After the visionary highs of the Nineteen Sixties, Eric Clapton kicked off the 70s mired in knowledgeable, private and pharmaceutical nightmare. His semi-anonymous supergroup Derek And The Dominos had been largely ignored by the general public – their signature track Layla, a thinly disguised wail of anguish impressed by Clapton’s unrequited love for mannequin Pattie Boyd, spouse of his good friend George Harrison, had did not chart. The guitarist’s woes have been compounded when one other good friend, Jimi Hendrix, died in September 1970.
Mentally battered, Clapton and his socialite girlfriend Alice Ormsby-Gore step by step retreated from the limelight – and right into a twilight world of heroin dependancy from which he wouldn’t emerge till three years later.
Eric Clapton: With heroin, snorting it up the nostril possibly three or 4 occasions a yr was how I did it at first. Then I did it for possibly per week with out stopping, after which two or three weeks not doing it. After which a month with out stopping, after which come off and also you’d really feel unhealthy. So to cease feeling unhealthy you’d take some extra, and you then’d be on it for six months.
Bobby Whitlock (keyboard participant, Derek And The Dominos): All the pieces simply obtained out of hand with the medicine and all that, so ultimately everybody simply drifted.
Eric Clapton: I don’t know whether or not it may be pretty positioned on the door of medicine or relationships or life points as a lot as I simply needed to get away. I had been doing a lot; I’d been on the market for a very long time, taking part in and taking part in with no break.
Ronnie Wooden (Rolling Stones guitarist and good friend of Clapton): He withdrew with Alice Ormsby-Gore, and the 2 of them stayed stoned on heroin for 2 years. They grew to become hermits.
Eric Clapton: Though we weren’t utilizing any needles, we obtained very strung out.
Pete Townshend: He clearly had some cash-flow downside, as a result of he was promoting guitars… to boost prepared money to purchase dope.
Eric Clapton: All that point, although, I used to be operating a cassette machine and taking part in. I had that to carry on to. On the finish of that interval, I discovered I had containers stuffed with taking part in, as if there was one thing struggling to outlive.
Clapton spent his time holed up in his Surrey mansion, Hurtwood Edge, with Ormsby-Gore. In August 1971, a involved George Harrison satisfied him to participate within the Live performance For Bangladesh in New York, which he and Ravi Shankar had organised.
Pattie Boyd: Eric was in a nasty manner, however George thought that if he obtained him on stage, even propped up with medicine, his dependancy would turn out to be an open secret and possibly he would open the door slightly to his associates, who may have the ability to assist.
Eric Clapton: I organized by long-distance telephone calls that there’d be one thing there for me as a result of my heroin behavior was going robust. So I fly over and there’s nothing there, and we will’t rating.
Alice Ormsby-Gore: I used to be desperately operating round that metropolis attempting to attain some heroin for Eric. And I bear in mind pondering how silly it was for me, even then. I did that for him, and for myself, for 3 years. It was most likely infantile to be over-protective, however I assumed it helped him to not need to face the total horror, himself, of scoring his personal heroin provide.
Eric Clapton: Lastly, one of many cameramen got here up with this medication that he took for his ulcers, which turned out to be a heroin substitute, methadone. It obtained me straight sufficient in order that I might go on stage and play.
Ronnie Wooden: He confirmed up, performed, and after that, he and Alice simply shut the door once more and stayed smacked out.
Pete Townshend: Eric misplaced two folks that he primarily based his entire life on – Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman – in pretty shut succession. So there have been a number of the explanation why he wasn’t working.
Ronnie Wooden: His [Townshend’s] reply was to place collectively a live performance, after which to persuade Steve Winwood and me that it was time to pull Eric out of his reclusion in Surrey and as much as London for rehearsals. Which is precisely what we did. We actually dragged Eric out of his home and moved him into mine.
Pete Townshend: The medicine have been flowing very freely among the many musicians, and I believe Eric upped his consumption of heroin – he stopped attempting to substitute it with different issues, which he had been doing to attempt to pull himself spherical. However his togetherness was a shock. He was very, very robust, authoritative and assured.
Following stage rehearsals at Guildford Civic Corridor, Clapton’s comeback befell on the Rainbow in North London, the place the guitarist performed two units on the identical day, with a band that included Townshend, Winwood, Wooden, bassist Ric Grech and drummer Jim Capaldi.
Eric Clapton: Alice and I, stoned out of our heads, turned up late [at the Rainbow], to seek out Pete and [Clapton’s manager Robert] Stigwood tearing their hair out. The explanation for our lateness was that Alice needed to set free the waist of the trousers of my white go well with, as a result of I had taken to consuming a lot chocolate of late that I couldn’t get them on.
Alice Ormsby-Gore: 5 o’clock and there I’m, stitching a six-inch piece of fabric behind the trousers with black cotton.
Pattie Boyd: I used to be sitting within the viewers with George, Ringo, Elton John, Joe Cocker and Jimmy Web page. Eric didn’t look effectively.
Eric Clapton: For the primary few numbers I used to be in a daze. Then it abruptly clicked in and I started to get some confidence.
Ronnie Wooden: We did the Hendrix hit Little Wing and plenty of Eric’s massive songs like Let It Rain, Badge, After Midnight and Bell Backside Blues. By the point we reached the tip of the set with Key To The Freeway and Crossroads, nobody had any doubts: Eric was again.
Jimmy Web page: I noticed him at his Rainbow live performance. No less than on the Rainbow he had some individuals with some balls with him. Pearly Queen was unimaginable.
John Pigeon (journalist, Let It Rock): Townshend was clearly taking his position as rhythm guitarist severely, not simply strumming alongside, however punctuating the music the way in which solely he does. Ron Wooden prevented the temptation to mimic Duane Allman’s half on the Layla album, as a substitute dealing with the solos Clapton gave him in his personal fashion.
Eric Clapton: I had fun doing it. It was once I listened to the tapes afterwards that I realised that it was effectively below par. Everybody made errors.
The Rainbow exhibits might need introduced Clapton out of his self-imposed exile, however they have been much less profitable at serving to him clear up. By the autumn of 1973, he and Ormsby-Gore had sunk ever deeper into their addict life-style at Hurtwood Edge. It took the intervention of Alice’s father, former Tory MP Lord Harlech, to carry them again from the brink, with assist from Harley Avenue surgeon Dr Meg Patterson.
Eric Clapton: Alice’s father had found Meg Patterson and her type of acupuncture remedy. After which, for some cause, I simply mentioned: “Okay, I’ll give it a attempt.” And subsequent factor you recognize, a really massive emotional factor occurred to me and I began to actually need to stay once more. While you take a number of heroin for a very long time, you narrow down in your capability to really feel, your sensitivities shut down, you don’t really feel feelings.
Dr Meg Patterson: All medicine have been banned from the beginning of the remedy. We had the co-operation of Lord Harlech and Eric’s supervisor, Robert Stigwood, who mentioned he wouldn’t give them any cash to purchase it.
Eric Clapton: Thrice a day, one hour per session. It’s a field that has two cables main out of it, with little metallic clips on the tip which you connect to your earlobes. The present runs by way of your head, then out the opposite facet and again into the machine, and the heartbeat is controllable by a knob. You’re taking it as much as the edge of ache after which take it down once more. The treatment itself was a mixture of issues… the acupuncture and the dedication to get by way of it.
Clapton’s Harley Avenue remedy was successful, and by April 1974 he had kicked heroin. Sadly, throughout this era he started consuming closely. So as to add to the chaos of his life, Boyd had left Harrison, ultimately taking over with Clapton.
Eric Clapton: I got here straight off heroin into consuming. It was important. Awoke most days with a hangover.
Steve Turner (journalist): Eric advised Robert Stigwood he wished to make an album. Which turned out to be 461 Ocean Boulevard.
Eric Clapton: I’d been fairly severely hooked on heroin, then thought I’d obtained off it by consuming, not figuring out that alcohol was most likely going to do me extra injury. I used to be so drunk on some levels that I performed mendacity on the stage, flat on my again, or staggering round carrying the weirdest mixture of garments as a result of I couldn’t get it collectively even to decorate correctly.
Yvonne Elliman (vocalist): That tour was drowned in alcohol. We have been all a bunch of lunatics and we have been falling into the rock-band ritual the place you break issues in resort rooms and also you throw meals at one another and also you launch every little thing.
Eric Clapton: In that yr I grew to become a full-blown alcoholic. I’d have a bottle of vodka, a cassette machine, a guitar and a shotgun as my playthings at bedtime. And every little thing could be the identical subsequent morning, besides the bottle could be empty. One of many issues I used to do was put the shells within the gun and click on it shut, and I’d put it within the place with the barrel to my mouth the place you may take the highest of your head off. And I assumed: “Yeah, but when I did this, then I’d not have the ability to have one other drink.” Now that’s what I’d outline as madness.
What occurred subsequent?
The 2 exhibits on the Rainbow might have proved a false daybreak for Clapton, however they have been recorded for a stay album, launched as Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Live performance in 1973.
Clapton ultimately married Pattie Boyd in 1979. He didn’t kick booze till 1981, after being hospitalised within the US with bleeding ulcers, forcing him to cancel a complete tour. He subsequently based a rehab facility, the Crossroads Centre, on the island of Antigua.
Sources: Clapton, The Authorised Biography by Ray Coleman (Sidgwick And Jackson, 1994), Crossroads by Michael Schumaker (Hyperion Press, 1995), Conversations With Eric Clapton by Steve Turner (Abacus, 1976), Great Immediately, by Pattie Boyd with Penny Junor (Headline Evaluation, 2007), Ronnie by Ronnie Wooden (McMillian, 2007).