Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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From 'Crossroads: the Life and Music of Eric Clapton'

Brooker : part two


Pages 242-244:
" ... In the months following his release from Hazelden and particularly the weeks prior to his arrival at Compass Point Studios Clapton could be edgy and irritable, sharp-tongued some times and uncommunicative at others. ... In Nassau, he was moody and aloof, spending a lot of his time alone and leaving his bandmates confused about what they were expected to be doing in the studio. As a leader, he was sorely lacking.

Still, with high hopes for the new album, Clapton was caught in a predicament. He hated telling band members how to play their parts, which
was insulting to musicians of their caliber. After two weeks of studio work, with not a single track completed to his satisfaction, Clapton was convinced that something radical had to be done. Tom Dowd, acting in his familiar role of production midwife, urged Clapton to fire the entire unit and start over. Roger Forrester flew in from England, prepared to act as Clapton's hatchet man if Eric preferred that he do the dirty work.

Clapton considered his options and decided to do the firing himself. He would keep Albert Lee, but the rest Gary Brooker, Dave Markee, Chris Stainton [who was subsequently rehired], and Henry Spinetti would have to go. He brought the musicians together and delivered the bad news. They had been a wonderful touring band, he told them, but they weren't getting the job done in the studio. He would be hiring studio musicians for this new album, so there was no point in their hanging around.

Clapton agonized over his decision. This group of musicians had been with him throughout his dark days of alcoholism, supporting him during a very trying time, and there he was, clean and sober, firing people who had been good friends, as well as bandmates. He and Gary Brooker in particular went back a long way; they had been fishing partners and pub buddies for ages. Like Carl Radle before him, Brooker was extremely upset by the firing, and Clapton, perhaps with the way he treated Radle in mind [see below], worked hard to reestablish his friendship with Brooker.

... Clapton tried to be diplomatic yet firm when he gathered the group together. He explained, as well as he could, that his decision was purely
business and nothing personal, but even that was a hard slap at musicians who considered themselves consummate professionals. Although he realized that firing the band could cost him valued friendships, he stuck by his decision. Too much was at stake for him to take a lesser stand ... "

Pages 225-26:
"Clapton and his [1979] band had been drifting apart over the past year or so ... and in a move that seemed uncharacteristically ruthless, if not cowardly, he sent pink-slip telegrams telling the three men [Carl Radle, Dick Sims and Jamie Oldaker] that their services were no longer needed. Carl Radle took the news especially hard. His friendship with Clapton had begun a decade earlier ... and he had been Clapton's bassist from Derek and the Dominoes to the present. During Clapton's uncertain beginnings as a band leader, and throughout his period of alcohol-induced unpredictability onstage, Radle had acted as the band's elder, directing operations when Clapton was incapable of it. When Clapton was recovering from heroin addiction and trying to assemble a new band, Radle had rounded up his unit. Sadly less than a year after being fired from Clapton's band, Radle died of a kidney infection induced by alcoholism and drug addiction.

He deserved a better fate, and Clapton recognized as much. 'I hold myself responsible for a lot of that," he said of Radle's demise, confessing that
he never saw Radle again after he had cut him loose from the band. Radle, he admitted with some regret, had saved him when his career looked bleak, but he had ultimately turned away from Carl. 'I have to live with that.' "

 

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More Clapton and Brooker excerpts


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