ââ?¬Å?If you wanna get down, down on the groundââ?¬ÂŠ.ââ?¬Â

Eric Clapton in the 1970sWhen Eric Clapton plays the John Paul Jones arena next week, October 12, concert goes may get to hear one song he hasn’t played live in a long time. Can you guess?

According to a recent AP report, Clapton has started playing “Cocaine” on tour. For years, Clapton, who has suffered from both drug and alcohol addiction, has refrained from performing the song–especially since founding the Crossroads Centre, an addiction recovery center he opened in Antigua in 1998.

“I thought that it might be giving the wrong message to people who were in the same boat as me," Clapton told the AP. However, Clapton seems to have had a change of heart. “But further investigation proved,” Clapton continued,” ... the song, if anything, if it's not even ambivalent, it's an anti-drug song. And so I thought that might be a better way to do it, to approach it from a more positive point of view. And carry on performing it as not a pro-drug song, but just as a reality check about what it does."

Apparently, the band also shouts out “dirty cocaine” during the song.

Of course, the inclusion of the song may also have something to do with Clapton’s new album, The Road To Escondido, a first time collaboration with J.J. Cale, the Oklahoma blues guitarists who wrote “Cocaine,” as well as “After Midnight” and “Traveling Light.”

Clapton also said he missed playing the song’s famous guitar riff.

13 comments

Clapton has played "Cocaine" at just about every show he's done since at least 1997 (http://www.ectours.de/). He played it consistently until 91, then it fell out of the set list - primarily because he entered his blues phase (though he continued playing it at his annual New Year's Eve gig at the Woking Leisure Center in England). It returned in 97 and has been a fixture ever since. He even played it during his 98 US tour with the orchestra.

Its appearance in his set list is not even remotely newsworthy. He has been asked about the "appropriateness" of playing a "drug song" ever since, and his answer has been consistent. The crowd does go pretty crazy when that J.J. Cale riff jumps out at them. In the late 80s/early 90s, bassist Nathan East composed and the band played a nice thumping intro to the song that just built the intensity until the sound exploded. It was very intense. And the band has been singing "that dirty cocaine" for a VERY long time - this is nothing new, either.

I only hope the pre-show articles that appear in The Hook are more accurate than this ridiculout piece of misinformation. You should know better than to trust the AP! And I hope the "music journalist" (possibly from "that other" paper) who wrote several months ago that this show will be a yawner stays home and hears second-hand about Clapton, Doyle Bramhall II, and Derek Trucks getting SERIOUSLY down and dirty jamming to Robert Johnson's "Little Queen of Spades" for 13+ minutes. I've heard most of the shows on this tour, and it's most definitely Clapton's hottest playing since the "Nothing But The Blues" tours. The band is white hot - especially the rhythm section. Nathan East, Clapton's long-time bass player, is phenomenal, but so is Willie Weeks - who is a little more peppy. And drummer Steve Jordan really kicks - he's more of a rocker than Steve Gadd (who was in James Taylor's band this summer at JPJ).

And whatever you do, don't miss Robert Cray's opening set. He's been on this tour since Europe, and just released a 2-disc live album recorded this summer at the Royal Albert Hall. Great stuff.

And don't be late - Clapton's shows ALWAYS start precisely on time.

Also, there's a "rumor" circulating in the EC community that Robert Randolph, who now pretty much lives here, might make an appearance at this show. He opened for Clapton two years ago and sat in for "Sunshine of Your Love" and "Hoochie Coochie Man" during the encores and it was transcendant. Of course, there was also a "rumor" circulating in the Allman Brothers community last April that Clapton was going to make an appearance at the Derek Trucks Band gig at Starr Hill. That, of course, never happened and this probably won't, either. But you never know...Frankly, I'll just be happy (actually, ecstatic) if "Anyday" returns to the set list in time for the Charlottesville show.

Curious. An Eric Clapton nerd.
Who knew such a species still existed?

Clearly you've not seen him on stage. There's a reason why bootlegs of his shows outnumber bootlegs of anybody, including the Grateful Dead, on Dimeadozen.com. He doesn't play scorching lead guitar for 2 hours every night like he did with Cream (though he did prove last year in the 7 Cream reunion shows that he still can, indisputably, do so), but the guy is 61 years old. So now he brings along two young guns - both to help carry the load, and to challenge him. And they do challenge him, and he does respond and. During every show, you get a dozen or so lead solos that nobody else is capable of creating. Copying, sure (anybody can copy), but not creating.

Little Steven (E Street Band) put it best in Rolling Stone a couple of years ago:

Eric Clapton is the most important and influential guitar player that has ever lived, is still living or ever will live. Do yourself a favor, and don't debate me on this. Before Clapton, rock guitar was the Chuck Berry method, modernized by Keith Richards, and the rockabilly sound -- Scotty Moore, Carl Perkins, Cliff Gallup -- popularized by George Harrison. Clapton absorbed that, then introduced the essence of black electric blues -- the power and vocabulary of Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin and the three Kings, B.B., Albert and Freddy -- to create an attack that defined the fundamentals of rock & roll lead guitar.

Maybe most important of all, he turned the amp up -- to eleven. That alone blew everybody's mind in the mid-Sixties. In the studio, he moved the mike across the room from the amp, which added ambience; everybody else was still close-miking. Then he cranked the f***ing thing. Sustain happened; feedback happened. The guitar player suddenly became the most important guy in the band.

Intellectually, Clapton was a purist, although there was little evidence of it in the beginning. He supercharged every riff he knew, even things I remember as note-for-note tributes, like Freddy King's "Hideaway," on John Mayall's Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton. When he soloed, he wrote wonderful symphonies from classic blues licks in that fantastic tone, with all of the resonance that comes from distortion. You could sing his solos like songs in themselves.

I first saw Clapton with Cream, at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York in 1967 -- sort of. I stood outside. It was sold out. I couldn't get in. But you could see them -- the band was right in the window. And it was loud, even outside. In those days, musically, Clapton was a total wild man. He stood there, not moving a muscle, while he issued the most savage assault you had ever experienced, unless you were at the debut of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" and your seat was in front of the cannon. And when his creativity, passion, frustration and anger all came together, it was frightening. His solo in "Crossroads" on Wheels of Fire is impossible: I don't know how he kept time while he played.

I've never said more than a casual hello to Eric, so none of this is inside information. But I believe that his guitar playing changed radically in the early Seventies because singing and songwriting became more important to him, and Robert Johnson had a lot to do with that. Clapton was so moved by Johnson's music that he wanted to write and sing with the same passion, clarity and truth. You hear the frustration -- of not being able to do that -- in his Sixties guitar work. The first time I heard real anger and aggressive sexuality expressed in guitar playing was on that Mayall record. If the solo in "Have You Heard" isn't the sound of a cock ripping through trousers on its way to the promised land, I don't know what is.

Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes and the Band's Music From Big Pink started a move back to American traditional music, and those recordings were a big influence on Clapton. Around the same time, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett were encouraging him to write and sing. You can hear how good he is at both on Eric Clapton, the album he made with them, as well as his change in tone from Gibson-dirty to Stratocaster-clean.

Layla was, for me, the last time everything -- the singing, songwriting and guitar playing -- were all at the same high intensity level. It's Clapton's most original interpretation of the blues, because the hellhounds on his trail had a face: unrequited love. But Clapton's guitar playing is still terrific. The thing is, he had seven years of the most extraordinary, historic guitar playing ever -- and thirty-five years of doing good work. Being the best has got to wear you out. So he pulled back, like Dylan and Lennon did. The sprint is cool -- the marathon is better. Clapton has followed in the footsteps of his mentors: He's become a journeyman.

Anyone who plays lead guitar owes him a debt of gratitude. He wrote the fundamental language, the binary code, that everyone uses to this day in every form of popular music.

The day may come, if you're a young rocker, when you'll hear one of Clapton's mellow, contemporary ballads on the radio and think, "What's the big deal?"

Put on "Steppin' Out." And bow down.

Sir. I respect your enthusiasm!

I suspect that "Erroneous information" has similarly heartfelt, but equally questionable, feelings about the remarkable contribution that Jim Morrison made to poetry.

There's a whole world of great music out there. No need to hang onto the dinosaurs forever. If you can't get past them, you could at least listen to John McLaughlin. Personally, I'd take one more chance to see James "Blood" Ulmer at Trax again over 100 overblown Clapton arena shows.

What about that Hedrix guy anyway? I seem to recall him having a bit of influence in his day. Are we just talking about white guys who borrow from African American musical genres? Sounds likes some sort of Jeopardy category.

Hendriz was amazing, but we lost him too soon for him to reach the level of greatness. He had one act, and he played it extremely well, but never showed very much range. I have everything he ever released (including the incomplete posthumous releases and a few boots), but rarely listen to them. It seems that each moment of beauty is equaled by a moment of sloppiness (possibly drug-induced, but still). But in terms of lasting influence, probably not so much.

As for Clapton "borrowing" from African American music genres, so the hell what? Name one artist who wasn't inspired by others? If it wasn't for guys like Clapton, Mayall, Jagger/Richards, et al., the Black American blues artist may never have reached the levels of popularity they achieved. People like Waters, Hooker, Dixon, and Johnson were relatively unknown in America when White British Kids were beating each other up (literally) to get their very hard-to-get records in England. They took that music to heart, and sent it back over to us. We loved it. The Black blues artists reaped the royalties, and as is the wont of music lovers people started paying attention to these influences. Nobody - NOBODY - did more for Black American blues artists than white rock and rollers. Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and many others received exposure they may never have gotten elsewhere becuase of them. In fact, Muddy and Buddy played arenas and stadiums because artists such as Clapton and the Stones had them open shows for them. Yes, artists such as Clapton were inspired by them (just as millions of artists who would follow were inspired by Clapton and others), but they didn't steal from them. They helped make them wealthy. Robert Johnson's heirs were destitute before Clapton started playing his music (and made sure the royalties went where they belonged).

Morrison's poetry never did anything for me. Love the band, though, and there aren't many better rock singers. But some of those lyrics are just downright weird. I'm more of a Ferlinghetti guy, actually.

James "Blood" Ulmer is amazing, but his contribution to the pantheon of popular music is insignificant. That takes nothing away from his talents, it's just the way it is. I'd see him again, anytime. Wonderful performer.

"Overblown" arena shows? Clearly you've never seen a Clapton show. There's nothing overblown about it. Yep, it's loud - no question about that. But the lighting is not pyrotechnical - in fact, the shows are usually very tastefully lit. The focus, clearly, is on the musicians and the music.

And what is a "dinosaur?" Should people stop listening to and enjoying artists like Clapton? Of course, that would mean abandoning BB King, Buddy Guy, Burt Bacharach, Tony Bennett, Larry Coryell, the Stones, and - surprise - John McLaughlin (who is most talented but never cut through his own relatively uninteresting genre). You seem to infer that if one appreciates "dinosaurs," it's not possible to appreciate or listen to Green Day, John Mayer, or Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. I didn't know it was an "either-or" deal. My bad.

I agree with Erroneous. I listened to a lot of Hendrix in my teens, bootlegs and the whole nine yards, had it all. Its unfortunate that we never got to see him mature as an artist. Every artist is influenced. Hendrix himself characterized his his style as "amplified blues".

I got into Clapton late in the game, with his Unplugged album which, imo, is pure genius. I had the good fortune to see him in concert in Milw after From the Cradle was released. He really is amazing, even without an electric guitar. I am so bummed I wasn't able to get tickets to his upcoming concert. :^(

Yeah, Unplugged is a great recording - very understated guitar playing and, frankly, beautiful vocals.

I think that's one thing that gives Clapton an edge in my book - his versatility. He's comfortable in rock, blues, folk blues, and is a great jazz player - he did a European tour with an all-star jazz band that included David Sanborn, Marcus Miller, and Joe Sample. He also released a very funky borderline techno jazz album called "Retail Therapy" under the moniker TDF. It's pretty far out there. And he sits in with just about anybody who asks and is apparently a phenomenal session musician.

The first time I heard Layla on the Unplugged album I was speechless. Thats when I knew the guy is a genius. A musical freak of nature. I may be able to get my hands on some tickets (hope, hope) and I read that Bell Bottom Blues, my all time favorite Clapton song, is on the playlist!!! I think if he played Old Love, too, I'd pass out!! LOL!!

Eric Clapton is NO JJ Cale! but he's tried to sound like him for 35 years-

Clapton, Skynard, And Widespread Panic redo his songs and he is still very much unknown.

Old Love is also in the set list (though, unfortunately, Bell Bottom Blues is not - I don't know where these media people get their freaking information). To top it off, Robert Cray, who wrote Old Love, sits in on that song making it a four guitar jam.

Clapton is definitely no JJ Cale. He has, however, made JJ Cale a very wealthy man and they're very close friends. Clapton and Cale recorded an entire album together, which comes out next month.

Thanks for the heads-up about the new release. That sounds like its a must have for me.
Looks like I won't be going, the tickets fell through. I hope y'all report back here, tho! :^)