Monday, January 15, 2018


From The Daily Mirror:

"The British guitar legend Eric Clapton has told of the self-disgust he felt at seeing old footage of himself chanting racist slogans at a 1976 concert in the British city of Birmingham. Clapton was speaking at a Q&A in London following the screening of the highly anticipated biographical documentary Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars.

The 18-time Grammy winner said he felt shame about the notorious incident, wherein he praised the racist Tory MP Enoch Powell, declared that Britain must stop itself from becoming a “black colony,” and said “England is for white people, man.” 

Okay, no Clapton or Clapton-related records. Check.

Revised List: 1/15/18

Approved Listening:
Jingle Bells-The Singing Dogs

Approved Viewing:
Yule Log
At the risk of being bombarded with "I haven't listened to Clapton since Disraeli Gears" type comments, at what point do we separate the art from the artist? Clapton's comments, which you can look up yourself, are horrible. But, those comments are over 40 years old, and at the time, Clapton's daily diet consisted of three bottles of cognac, and mounds of cocaine snorted off of a steak knife. 
There is a website called Rotten Apples, where you can type in your favorite movie or TV series, and research whether any pigs were involved in the making of said show. Type in "Kill Bill," and of course Harvey Weinstein's name appears, so of course, you cannot watch "Kill Bill" anymore, right?

Is it fair to compare Harvey Weinstein to Eric Clapton? How about Frank Sinatra? Or John Lennon? Or John F Kennedy?

Comedian Chris Rush had a bit about why we eat cows and not dogs. "It's because dogs are smart. "Come here boy. Bring my slippers. Good boy. Try that with a cow. Here Elsie. Here Elsie. MOOOOO. All right, put him on the truck."

I bring that up because I know people who will still watch "Chinatown" but "can't watch Annie Hall." And fuck Clapton because he hasn't made a good record in 30 years. Think I'll listen to Elvis Costello's "Armed Forces."



Honest Ed said...

I'm not sure its a terribly valid comparison, comparing Costello's comment - drunk, trying to piss off people who were annoying him and for which he has apologised copiously over the years - to Clapton's, which were extremely toxic in the context of British politics at the time.

Sal Nunziato said...

Honest Ed,
Yes, Elvis has apologized copiously, even in liner notes to his reissued CDs. But don't we want people to change? Isn't that the point? Do we believe Clapton feels now as he did then? I'd like to make it clear, I am not defending anyone here. Not Clapton, nor EC, especially not the film makers or people I mentioned. I am simply asking what makes listening to "Layla" better or worse than listening to "Alison."

Anonymous said...

Didn't Costello say something about Ray Charles, years ago?

Sal Nunziato said...

Yes, anon, that is what we are referring to.

buzzbabyjesus said...

They both drunkenly said equally stupid stuff and I like them a lot less for it.
I believe their regret is real.

They're forever tarnished but get a pass.

For me it's case by case. I have no tolerance for some behavior, and can no longer enjoy the art because all I can think of is where it came from.

I'll bet you anything someone called Picasso an asshole.
I respect his work but don't admire it.

Somehow Miles Davis gets a motherfuckin' pass, while Bill Cosby doesn't.

I watched "Hateful 8" on Netflix and flinched at Harvey's name, but watched it anyway.
A western version of "Reservoir Dogs", kind of.

There are plenty of decent folk making things I'd rather support.

Sal Nunziato said...

"I have no tolerance for some behavior, and can no longer enjoy the art because all I can think of is where it came from."

But BBJ, we both love King Crimson, yes? Do you think that of the 50-60 members who have been members of KC, NONE of them has ever used a racial epithet, drunk or sober, or has never mistreated a woman, or an animal? Is it that, the art is enjoyable so long as no one gets caught doing anything bad?

Honest Ed said...

I take your point, Sal, but Costello's comment was toxic and dangerous in a bar, Clapton's comments were toxic and dangerous in a country. IIRC, it was Clapton's comments which led directly to Rock Against Racism.

Tbh, I think we're essentially in agreement. Great art, whether music or a film, stands or falls on its own merits. Trust the tale, not the teller. There's no obligation on a great artist to be a saint, indeed, the personality traits that make for a great artist often push the artist a long, long way from being a saint. I can't take anyone seriously who would refuse to listen to Layla, a great tune, because Clapton was a dick. Just as I never once refused to listen to anything of Costello's because of an obnoxious blind drunk comment that I'm pretty certain he didn't mean, and never refuse to watch Louie because he gets handsy with himself, or...

David Handelman said...

How about Clapton's pursuit of George Harrison's wife ? Is it negated by George's bedding Ringo's wife?

Jobe said...

I dunno can a leopard change it's spots? The thing that amazes me is that EC made his fortune off of Robert Johnson licks. Maybe he was being defiant and biting the hand that fed him?

Dr Wu said...

Christine said...

Great post! Certainly gave me a lot to think about. Listening to Layla after knowing what Clapton did does leave me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth (or ear?) but 40 years is a long time. Many awful things were said, done and accepted then, without actually being even remotely acceptable.

Can't stop laughing at "Approved Viewing: Yule Log." Hahahaha!!!!!

itsok2beright said...

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE has done or said something that can be taken as racist, sexist, etc., that they are extremely ashamed of. After that first transgression, their reactions, apologies and future conduct should drive our opinion. If the person continues a pattern of inappropriate behavior, they should definitely be shunned, and their phony apologies not accepted. We also need to decide on our own whether their misdeeds were their true feelings, or a one-time slip. Did Elvis really mean what he said? I don’t think so.

Most musicians, artists, athletes, etc., have never gone to finishing school. They spent long hard days practicing, drinking and doing drugs instead of refining their character, so we should not look to them to be infallible. The great orator Charles Barkley said it best, “I'm not paid to be a role model”. These entertainers, while being extraordinary talents in their profession, are still humans like the rest of us.

To me, EC1 and EC2 were both sincerely contrite about their comments and have not committed the same lapse in judgment. Also, with them at least, I don’t think they believed what they said.

P.S. I’m glad this topic didn’t end up on facebook. The profanity and trolling would have been unbearable.

Anonymous said...

The real question of course is, would you let Clapton babysit your kid?

kevin m said...

While certainly not in the same realm as Clapton and Costello, but for a while I enjoyed Kid Rock. Just dumb fun music. Actually saw him twice and each time had a blast.

But I can't listen to him at all now since he's positioned himself to the right of Ted Nugent.

Zippy said...

Let's not forget that Jim Gordon, who wrote the gorgeous piano outro of Layla murdered his mother with a hatchet. Don't we all know that? I still listen to the song, and to Phil Spector records( he produced Imagine, for fuck's sake, even). I swear, every time I've been in a restaurant lately discussing the Weinstein thing, a Michael Jackson song comes on the radio. Is child rape okay because he's dead? How many of these people who decide we should never listen to Clapton because he said something he deeply regrets ( and gave permission to USE in the film, so that he'd be held accountable, and to make clear how wrong he felt about it)still go to or respect the catholic church, even after THEY just last month gave a Vatican funeral to Cardinal Law, who personally covered up and protected child molestation for decades?
Paul McCartney was accused of vicious, horrible, abusive behavior by his (reportedly vicious, horrible) ex, Heather Mills. I assume Zeppelin and Bowie are out for their under-age groupie behavior. Shall we include Chuck berry for his? And Jerry lee Lewis? And any music ever influenced by them, right?
Sal's right (as usual) that we want people to grow and change, and we all make mistakes. John Lennon did regrettable things, and we KNOW about most of them, because in honest soul searching, he came to realize on his own and with Yoko's help, that some of his behavior was unacceptable, and he went public with urging people not to make the same mistakes he did.
Martin Luther King Jr's personal history wasn't spotless, nor was Gandhi's. This thing where we're all gonna go back and retroactively demand perfection from artists and public figures is gonna leave us deciding that there's an equivalence between people who've failed on occasion to be righteous and sought forgiveness, and human anal lesions like Trump, who are amoral, unapologetic sociopathic, toxic narcissists. This plays into the hands of the vermin like him who wish to normalize their own subhuman behavior by pointing to the small, fully regretted transgressions of others.
Keep perspective, people. I'd put Clapton in the Truth and Reconciliation (South Africa) model. He hated his old conduct, and he's presented it to us in order to face it and come to terms with how awful and destructive it was. To punish that act with shunning is wrong. If you want to stop listening to Clapton, at least do it because of Old Sock.

Anonymous said...


You are missing the point that Clapton could be among the most overrated artists ever. And to prove my point is just a matter of hearing While my guitar gently... acoustic version, After Midnight in any version played by JJ Cale himself, I shot the sheriff with Marley, or listen to any record written and/or performed by Alvin Lee, Jeff Beck... I think that Clapton will always be a footnote in the music history. Regardless of what his race remarks can be.


Sal Nunziato said...

Yes Roy. You are right. It is I who missed the point.

buzzbabyjesus said...

"But BBJ, we both love King Crimson, yes? Do you think that of the 50-60 members who have been members of KC, NONE of them has ever used a racial epithet, drunk or sober, or has never mistreated a woman, or an animal? Is it that, the art is enjoyable so long as no one gets caught doing anything bad?"

I don't expect or want anyone to be a saint, but I'm not a fan of assholes, hypocrites, or sociopaths, no matter how talented. That's why I accept Miles Davis, but not Bill Cosby.
Miles was a motherfucker, while Bill is a rapist and hypocrite.

big bad wolf said...

Well, i sure hope people can change. if they can't we ought to just end this whole thing now.

the bill cosby/miles davis comparison may suffer from a categorical flaw. music, painting, sculpture, plays, literature may endure across eras, but does standup(or sitcoms)? seems to me maybe not. perhaps that is because standup (or sitcoms) is not an art? most of the people i thought were funny in the 70s seem less so now even to me and are utterly baffling to my kids. aristophanes and shakespeare and wilde fare much better, but perhaps that is because they wrote plays. i dunno.

in the end, amoral though some will call it, i am in it for the possibilit y that we may learn something, or at least enjoy something. art works or it doesn't.ted nugent isn't worth listening to, so his repulsive views don't make me turn away, his work does. had he an ordinary job, i would never have to hear about his putrid thoughts. i believe clapton has repented. i don't care that he made money off some robert johnson riffs; i don't believe johnson was great because he was black or poor; i think he was great because of the way he expressed his art. all in all, i find him not so interesting as a person. i will not retreat from great art just because it explores uncomfortable areas or was made by a person whose behavior i condemn---stray cat blues is an amazing song, absalom absalon is an amazing novel, chinatown is an amazing movie. we are all flawed. that means the best of us are excused even when we are banal, and the worst of us contribute when they express something in a way that helps or touches us.

Anonymous said...

Roy's also wrong on some of his 'points': Clapton's version of 'Sheriff' is better than Marley's with its painful harmonizing (and I love Marley, and have considerably more of his stuff than solo Clapton), and 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' is immeasurably better in the final, Clapton-fueled version than the earlier ones. But I'll second him on JJ Cale, whose originals are always better than the millions of covers done of his songs (even if many of those covers are good in themselves).
C in California
PS Considering the obvious love both ECs have for black music, it'd be hard for me to ascribe their drunken/stoned comments to anything but....well, being drunk/stoned. Does it mean they're not harboring some conflicting thoughts deep down/ I dunno, but will never know so don't get hung up on it.

buzzbabyjesus said...

"the bill cosby/miles davis comparison may suffer from a categorical flaw. music, painting, sculpture, plays, literature may endure across eras, but does standup(or sitcoms)?"

I'm a painter and a musician, so I don't see differences in forms of expression, and comedy is right up there with everything else.

I grew up listening to Cosby records. I thought he was a great american humorist.
I have yard sale copies of the ones I memorized as a kid.
On "Why Is There Air?" there is a bit about giving "Crazy Mary" some "Spanish Fly", which I find problematic given all the allegations. It's just not funny anymore.

Sal Nunziato said...

So it's the level of the "crime" balanced with the quality of the art. Dogs fetch slippers, we don't eat them. Cows just MOOOO, let's make burgers.

Louis CK is a dick for "asking" if he could masturbate in front of two women. Weren't they able to leave? Or say no? Now, Louis CK "beat off" jokes aren't funny?

There is absolutely zero evidence against Woody Allen. There are pages and pages of compelling reading by Robert Weide defending him. He was never charged. But, he's got bad frames and his movies suck now, so, fuck Woody Allen. Creepy move dating a woman who is the much younger daughter of a woman you're dating. No doubt about that. Illegal? Criminal? No. Fuck Woody Allen. Right? In 1978 "Manhattan" is a masterpeice. Now, it's evidence.

This is what I don't get.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that we should have less tolerance (zero tolerance, if you will) for racist/sexist/miscellaneous bullshit behavior going forward. But having a zero tolerance policy going backward gets pretty tricky, as we're finding out.


Anonymous said...

FWIW, apparently Rita Coolidge and her then-boyfriend (Jim) Gordon wrote the melody. Later, when it was decided to tack it onto the end of Layla as a piano instrumental, Gordon didn't share credit. (Here's a version of the song, with vocals, sung by Rita's sister...

I loved some of those old Cosby bits but I don't find them funny anymore because when I start to laugh I think of him and that's that.

Clapton might have been a dick (or a racist) on drunken occasion in the past, and mentally ill Jim Gordon might have killed his poor mother in a psychotic and drug-fueled rage... but that doesn't extinguish the cry of love and anguish that is Layla. For me, it stands above the flawed/human artists who created it.

big bad wolf said...

BBJ, i agree standup is an expression like painting or music. what i am wondering is whether, to flourish, standup has to be linked so much more closely to the social (and perhaps political) currents and tones of it time than other modes of expression, and does this reduce, greatly, the chance that it will be have a lasting aesthetic effect?
I don't think that means that standup cannot be great in context. I do wonder if it can reach beyond its context in the way music can, or painting can, to evoke something in a person from a vastly different time or social context. i don't know the answer.

Sal, i think that is largely my position. i am not saying persons who commit crimes shouldn't be punished, but that we shouldn't punish ourselves by pretending they did not do something worthwhile, or even great, before we condemned them for conduct separable from their artistic achievement. This seems even more obviously so if the person merely fell afoul of changing social mores over time, or words used in books changed in social acceptability, often for reasons congruent with the point the writer/singer was trying to make.

yeah, those women could have left, but louis c.k. knew he was doing wrong. he deserves the condemnation. he doesn't deserve never to work again. it's the overkill that bothers me in situations like his. it's a human tendency. i do criminal defense. i have come to believe that people are natural prosecutors, they like to mete out condemnation and punishment believing it makes them just, though it often shows they just don't listen to any side of any situation but their own. this is not a good thing.

Zippy said...

Time to throw out your pennies!!!!!!!

From the 2000 Biography of Abraham Lincoln:
In his new book, Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream, Bennett points a spotlight on Lincoln's early days as a state politician in Illinois, where the future leader habitually referred to black people as "niggers" both in private and in political speeches. He told endless "darkie" jokes at the expense of black servants. He vehemently opposed the abolition of slavery, endorsed state laws barring black people from voting, holding office or intermarrying with white people.

Bennett argues Lincoln was forced into issuing the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation to satisfy the disgruntled abolitionist wing of his own party, and he carefully manipulated its language to ensure that it applied only to enemy states outside the Union's control. As a result, the decree itself did not free a single slave.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I will give a great artist a pass as long as the flaws don't overshadow the work.

Louie CK? WTF? I'm so disappointed I might not get over it.

Sal Nunziato said...

"Louie CK? WTF? I'm so disappointed I might not get over it."


buzzbabyjesus said...

No. Was a big fan.

Anonymous said...

Love the sinner, not the sin...

Michael Giltz said...

No one has to defend NOT liking some art because they're offended by the artist. If said artist behaves like a complete jerk when you're their waiter, well they just lost a fan for life, perhaps.

As for the art, I think it just becomes EASIER to separate the art from the artist with time. Wagner? I don't think twice about his anti-Semitism. I don't care about people's private lives and don't imagine for a moment they're wonderful, admirable people because I like their painting/movie/tv show.

Hell, half the work of being an artist seems to involve being so pushy and self-focused and convinced of your own greatness son you can bend other people to your will or drive everyone away just so you can do the work. See Joni Mitchell? In truth, you don't have to be cruel to others or wildly self-involved to do great art but it sure seems a common trope.

I'm only human -- it took a while for me to enjoy Michael Jackson's music after it became clear he had molested children and was too screwed up by his childhood or whatever to even realize it was wrong and defended it on national TV. (Taking showers with other people's children is natural and beautiful!)

But I never think reading someone's novel implies approval of their life. Hell, I'd read Mein Kampf if anyone suggested it was good. Happily, he was a terrible writer (but a wonderful dancer). The same goes of course for any art form, including standup, which does indeed date more readily than others though we've only got 50 or so years of recorded standup to judge by. Still, I'll bet Eddie Izzard's Dress To Kill show plays very well 50 years from now. As will The Cosby Show. Sitcoms? TV comedies I believe age much better than TV dramas.

So again: art is always separate from the artist though it can be hard for us to keep it that way when the artist is right there in front of us being a total jerk. Maybe in extreme cases they can ruin the pleasure of their work for you, but 50 years from now no one will care if Miles Davis was an abusive jerk and new people will dig into Walkin' and Relaxin' and Workin' with delight just like they did 50 years ago and will 150 years from now.