Advanced Genius Theory:
I want to like Eric Clapton, I really do. He seems to be the ideal candidate for Advancement—aging rock'n'roller, sold out by doing beer commercial, participated in a Cream reunion—but I think he's just authentically terrible. I know that some people, people I respect, revere him, but I find his style of guitar playing incredibly boring. And his songwriting is truly dreadful. The obvious examples are "Tears From Heaven" and "You Look Wonderful Tonight," neither of which I can sit through from beginning to end. Don't even get me started with his idiotic nickname, Slow Hand. I think the biggest reason I can’t get on board with him is that he is so devoted to the blues, which I also really can't stand. (Again, my fault.) I say he's devoted because he says it, not because there is much evidence that it's true, at least post-Unplugged. That aside, the kind of blues he worships is particularly irritating to me. If there is anything more predictable, it's straightforward electric Buddy Guy-style blues, especially played by a chinless, wife-stealing British white guy. At the very least he could have emulated Robert Johnson, whose style was genuinely strange. Of course, Johnson is the most Overt of all possible blues influences.
As usual, I'm perfectly willing to accept the fact that I'm probably the idiot here. Clapton was in the Yardbirds, a decent band, but he quit them for his Overt love of the blues. Pretty tedious, but at least there was a principle involved that he could later betray. Cream was in fact a pretty good betrayal of those principles, and they rocked pretty hard at that. If there were an argument to be made inside my head for the Advancement of Eric Clapton, it would have to be his involvement with Cream. It was one project that he didn't ruin by his presence, kind of like how people loved The Matrix because Keanu Reeves wasn't all that terrible in it. Clapton, then, was the Reeves to Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce's Lawrance Fishburne and Carrie-Ann Moss. Just as Reeves was needed in The Matrix to play a character in permanent "whoa!" mode, Clapton was necessary to keep Cream grounded. Without his wah-wah solos, "Tales of Brave Ulysses" could have wound up sounding ridiculous, and that's a possibility I'd prefer not to contemplate.
Everything after Cream has been awful as far as I can tell. There wasn't even a "Dream of the Blue Turtles" for me to look to as proof that he could achieve something as a solo artist. Even still, I'm leaving the door open for someone to prove me wrong about him. It's possible that, like Sting, he is just beyond my comprehension. He could have lapped boring into being interesting. I do find it somewhat compelling that he has gone preppy in the last few years, wearing khakis and short-sleeve cotton shirts on stage instead of the suits he wore there for a while. He's chosen a look that reminds me of what a retired man who has given up suits would wear to a nice restaurant. It's strange, yes, but not Advanced. If he shows up in leathers for the next Cream reunion, then I'll be ready to change my mind.