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Music

When Eric Clapton risked his life to save his guitars

@SamWKemp

How far would you go to rescue your most treasured possession? Most of us would probably take out some reliable insurance and call it a day, but there are those who would go much much further. Take Eric Clapton, for example, who once risked life and limb to save one of his guitars.

It all happened on May 25th, 1996. The famed guitarist returned home to his London townhouse to find the top floor wreathed in flames. He quickly notified the authorities and ran inside to rescue his instruments, breaking every health and safety code under the sun.

A quietly rattled Clapton gave an account of his actions shortly after the fire took place: “The first I knew about the fire was when I came back from a day out, opened the front door and smoke billowed out,” he told reporters. “The first thing I did was grab my guitars. None of them was damaged.”

The blaze was later blamed on a faulty lighting circuit. The fire, which Clapton would go on to describe as “terrible, too terrible”, completely decimated the upper storey, leaving the house a charred wreck. It’s a wonder Clapton managed to escape with his guitars in one piece.

Three years later, Clapton decided to auction off the guitar collection he’d rescued, announcing plans to put 100 of his guitars under the hammer to raise money for his Crossroads treatment facility, which provides outpatient rehabilitation for opiate abusers.

As soon as he made the announcement, Clapton realised he couldn’t bear the thought of losing all of his guitars, especially after running into a burning building to save them. In an effort to save one particular guitar for himself, he bid in his own auction.

“I’ve realised there is one that I just can’t part with so I will be bidding in secret for it,” he told The Independent. “It is not a very expensive guitar but I would pay a reasonable price for it as I really want to hold on to it. It is a guitar that’s been around my house for years and I’ve picked it up in times of great stress, like a comfort blanket.”

Clapton never revealed which guitar he’d been so desperate to buy back, but he did say that he would miss his 1956 Fender Stratocaster ‘Brownie’ the most. Indeed, it was this treasured guitar that he used to record his immortal 1971 solo hit ‘Layla’. ‘Brownie’, along with the dozens of other guitars he rescued from the flames, was clearly worth risking utter incineration.

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