You know when the universe says something to you, and you just let it pass...unnoticed...for years...and life goes on...as it ever does?
Many moons ago, I bought a guitar because of Eddie Van Halen, and have sat enraptured at every beautiful chord and every blazing note from that divine maniac's fingers. And in so many interviews when asked about influences, he's said "Clapton and Hendrix, Clapton and Hendrix."
And in my head, I heard this: "Hendrix, Hendrix."
I sought out Hendrix stuff, and I just didn't understand what all the fuss was about for ages, and then my brain gave way and I was like "Oh! So that's
why everyone raves about him!" And yet...I ignored dear old Eric Clapton.
Thinking about it now, it was because all I'd ever heard was Layla, which is a classic admittedly, but I sought out Duane Allman stuff because of that song. And time passed, and Eric was just a name to respect for the sake of respect, but nothing more.
So a couple of days ago, I saw Clapton doing "I shot the Sherrif" on an old, old TV show and it was nice and all, nothing really special I thought. I noticed that his tone was amazingly "brown" a la EVH. It's wonderful that my ears can now hear this, working from my reference experience of all the VH albums. And I'm sitting there, with my guitar playing Call it Sleep or something, just picking around, and Eric starts his guitar solo.
At this point, something opened up inside of me saying "This is IT, this is IT!! WAKE UP!!" I suddenly heard it all, everything, I finally knew what the fuss was about. I heard what Eddie heard as a kid. I realised what all the "Clapton is God" graffiti was about, adorning the brickwalls of London in my youth. Clapton is nothing to do with his studio albums, it's the live 1970s stuff. This is IT. Wake up!
And the solo went on. And on. And on. I don't care that it's "just" pentatonics; puh-leeze...don't make me laugh, this is as real as it gets. I was absolutely floored. Completely blown away and taken to another place. And in the playing...I heard EVH, the part of Eddie's playing that's been elusive all these years: the feel
is pure Clapton. That's what Eddie took and absorbed and transcended. And in turn influenced countless guitarists as Eric had done before him.
Frankly, I think it's a magnificent thing that these guys were inspired in their youth, and then went on to inspire our generation of players (hearing SSV talk of Jimmy Page is a true delight). It never ends does it? I remember listening to Buddy Guy after hearing Hendrix's adoration of him...it was like "how to learn the secret Hendrix style in six easy steps". Lesson 1: it's always worthwhile to seek out your hero's influences.
And yesterday, still reeling, I tracked down Eric's 24 minute jam with Santana from the Crossroads 2 album, after some highly positive reviews all over the web. Good God, that's insane playing. I mean: that's insane
playing. Beyond belief. To think this has been there all the time, I've just never focused upon it. A totally earth-shattering paradigm shift for me, akin to the first time I "got it" in reference to Passion and Warfare. A total mind flayer. It's the kind of music that makes me expand beyond myself. No excuses for the flowery language - this is deliberate poetic metaphor. This is preverbal and transverbal anyway.
So...I'm 30 years late
, but cool! I've got all this archive material to enjoy and adore.
Not only was a door of perception opened, it was simultaneously dissolved for chrissakes! In Clapton's live playing in that era, he was akin to Beethoven in that he contacted "the source" and was able to communicate it perfectly with complete passion. There aren't many players like this and when I encounter one and feel the truth they're offering I am overwhelmed and truly grateful. I mentioned something like this before...the technique and life experience of these musicians comes in to contact with something grand and through their unique filter they colour the music accordingly. Imitations often follow, and on occasion genius blossoms perfectly.
I think lesson 2 here is: seek out everything and listen to everything. Be willing to be ready.
I know it's real easy to play the "but my
experience says" game, so I'm just putting my experience out there, and I hope you don't play that silly game.
Hey, I finally "got it".