Believe it or not, there was once a time not that long ago when music was pure and not used to fan the flames of some commercial enterprise. That was then and this is now, though it's not unusual for those of us who remember more pure times to pine for them.
Times have changed and nowadays one can't listen to the radio or watch television without being bombarded with some sort of commercial utilizing an artist's music in the background, or even more flagrantly up front in the A/V mix. An recent airing of the latter provided the necessary nausea induced impetus for this rant.
A new series of SBC-Yahoo ads on the radio are featuring some Clapton music, specifically the songs "Layla" and "Wonderful Tonight." Though mildly clever in design, the commercials are simply the sick cross breeding of dissimilar entities.
A visit to this page at sbc.com provides the company's spin on the commercial fornication going on between SBC and Clapton, detailed in paragraphs four and six.
This isn't exactly a new exploit for Clapton. His penchant for jumping in bed with non-music industry corporate types has been well documented. Your faithful scribe even penned this earlier screed which included how in the late 1980s Clapton whored out a re-recorded "After Midnight" to Michelob for use in one of their beer commercials. Not surprisingly, fellow Brit and butt-buddy Phil Collins also bent over for Michelob in that same general era sacrificing his "In the Air Tonight."
According to anecdotage.com (a minor gem of a site uncovered during an innocent Google search):
GIVEN: In 1987, Eric Clapton's classic tune "After Midnight" ("After midnight, we're gonna let it all hang down...") was featured in an ad campaign for Michelob beer.
QUESTION: Where was Clapton when he first saw the results on television?
ANSWER: In a rec room - in an alcohol treatment center.
This was also reported on a radosh.net posting.
So what's the problem now, Eric? Those trans-Atlantic toll calls back home to Britain finally catching up with you? SBC threaten to shut off your phone?
SBC certainly isn't an innocent bedfellow caught in the allure of Clapton's guitar playing virtuosity, either. Baby boomer Clapton fans who have developed an immunity to the reality and obscenity of this commercial partnership have discretionary funds stuffed into the pockets of their pleated Levi Dockers. And SBC wants those dollars.
You can safely bet your life savings if SBC thought there was any money to be made by sponsoring pigs copulating in the mud, you'd see their entire advertising and promotion departments knee deep in the mud and splattered with porcine ejaculate quicker than you can say "pig fucker." I can almost hear the panting, grunting and squealing ...
A visit to a page on clapton-online.com with an interview of bass player Nathan East, a longtime Clapton cohort, provides what may be the prevailing mindset of musicians these days. In the interview, East was asked, "Over the last 10 years on any major tour, bands have corporate sponsors, - this year it's Lexus Presents Clapton. Does this alienate you in any way, or do you feel that in some ways, this type of sponsorship compromises the music?"
East responded with "It's right in line with the times. For awhile, a lot of rockers thought people sold out if they did commercials, but I think that sponsorship is good because it brings the different markets together. Now that the world is getting smaller in the '90s, it's the thing to do. And people have gotten away from that purist attitude like, "you've sold your soul." A lot of performers have been associated with big companies, and it ends up being like a little merger. It used to be sponsorships with beer and cigarettes, for example Michelob was involved on the Genesis tours; but now people try to do the more politically correct thing, by staying away from the alcohol and tobacco industries. When it's Lexus, it's more respectable."
I disagree, Nathan. To wit:
1) "It's right in line with the times."? Meaningless psycho-babble.
2) Sponsorship bringing different markets together is not necessarily good. I'm thinking Colt Firearms sponsoring, say ... the Cinco del Mayo festivities; or Hustler Magazine and Viagra sponsoring a rape crisis center.
3) The world didn't get smaller in the '90s. Our planet remained the size it has been for thousands of years.
4) "... it's the thing to do."? More meaningless psycho-babble.
5) Time to wake up and smell the coffee, Nat. Many of us have not gotten away from "that purist attitude ..." And we don't buy your CDs or concert tickets for that reason.
6) "... associated with big companies ... being like a little merger." Care to re-take that riff, Nat?
7) "When it's Lexus, it's more respectable." And more lucrative.
For the original faithful out there - the teens of the 1960s who proclaimed "CLAPTON IS GOD!" for his God-like command of the guitar fretboard - this cheap sell out pattern of Clapton's doesn't settle well. It's perfectly natural for these fans to call into suspect the integrity of Clapton, or for that matter any musician and question just what was the creative impetus for a certain song that's being used to sell cars, clothing, telephone services or whatever. There's a troubling blur between business and entertainment.
Others may say things like "such is life in the music world of 2005" or "this is business in the new millennium." Well, I still ain't buyin'.
I'll grant you that in the grand scheme of things, the integrity of Clapton's or anybody else's music isn't a big issue. Integrity of world leaders and politicians certainly is much more important. However, as a reluctant yet independent consumer, I'm going to stick with my standard issue, plain vanilla cell phone ring tone and continue to neither listen to nor purchase any music from Clapton's post-sellout catalog.
Merriam-Webster defines a prostitute as "One who sells one's abilities, talent, or name for an unworthy purpose." Therefore, I stand by the title of this essay. Clapton is a whore.