November 15, 2007

Eric Clapton's autobiography.

I've been listening to the audiobook of Eric Clapton's autobiography. It's my current "walking around" book — as I take my walks. I'm enjoying the book, especially the deadpan retelling of horrible dissolution brought on by drugs and drink. I was listening last night as I walked over to the Barnes & Noble on Court Street.

(I wanted to buy Norman Mailer's "Advertisements for Myself." Sadly enough, they didn't seem to have a single book by Norman Mailer in the store, here in this neighborhood where Norman Mailer lived for many years. You'd think they would have had a huge display table, with all of his books, just at the entrance of the store. But I looked everywhere I could think, including alphabetically on the fiction shelves, where there was nothing)

It's not a long walk, but I heard Clapton's descriptions of the following:

1. Getting up in the middle of the night on Christmas and opening his presents alone — as a grown, married man, then hiding in the basement. Pattie Boyd had to try to salvage the family Christmas by locking him in a room for the day.

2. Driving home at night after getting drunk in a bar, he would stop and pick up homeless men and bring them to his mansion. He wanted to hang out with them, because he thought they were more real than other people, even though most of them talked utter madness.

3. He thought about suicide, but what stopped him was the realization that if he were dead, he would not be able to drink.

4. Until he went to a rehab clinic in Minnesota, he didn't realize that alcoholism could be considered a disease. He had always considered it degeneracy and resisted thinking of himself that way (even though he was drinking bottles of vodka or brandy a day and going to great lengths to hide it).

57 comments:

halojones-fan said...

I try to avoid learning anything about the personal lives of artists whose work I enjoy. This is why.

Ron said...

"He thought about suicide, but what stopped him was the realization that if he were dead, he would not be able to drink."

Alcoholism as life-affirming? Yes!

"Get down off that ledge and have a beer!"

David said...

Ann, check out BookCourt further down Court street in Cobble Hill. I was there over the weekend but it looked like there had been a run on the Mailer books., though there were left a few copies of "The Naked and the Dead." I'd bet they'll have some more Mailer in no time.

ricpic said...

Just one more proof that a first rate talent can come attached to an utterly mediocre human bean.

bill said...

A quick check couldn't confirm this, but my recollection is that for the late 70s to early 80s there were a surprising number of musicians who had to cancel Minneapolis concerts because they came down with appendicitis or a mysterious ailment. Only to find out years later it was an excuse to check in to Hazelden.

By surprising number I probably mean 2 or 3.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Never could quite understand why people with mega talent and money seem to piss their lives away with drugs and booze.

I think there is a lot of truth to the phrase "God loves idiots".

Beth said...

I'm always disturbed when I note a correlation in the end of a musician's addiction and the onset of their decline in artistry. There's so much mundane crap in his late 80s and early 90s work. Working with Phil Collins? Gargh. A friend once passed the TV when a Collins video was on and asked me when Bob Newhart got in to music. If Clapton's playing real music again, someone let me know and I'll give it a listen, but after "Wonderful Tonight," and that easy-listening version of "Layla," I took him off my "to buy" list. Old Clapton, in many incarnations, is still on my iPod, however.

David said...

ricpic, you are an idiot. Clapton overcame a lot and it's something to be proud of, not condemned. If you mean to say that alcoholism does not discriminate, fine, but if you're trying to disparage people who suffer from what every medical health professional recognizes as a disease, an idiot you remain. And hoosier daddy, you are also a first rate moron for assuming he had any choice in his addictions, except for the choice he made to get better.

And the correlation in decline of artistry and end of addictions is just that -- correlation, not causation. I think the simple link is age. People are less creative as they get older, but also more likely to have reached the point where they recover or die.

theMickey's said...

...if he were dead, he would not be able to drink.
Thats funny. Typical alcoholic mind (up)set.
I love the innocent.

SGT Ted said...

I love when someone criticises an artist because he doesn't play in the narrow band of what the "fan" likes they aren't playing "real music".

Like most classic 60's rock Gods, Clapton is first and foremost a blues guitarist; did you know that?

Wonderful Tonight(an early 70s song actually) is a great song about his long suffering ex-wife dealing with his dysfunctional drunkenness.

The blues version of Layla is masterful.

Slow Hand is a great album, even though he was still an addict when he cut it.

Peter Palladas said...

"...he didn't realize that alcoholism could be considered a disease. He had always considered it degeneracy."

See the kinda shit they teach you in rehab. He wasn't wrong first time.

Then rehab had to mess with his head and fill it full of personal responsibility vanishing cream.

TMink said...

Beth, I have noticed this as well. Artists get better emotionally, and lose it artistically. Not all of them of course, but much of the intensity of the art and the emotional communication comes out of the drama of their lives. I think that is why so many of them have borderline personality features, it stirs their drink big time. And then they share in a dramatic fashion.

The corolary of this theory is that artists will by and large have goofy politics. I expect them to be loopy, but I still really like the music.

Trey

christopher said...


Hoosier Daddy said...

Never could quite understand why people with mega talent and money seem to piss their lives away with drugs and booze.


Oh, I'm sure you're a paragon of virtue who's never had to be dragged home from the gutter on occasion.

Wow -- the self-righteousness is toxic around here some times.

John said...

ricpic, don't take david's personal attack to heart, he is probably defending a hero. He does have a point in there somewhere. If we judged ourselves by our darkest moments.....

paul a'barge said...

...lcoholism could be considered a disease. He had always considered it degeneracy...

I guess this is the part where Althouse reminds me that current mainstream thought has it that alcoholism is a disease.

Frankly, I don't agree ... I think it is degeneracy.

Luckyoldson said...

halojones-fan said..."I try to avoid learning anything about the personal lives of artists whose work I enjoy. This is why."

That's a rather superficial way of looking at those who are creative.

I've always found, reading about and understanding the person who creates, is sometimes even more interesting and elevating that the materials itself.

As for Hoosier's comment that he could "Never could quite understand why people with mega talent and money seem to piss their lives away with drugs and booze."

I don't think Clapton has pissed away his life at all. Maybe a percentage of it, but hey...who hasn't in some way...who doesn't have regrets? And his book will help others understand things they may have never understood.

Sometimes it takes time to understand your own demons, and drugs and booze sometimes serve as the conduit to that realization or understanding.

*And by the way, there are plenty of regular, everyday Americans who are just as "hooked" on legal pharmaceuticals, prescribed by their own good doctors.

christopher said...


paul a'barge said...

.. Frankly, I don't agree ... I think it is degeneracy.


The Althouse reader, folks.

Luckyoldson said...

paul a'barge said..."I guess this is the part where Althouse reminds me that current mainstream thought has it that alcoholism is a disease. Frankly, I don't agree ... I think it is degeneracy."

You're actually saying you think people with various forms of dependency, whether it be drugs, booze, food, anorexia, etc....are nothing more than "degenerates?"

Are you familiar with the term: "knuckle dragger?"

Luckyoldson said...

paul a'barge,

Here's a list of people who you would refer to as "degenerates:

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett
Lenny Bruce
William Burroughs
Lewis Carrol
Ray Charles
Winston Churchill
Grover Cleveland
Vincent Van Gogh
Jules Verne
George Washington
Samual L. Jackson
Stephen King
Colin Quinn Comedian
John Spencer
Phillip Seymore Hoffman
Kevin Smith
Marian Keyes
Anthony Kiedis
Robbie Williams
Mary J Blige
Elton John
Melanie Griffiths
Kitty Dukakis
Patty Duke
Demi Moore
Mary Tyler Moore
Ali McGraw
Lynda Carter
Tom Arnold
Ann-Margaret
Dick Van Dyke
Dylan Thomas
Eric Clapton
Betty Ford
Robin Williams
William Shatner
Elizabeth Taylor
Billy Joel
Alice Cooper
Joe Walsh

Hoosier Daddy said...

And hoosier daddy, you are also a first rate moron for assuming he had any choice in his addictions, except for the choice he made to get better.

Hey David, I really don't give a shit what you think. Cancer is a disease, diabetes is a disease. Alcoholism is lack of self control. Have a choice in addictions? How How about the choice he made when he downed his beer/whiskey or whatever he was shooting or smoking.

Good for him that he got better. My comment was more generalized in that it seems those who have such talent aren't smart enough to avoid the easy pitfalls.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Oh, I'm sure you're a paragon of virtue who's never had to be dragged home from the gutter on occasion.

Actually I haven't. I can hold my alcohol, know when to stop and aren't stupid enough to do drugs.

Hows that for self-righteousness? Or does my sense of personal responsibility offend thee?

Jeremy said...

I've got no problem calling Grover Cleveland a degenerate, a boor and G D poker cheat to boot!

christopher said...

Hoosier Daddy said...

Oh, I'm sure you're a paragon of virtue who's never had to be dragged home from the gutter on occasion.

Actually I haven't. I can hold my alcohol, know when to stop and aren't stupid enough to do drugs.

Hows that for self-righteousness? Or does my sense of personal responsibility offend thee?
4:35 PM


Assuming any of that's true, which I doubt, you're an insufferable prig as well as a self-righteous asshole.

Kudos and huzzahs, my friend...

Jeremy said...

Ten cuidado, christopher! Medical health professionals are beginning to acknowldege that priggishness and assholity are a disease, not a character flaw. You wouldn't want to be caught critisizing a sick man.

Balfegor said...

Here's a list of people who you would refer to as "degenerates:

Ooh, let me add Evelyn Waugh to that list! I don't know whether he was a boozer or not (I vaguely recall that he was), but he was, quite beside that, an absolutely horrible person.

My favourite is the anecdote about him savouring his childrens' bananas in front of them. There are, of course, many others.

christopher said...

Jeremy:

Good point. I take it all back and hope Hoosier Daddy can forgive me --, and more importantly, heal.

christopher said...

BTW -- if you think that musicians who drink and drug to excess are degenerates, then it probably behooves you to go through your CD collection and delete the offending artists.

Of course, you'll have a very small collection when you're done. Or as my personal hero, the late Bill Hicks, put it --

Hell, the Beatles were so high they actually let Ringo sing.

AllenS said...

Well, I just turned 61 last Sat. I remember musicians as being people who produced something that we could dance to. That was the meetup girls/boys looked for. Sometime during the 60's this drug culture took over. It didn't start with the Beatles. The Rolling Stones became popular for whatever reason. You couldn't dance to the music they produced, so everyone stood around. I think that was about the time when drug culture started.

Luckyoldson said...

Hoosier Daddy said..."Alcoholism is lack of self control."

So, based on your opinion, we shouldn't worry about women pounding down shots (or doing crack, heroin, cocaine, etc.) during the period they're pregnant...because the unborn child should be able to "control" any problems that may arise?

Have you ever actually read anything about addictions...or better yet, do you KNOW anyone who's had problems?

Luckyoldson said...

allens,
You can still dance to the music of today, there are massive dance clubs all over the country and they're not sitting at tables discussing politics.

They're dancing.

Maybe you just can't dance.

Luckyoldson said...

Balfegor,
I don't remember anyone saying the people who were addicted...were wonderful people.

Some were, as you say; "horrible."

Luckyoldson said...

Jeremy,
Anybody who lives in Fresno should consider booze or drugs.

Luckyoldson said...

Hoosier Daddy said..."Actually I haven't. I can hold my alcohol, know when to stop and aren't stupid enough to do drugs."

Based on that statement...are you sure...??

Jeremy said...

What do you think got me here in the first place?

Luckyoldson said...

Jeremy,
I'm assuming it has something to do with the heat, the rednecks and the traffic...and the walk to the beach is a real bitch.

Balfegor said...

Re: Luckyoldson:

I don't remember anyone saying the people who were addicted...were wonderful people.

Well, yes, but they can be. Or at least, they can be not-horrible. I was making the point that Waugh's horribleness was distinct from his boozerdom, and (implicitly) that between the two failings, his cup ran over with a certain sort of degeneracy.

Re: Christopher:

if you think that musicians who drink and drug to excess are degenerates, then it probably behooves you to go through your CD collection and delete the offending artists.

I . . . I don't see how this would follow. I think Baudelaire was a bit of a degenerate, what with Fleurs du mal and the opium and everything, but I can still enjoy his work, even the degenerate bits. It seems, to me, sort of on the order of noting that artists tend to have dotty political ideas. It doesn't then follow that we have to excise all the ones with noxious political ideologies -- like socialism or fascism -- from our libraries. We can still read and enjoy Gabriele d'Annunzio or H.G. Wells. Or Yukio Mishima, for that matter -- a great artist with political views so dotty they drove him to dress up in a cosplay uniform and commit ritual suicide.

Balfegor said...

I should have included a link to a picture of Mishima's cosplay uniform to laugh at. Here. Only I don't think they called it cosplay back then.

Luckyoldson said...

Balfegor,
Gosh...you must be...really, really smart.

Baudelaire...Fleurs du mal...Gabriele d'Annunzio...and Yukio Mishima...all in one post.

And full of yourself to boot.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Assuming any of that's true, which I doubt, you're an insufferable prig as well as a self-righteous asshole.

Well since you don't know me from Adam, doubt away. You're simply a troll who can't deal with a difference of opinion and can only resort to taunts and name calling. Well at least you're using some big boy words and not calling me a poopy-head so I guess that's something.

christopher said...

It doesn't then follow that we have to excise all the ones with noxious political ideologies -- like socialism or fascism -- from our libraries.

I agree...I was exagerrating to make a point, i.e., that there's a lot of hysterical self-righteous moralizing on display here from time to time.

christopher said...

Well at least you're using some big boy words and not calling me a poopy-head so I guess that's something.

Oh, I'm sure you're a poopy-head as well.

christopher said...

It doesn't then follow that we have to excise all the ones with noxious political ideologies -- like socialism or fascism -- from our libraries.


Nice moral equivalence, BTW.

Palladian said...

Artists aren't great because of their problems and addictions, but in spite of them.

And then there are those whose sole addiction is their work, like JS Bach, who wrote probably 350 cantatas, 200 of which survive in some form, as well as almost one thousand other surviving works from solo keyboard works to mass chorales; and Stanley Kubrick, who spent years designing and planning every aspect of his projects down to the most minute detail.

Decadent artists may produce brilliant work, but tend to burn out, physically and artistically, rather quickly.

The absolute worst addiction in terms of its effects on artistic quality and production is the addiction to fame and social partying, which is a sure path toward mediocrity. The best artist drunks and addicts drank quite alone.

As for diseases that affect blog commenters and the quality of their comments, none is worse than Terminal Miserable Asshole Disorder. There's no chance of recovery from this disease, and its sufferers stumble, fumble, scream, belch and vomit their way to oblivion, wrecking delicate blog commenter relationships and generally embarrassing themselves until they finally snuff themselves out in a great, mordacious splatter.

Hi christopher!

christopher said...

Palladian says...
Hi christopher!


Hi, Roy Cohn!!!!

Trooper York said...

Michael: You're stoned and you're late. You were supposed to arrive at this location at eight thirty dash nine o'clock.
Harold: What I am Michael is a 32 year-old, ugly, pock marked Jew fairy, and if it takes me a little while to pull myself together, and if I smoke a little grass before I get up the nerve to show my face to the world, it's nobody's god damned business but my own. And how are you this evening?
(The Boys in the Band, 1970)

Jeremy said...

LOS-
All that and Al Rico's 75 cent Tacos under the 41 overpass. Fresno may be last in quality of living, but it's first in our hearts!

Palladian said...

Give me Librium or give me meth!

George said...

I don't know how many of youse guys above have seen Clapton live, but, holy smokes, I saw him twice on his last tour, he blew the lid off the joint, especially trading licks with Derek Trucks.

Of course, he wasn't as good as ol' Jer...

rsb said...

paul a'barge
...Frankly, I don't agree ... I think it is degeneracy.

Frankly paul, you make me sick.

BladeDoc said...

I'm a little ambivalent. Although I don't feel that alcoholism/addiction is degeneracy per se, there are no other diseases whose treatment is "stop". Whatever path they take to sobriety fundamentaly its a willpower thing. This is not true of any other disease (ex. obesity), which to me puts it into a differnent category.

David said...

You will find that "personal responsiblity" not denied by people in recovery. Although Clapton certainly didn't choose to be an alcoholic, he takes -- and the quoted passages show -- that he takes full personal responsibility for what he makes of it.

Paul and Hoosier -- good on you for being able to handle your liquor, but it's not a question of willpower for thos who can't, except to the extent they either recover or don't.

Diabetes was a bad example -- a lot of Type II diabetes IS in fact caused by lifestyle choices, just as alcohol abuse is. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are not the same thing.

cubanbob said...

My theory is that God is an accountant. For every credit there is a debit. The ledgers have to balance. Great talent (the credit) coupled with serious character flaws and or addictions (the offsetting debit). The books have to balance.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Although I don't feel that alcoholism/addiction is degeneracy per se, there are no other diseases whose treatment is "stop". Whatever path they take to sobriety fundamentaly its a willpower thing. This is not true of any other disease (ex. obesity), which to me puts it into a differnent category.

Bingo.

Paul and Hoosier -- good on you for being able to handle your liquor, but it's not a question of willpower for thos who can't, except to the extent they either recover or don't.

Well we can agree to disagree. It is about willpower as bladedoc said quite well, there are no treatment for other diseases besides 'stop'. Its an addiction. Cancer is a disease.

Roger said...

I dont want to involve myself in the debate on whether alcoholism is a disease or an an addition. I would like to point out there is some significant research being done on differing effects of alcohol on the individual's brain receptors, and increasingly research is focusing on pharmaceutical interventions. Given the adverse effects of alcohol, I think we should focus on the best way to mitigate those effects rather than argue whether it is a disease or an addiction. Alcohol has clearly destroyed a whole lot of lives, and how to reduce the damage seems to me to be the imperative.

David said...

I agree that there's no other recovery option besides stop, but why anyone would want to kick dirt at someone who did recover is beyond me. It's also wrong to conflate the willpower involved in the alcoholic not picking up the first drink and the non-alcoholic not picking up the 4th or 5th. I took some of the earlier comments to suggest that it's within the alcoholic's power to stop after a few drinks, which it is not, which is why the alcoholic can't drink at all. If I was mistaken, no worries.

Hoosier Daddy said...

why anyone would want to kick dirt at someone who did recover is beyond me.

I don't think my comments were directed at Clapton specifically but moreso at the entertainment industry as a whole which seems to suffer from a disproportionate number of its members who seem to chose the path of self-destruction versus enjoying their wealth and fame.

Balfegor said...

Baudelaire...Fleurs du mal...Gabriele d'Annunzio...and Yukio Mishima...all in one post.

Baudelaire is an obvious example, because he was banned and all. Mishima is an obvious example because -- come on! -- he ends his life with a sad farce. And Gabriele d'Annunzio (whom I have never read, seeing as I know no Italian) is an obvious example because he's like the father of the Fascist party.

Really, can you think of better examples for my point? I couldn't, which is why I used them