Eric Clapton: The 1960s Review
The Beatles may have claimed they were bigger than Jesus, but Clapton never said he was God – his fans just spray painted that fact on the walls. Like so many rockers, Clapton came out of the genteel poverty of postwar England. Raised by his grandparents, he picked up the guitar at age ten, entered the archetypical British Art School and fell in love with the Blues – Elvis, Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Muddy Waters. The Blues were nearly unknown in England in 1960, but a dedicated cadre of young musicians began playing the sound around London and Clapton fit right in. A band gelled around him, and the Roosters lead to the Yardbirds to the Bluesbreakers to Cream to Blind Faith and his solo career. Clapton defined the classic rock genre, and this thorough documentary traces his career through the 1960s. There are interviews with bandmates and fellow musicians from Neil Innes to Tom McGuinness, miles of archival footage and a wonderfully droning narration by veteran documentary voice artist Thomas Arnold.
Clapton’s story in the Sixties is a relentlessly positive climb with no major setbacks. He’s the epitome of the successful rocker who never fell into the morass, could walk away from a hit, and had the ability to mend a seismic rift between Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce. Jimi Hendrix begged to play with him, and I can’t point to a single album that lacked a classic. Negative reviews are minimal, whether due to sharp editing or the blunt fact that the press loved him, and he never suffered a hint of scandal (that would come later). Heck, from that description, he may well be God.
It’s amazing how much material is in here: family pictures, sections of a lengthy 2005 interview, and endless reminiscences by friends and bandmates and a stream of journalists who covered the band and the scene. There are reasonably long clips of old kinescopes and archival footage, and you get a great feel for how the blues influenced him and how he grew musically from group to group. He had a few rough spots, of course – he was greased out of The Yardbirds – but all of this is presented with a clinical detachment. While this is a long documentary, it’s solid and professional. There’s no taking sides here, we all are in love with his music, and we’ll tolerate his humanity so long as he keeps playing.
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