SLOWHAND: THE LIFE AND THE MUSIC OF ERIC CLAPTON
by Philip Norman (W & N £ 25, 448 pp)
At the age of nine Eric Clapton was visited by his mother, Pat. She had given birth at the age of 16, the unlawful result of a one-night stand with a soldier.
When he was two, she emigrated to Canada and left him with her own mother, Rose.
The boy was encouraged to believe that Rose was actually his mother, but gradually the truth came through to him.
Now Pat was back, with two more children from a new relationship. The young Eric had dreamed of this day. & # 39; Can I call you Mama now? & # 39; He asked. Pat refused and insisted that her son preserved the fiction that she was his older sister. Her insensitivity shocked everyone who was present.
Philip Norman remembers important moments from the life of musician Eric Clapton (pictured with his mother Patricia) in a new biography
That moment explains much of Clapton's later life – not least his relationship with women.
By dumping an early girlfriend, he realized that he could hurt them, just as his mother had hurt him.
He became a compulsive womanizer. A favorite chat line after the Cuban missile crisis was: "Oh, come on, we can all be blown up tomorrow."
Even if he really loved someone, his passion never survived the chase. This was even true with Pattie Boyd, the model that inspired the most famous hit by Clapton, Layla.
She once brought a friend back to Hurtwood Edge, their Surrey mansion, just for Clapton to chat to the woman.
& # 39; Do not you see that I am in love with this girl and that I am good for her? & # 39; He said to Boyd. & # 39; Go away and leave us alone. & # 39;
He had stolen Boyd – whose sister Paula with whom he happened to be – from his best friend George Harrison, with whom she was married.
The other legacy of Clapton's childhood was astonishing selfishness. Spoiled by his grandmother, Clapton had more toys than any other child in the village, but never let anyone else play with them. And as an adult he let other people do everything for him – from sacking unwanted band members to taking his driving exam.
During the three years that Clapton lost the heroin addiction, it was his girlfriend Alice Ormsby-Gore (daughter of Lord Harlech) who was sent to Soho to do his risky drug offerings.
Meg Patterson, the doctor who healed his addiction, once asked Clapton to make coffee. The star replied that he did not know how. Pete Townshend of The Who organized a comeback concert for Eric and called on him to perform in an attempt to save the guitarist from self-imposed isolation.
Eric Clapton (photographed with Pattie Boyd) who was inspired by model Pattie Boyd to write his hit Layla, was discovered 45 minutes after death after touring in 1981
But Clapton was too late for that – three years of junk food had left him so fat that he did not fit in his white suit.
Everyone kept waiting while he let Alice take off the pants.
Clapton enjoyed incredible happiness for decades. While traveling through America with Cream, he was caught on drugs, an indictment that prevented others from obtaining a visa. But Clapton got out. He spent a difficult weekend in a prison cell with several members of the Black Panthers: "Because I wore pink boots of Mr Gohill in Chelsea and had my hair up to my waist, I thought:" I am here in the problems "- but he survived.
The surplus that killed other musicians could not claim him.
But he pushed it close – after the collapse of an American tour in 1981, he turned out to be 45 minutes of death. Two bottles of brandy per day (mixed with 7 Up) resulted in ulcers so large that any remaining date of the tour had to be canceled.
The payment of the insurance ensured that Lloyd & # 39; s of London rang the famous Lutine bell that was normally reserved for disasters at sea.
SLOWHAND: THE LIFE AND THE MUSIC OF ERIC CLAPTON by Philip Norman (W & N £ 25, 448 pp)
But Clapton's luck ended in the day in 1991 when a window was left open in the apartment on the 53rd floor in New York by Lory Del Santo, the mother of his four-year-old son, Conor.
The boy came running into the room, jumped on the low ledge where he normally pressed his nose against the glass and plummeted to his death.
Clapton had to identify his son's body in a mortuary in Manhattan, whose light bulbs were only 15 Watts to minimize the ordeal & # 39; – but had to do it again (because Conor was buried in Surrey) in a British morgue that was less sympathetic with 100 watt bulbs.
After the funeral his post contained a letter that had been posted a few weeks earlier: I LOVE YOU I WANT TO SEE A KISS LOVE CONOR CLAPTON & # 39;
It is impossible not to feel sympathy for someone who is going through this.
And you must admire Clapton's power not to go back to the drink he could finally give up.
Such a movement, he said, would be a betrayal & # 39; his to his son.
But in the end you get the feeling that the star's defining quality is an unattractive egocentricity.
As usual, the masterly biographer Philip Norman has discovered countless fascinating details.
I knew a lot about Eric Clapton, but I did not know that when he was looking for anonymity at the Connaught Hotel in London, the West Brom fan checked in as Mr B. B. Albion & # 39 ;.
Or that during a vodka-soaked stay in Los Angeles, where the front plates of cars can say whatever you want, he drove around as "Captain Smirnoff & # 39;
I also did not know that he ever took possession of a parrot named Maurice, which was formerly owned by his earthly grandmother. "In imitation of the occupation of her life," writes Norman, the bird was only taught to say: Where is Eric? & # 39; & # 39;