If Eric Clapton had a creative low point, it was 1983’s “I’ve Got A Rock ‘N’ Roll Heart.” Check out this chorus:
I get off on ’57 Chevys;
I get off on screaming guitar.
Like the way it hits me every time it hits me.
I’ve got a rock and roll, I’ve got a rock and roll heart.
You like ’57s Chevys? Well good for you! Makes you wonder why he didn’t pen an ode to pepperoni on pizzas, or maybe puppies — you know, really take a stand. It’s almost as if he were begging to still be liked. Clapton? Begging? That’s just wrong.
I shouldn’t be so mean; Clapton is God, after all. But he did spend most of the ’80s in Adult Contemporary Hell, most likely confused — like many rock gods entering midlife — by what he was supposed to do next.
But by the end of the decade he found his footing again, with 1989’s Journeyman.
The album title alone was something of an apology, a statement of “I still have a lot to learn.” Even the track listing reads like a mea culpa for the previous decade. “Pretending,” “Anything for Your Love,” “”Bad Love,” “Running on Faith,” and so on until finishing with “Before You Accuse Me.” The starter track was penned by rock legend Jerry Lynn Williams. Clapton also went to Ray Charles, Leiber & Stoller, Cecil & Linda Womack, and Robert Cray — a fine collection of R&B, early rock, and straight-up blues.
Tonight’s selection was radio favorite “Bad Love,” cowritten with Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones. Phil Collins played drums for the track, too, which stayed Number One on Billboard’s chart for three weeks. It starts in slow, drawing you in with the keys and bass, then Clapton’s wailing guitar kind of sneaks in at you from underneath. It’s a helluva thing, so enjoy this live performance from 1990. It’s certainly not his best work, but it’s a solid effort — a enjoyable tune with a catchy hook and some fine guitar work. Apology accepted.
Oh, and if Journeyman was Clapton’s apology for the ’80s, then 1994’s From The Cradle was the makeup sex. But that’s a story for another day.