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Music

Why Eric Clapton called The Beatles "too poppy"

Eric Clapton, also known as Slowhand, is a rock and roll pioneer whose legacy is carved into the annals of history. A pivotal figure in the proliferation of rock and roll, the English guitarist was involved in some of the most influential bands of all time before pursuing a lucrative solo career of his own. 

Eric Clapton’s influence on music can be dated back to the 1960s, a time when he was the foremost guitarist in a bustling London alternative music scene. It was during this time that he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, and with his band Cream, alongside Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, he pioneered psychedelic rock, inspiring generations in the process. 

Whilst he has long been one of rock’s most controversial figures, an opinionated character who has made more than questionable comments over the years, one cannot doubt the quality of his wailing guitar-playing style. It took from the American bluesmen of old, and augmented it, turning up the volume, and hastening the pace, helping to set the scene for the many different shredders we’ve had in the years since the ’60s. Without Clapton’s work, we could say goodbye to everyone from Kirk Hammett to Mike McCready, a dazzling feat. 

Another notable facet of Clapton’s career is his connection to the most significant act of all time; The Beatles. The advent of Liverpool’s favourite sons in the early ’60s was equivalent to something of the big bang for music, as after they broke onto the scene, popular music exploded, finding its way into the hearts and minds of many. In turn, it metamorphosed into the countless disparate genres that we know and love today. 

Whether it be his lead part on the 1968 track ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, his well-documented friendship with Beatles guitarist George Harrison or John Lennon’s desperate handwritten letter addressed to him asking him to join the band in 1969, Clapton is inextricably linked to the Fab Four. It is something he is acutely aware of, which can be partially attributed to the number of occasions where he’s been pushed to recount his friendship with the scouse quartet.

One of the most revealing moments, however, arrived when Clapton shed light on his relationship with The Beatles during in an interview with legendary talk show host Larry King, who asked him when it was he decided he wanted “music as a life”. 

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To the broad question, Clapton responded: “I think I knew that when I was about 17, and I was starting to play in bands around the clubs, you know? I knew that I had some kind of power in that area, that I could affect people with what I did”.

Wanting the audience to be able to visualise the heady era Clapton was discussing, King said, “And that was the big era of what, Beatles were going on?” Clapton remembered: “Yeah, exactly. They had a radio show called Pop Go The Beatles once a week.”

Asked if he wanted to be The Beatles, Clapton replied definitively, shocking viewers: “No, not at all. Actually, even for my earliest recollections of that, that was too poppy for me. By the time they came around, I was already deeply ensconced in hardcore blues, and I was becoming a purist very fast.”

Consequently, there’s no wonder Eric Clapton never joined The Beatles; they were just too poppy for him. If only John Lennon was around to have heard that interview, he might have regretted writing that infamous eight-page letter. 

Watch Clapton discuss The Beatles with Larry King below.