Today I woke up to some incredible news – one of my favourite male rockstars and in my opinion the greatest guitar hero ever – Eric Clapton will be releasing his 23rd solo album this spring! I am beyond happy and cannot wait to hear what this outstanding man has prepared for us this time.
In the spirit of the news, I decided to prepare a publication dedicated to my favourite Eric Clapton album – “Money and Cigarettes”, which also happens to be one of the greatest rock albums of the 80s (at least to me). This album is quite special and significant because it marks a new turning point in Clapton’s life – it’s the first album he releases after his rehabilitation from alcoholism. To many people who are not familiar with his story, the title of the album – “Money and Cigarettes” suggests that the songs you can find in it are all about the “rock ‘n’ roll wild life” – money, smoking, parties, etc. I thought about it myself when I first heard about it many years ago – Oh, another album about money and girls, etc…On the contrary, after his struggles with alcoholism, he felt very empty and devastated. He chooses this particular title “because that’s all I saw myself having left”, he said. Quite sad, isn’t it? Misfortunes aside, this album proved that he still had it – he was and still is a true rock ‘n’ roll God who always rises from the ashes and takes back his throne.
Before going any further with the songs and the themes, I would like to focus on some other important information and details. “Money and Cigarettes” was released back in 1983 as the eight studio album by Clapton. It consists of ten songs and it spawned three hit singles – “I’ve Got a Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart”, “The Shape You’re In” and “Slow Down Linda”. In terms of chart performance, it was not his greatest accomplishment indeed; however it got a few nice spots in Germany, Sweden and Norway’s album charts. In addition, his first single “I’ve Got a Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart” peaked at number 18 in the Billboard hot 100 chart, number 17 in Canadian top singles chart and unfortunately, barely got to UK top singles chart at number 83. I don’t understand why his native country didn’t respond that well to the album and its singles. In my opinion, the album didn’t quite match the new trends of the era – 80s and was still a little bit “old-school” and “70s”. Don’t get me wrong, personally I do love the way he blended his rock and blues with his one-of-a-kind low key, casual and gentle vocal delivery. I guess the people were just looking for something different, though.
The overall atmosphere of the album is very relaxing, calming and creates a very good mood – at least to me. The songs are easy to sing along with, not as complex as his previous works, however still possessing his special and distinctive touch. In addition, somehow all the songs from “Money and Cigarettes” can simply make you feel good while listening. For instance, songs like “Everybody Oughta Make a Change” (which is a cover by Sleepy John Estes by the way) or “Crosscut Saw” are very uplifting, spirited and perfect for having a drink with your best friend on a nice spring evening. On the other hand, love songs such as “Pretty Girl”, “Man in Love” and “Man Overboard” may be very pleasant, cheerful and gentle, however to some they might not be so memorable or in any-way original. To me, however, the sweet lyrics, in combination with a tender and unobtrusive guitar playing seem very soul-revealing and most certainly create a very warm feeling inside my heart, especially “Pretty Girl”.
Pretty girl you are the light of my life,
I mean my everything.
You are the one I chose to make my wife,
That’s why you wear my ring.
Feels like we’re falling into the arms of the night,
So if you’re not ready, don’t be holdin’ me so tight.
I guess there’s nothing left for me to explain;
Here’s what you’re gettin’ and I don’t want to change,
I don’t want to change.
I’ve seen you speeding down the highway when you ought to dig the scenery.
And you can wolf down your dinner in the time it takes to drink my tea.
You’re always rushing ’round everywhere you go,
You leave me eating dirt on the side of the road.
I can’t keep running much longer you always go too fast for me.
It ain’t no big deal, we’re all lucky to be alive,
I myself don’t believe in luck, or taking chances, I will survive.
Every move I make, every twist and every turn,
You scandalize and humble me, I may be slow but I will learn.
Many critics are not as thrilled as me when it comes to this album. For instance, some music reviews say that the album is an “average” effort from Clapton and it doesn’t actually possess any characteristic that can distinguish it from the enormous wave of rock albums, released at that time. I agree that some of his previous works are much more relevant, widely-recognized and produced with a unique “flavour” that is somehow missing in “Money and Cigarettes”. I mean – some of his preceding albums such as “Slowhand” and “No Reason to Cry” triggered such an explosive reaction from the fans and critics and if you hear some of the songs from those two albums you will get what I’m saying. However, what makes “Money and Cigarettes” so special (at least to me) is what it stands for – the strength of human will and the desire to change for better. Clapton quit drinking and became this positive person who took his life back and wanted to do something great with it. That’s one of the reasons why I respect him so much. This album marked a very new beginning in his life career-wise as well. He let go some of his previous band members and formed a new line-up. Furthermore, this album once again proves that his abilities to play and sing the blues are beyond extraordinary. It may not be as intriguing as his previous projects and most certainly not as commercial and mainstream as his next albums, however it does represent a very impressive point of his career. The songs from this album – songs such as “I’ve Got a Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart” or “Pretty Girl” are a symbol of his desire to move forward and create music for each and every mood or situation you can find yourself in. Also, this album tells us that he doesn’t necessarily have to be this outstanding, fiery and blistering guitar-God in order to create good music. Regardless, one thing he has always been to us – inspiring.
Check out the rest of the songs from the album! I’m sure you will immediately feel much more spirited and feel in a better mood!
How Eric Clapton Got Out of Rehab and Released ‘Money and Cigarettes’, by By Nick DeRiso, retrieved from http://ultimateclassicrock.com
I do not own any visual or audio material in this publication. All the credits and rights go to the owners and/or the publishers.