was almost definitely off, and at the last minute he changed his mind, so now it’s back on again.
Why are you starting in Japan?
On the practical level, it’s the most efficient country in the world for putting on shows. And somehow it’s a bit out of the way, so that he can go onstage and get over his stage fright without being right in the international spotlight. I think if he came to the U.S. and he saw one bad review, he’d go straight home.
What’s the nature of the show? Is it a George Harrison show or a George Harrison-Eric Clapton show?
It’s George Harrison. I’ll probably do two or three numbers and then just step back, and we’ll do everything from, say, “Taxman” up to the present. I think it would be great to do some of those old Beatles songs, like “If I Needed Someone.”
Kanye West Says Jonah Hill in '21 Jump Street' 'Made Me Like Jewish People Again'
- 'Thank You Jonah Hill'