I come and go with Eric Clapton – particularly his solo career. I can’t make my mind up. It meant so much as part of the gateway, I got into a lot of stuff through getting into Clapton. But these days I hardly ever feel like listening to him. That said, I still like this one album from the late 70s he did. I reckon I’ll always dig it…
I really like this album he did called Backless. A strange album in his catalogue, it arrived just after the massive payday around those annoying perennials like Lay Down Sally and Wonderful Tonight and Cocaine.
I’ve always liked Backless. It’s Clapton in super laidback mode, but the playing is tasteful and though, these days, I’d rather listen to The Band, and Little Feat and J.J. Cale (the heroes he was always aping on his very best solo material) and though the moments where he aims for the blues are actually the worst bits on Backless it still just has some charm. It feels somehow noticeably different within his catalogue, even though it’s instantly recognisable.
In his memoir Mo’ Meta Blues (a must-read) Questlove talks about falling in love with the anomalies, deliberately fishing out, finding the albums that slip through the cracks, spending time listening to the albums that tank or are critically derided, not to be a contrarian but simply to try to see (and hear) what others have missed. His example (a good one) is Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants.
I almost feel like Backless could be the example for Eric Clapton.
Whenever I’ve mentioned it there are people – convinced they’re know-all Clapton fans – who haven’t heard of it, or really haven’t heard it, haven’t spent time with it.
But, I’m careful to suggest that the reason I dig it – now – is all down to some nostalgic rush. I discovered Backless in that wonderful way that used to be a big part of listening/buying – the whim of the local record store, the rush to find something/anything, the next thing.
And one day the tape store had Backless – and the other tapes they had in their Eric Clapton section were ones I owned. It was that simple. No try before you buy. Just sign me up and keep ’em coming.
Backless, instantly, felt different. Maybe I was a little disappointed on first listen – that’s often the best; a way you know that the album is going to go on and have a life in your collection, is going to mean something.
Backless means a lot to me – especially now. For it arrives just before that turgid 30-year compilation of inverse “highlights”. It is the end-point for me with Clapton.
And an album I can dig by him even when I’m really not digging anything with his name on at all.
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