Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars is the documentary about the singer/songwriter who was once, rightly, called God.
The film takes in his early influences – which were mostly blues music (although precious few of his peers were), plus with some voiceover from his late grandmother, Rose Clapp – who he lived with, as well as from the man, himself, we learn how he was creative at an early age, drawing and painting, yet was still a bit of a loner.
There’s brief segments devoted to his early band The Roosters, in 1963, before moving on to The Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominoes, with a rather amusing anecdote about how America doesn’t understand why he doesn’t use his own name on the latter because everyone already knows he’s Derek and the Dominoes, which leads him to question why it’s such a problme that he uses that pseudonym.
With pictures of music sessions, footage of the streets at the time, other observations include meeting his real mum, and not really getting on with her, plus “We did The Beatles Christmas Show, and we thought they were wankers”, since he watched them from the side of the stage, and could see how pointless they clearly thought it was, compared to how much his own fans actually liked the music of the band, since The Beatles’ music couldn’t actually be heard over the screaming din of the fans.
After going into detail about his boozing and drugs years – including the death of Jimi Hendrix, it does then skip quite a few until we get to 1987 and the birth of his son, Conor, who sadly died four years later. And it’s the aftermath of his death which is the last element of his story which is covered in depth.
The problem with Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars is that while it’s great to see old clips, it’s the fact that it just skips through his life from one section to the next – starting out, first band, second band, and so on – with no investigative depth spent on any one section, and so it all just feels lacking in that depth. Watching it in one go, rather than in segments, it does feel like Slowhand is on a go-slow.
Although the film does have a live Q&A in some cinemas tomorrow night – Wednesday, January 10th (tickets are around £15 apiece), with the film being on general release from Friday, it may be better to wait for the eventual Blu-ray or DVD, which is bound to have the Q&A on it, and then you can pause it when you feel like.
Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD, but click on the packshot for the full-size image.
Running time: 135 minutes
Studio: Altitude Film Distribution
Released: January 12th 2018
Director: Lili Fini Zanuck
Producers: John Battsek, Stephen ‘Scooter’ Weintraub, Larry Yelen and Lili Fini Zanuck
Screenplay: Stephen ‘Scooter’ Weintraub and Larry Yelen
Music: Gustavo Santaolalla
Narrator: Eric Clapton
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.