Clapton speaks out: "I'm cut from the cloth where if you tell me I can't do something, I really wanna know why I can't do it"

In a new video interview with YouTuber The Real Music Observer, Eric Clapton has weighed in on his reported opposition to some of the Covid measures 

Clapton began the chat by confirming he was "feeling pretty good" with his health right now. "It's been about nine months since I got sick from the [vaccine] and for a couple of months I wasn't sure if it was going to go away or if it was going to get worse."

He confirmed his September dates last year in the US were a "trial" to see if he had recovered enough to return to the stage. "I had a great time but I still have some stuff going on which is effected by the cold, or the weather or stress," Clapton says. "But on the whole, I'm pretty much the way I was, thank god, before."

Clapton continued to explain that he believes the aftereffects of two AstraZeneca vaccines caused his existing health issues – he explains in the interview he's been treated for lower back problems and resulting nerve issues in his body – to become deliberating. He previously revealed that he feared he'd never play guitar again. "The second one just did me in," Clapton explains. "What it did was, it sort of exaggerated those symptoms I already had, the the point where I was really frightened. 

Clapton also suggested his political stance on the lockdown and vaccines was part of a wider disaffection.

My career had almost gone anyway

"And that's when I started talking about that particular [issue] and not only that but for the last four years before that had been a really strange time where [the UK] withdrew from the European Union. And a lot of strange stuff was going on, so it all seemed to be… a buildup. And then here we are.

The interview is cut short due to a technical issue, but Clapton makes his motivations clear for becoming politically active in the last year. Though he doesn't mention the specifics of any personal fallings out with people as a result of some of his statement – like his guitar peer and former friend Robert Cray has alluded to.

"My career had almost gone anyway," reveals Clapton. "At the point where I spoke out it had been almost 18 months since I'd kind of been forcibly retired. And I joined forces with Van [Morrison]. I got the tip that Van was standing up to the measures and I thought, why isn't anyone else doing this?"

The two ended up reconnecting as kindred spirits for Morrison's anti-lockdown song Stand And Deliver last year. 

"I've known him since we were kids," explains the blues guitar legend. "And I contacted him. I said, 'What do you think? What's going on?' And he said, 'I'm just objecting, really. But it seems like we're not even allowed to do that. And nobody else is doing it.' And I said, 'You're kidding. Nobody else?' And he said, 'Nobody else.' And I said, 'I'm with you. Is there anything I can do to help? Have you got any songs?'"

I felt really motivated musically, it instigated something something that was laying dormant

Clapton then described his thoughts of the negative reaction to Stand And Deliver and his thoughts on the UK government's Covid measures from sections of the media and his fanbase.

"I was kind of mystified because I seemed to be the only person that thought that was an exciting or even appropriate idea with what was going on. And that challenged me even more. Because I'm a bit like him maybe; I'm cut from the cloth where if you tell me I can't do something, I really wanna know why I can't do it. And it seemed like I'd had a wall built around me. 

"But I thought, 'I'm gonna do this.' But I did make concessions — I did take out lines or change lines a little bit just to pacify those that I really didn't wanna hurt, people I didn't wanna hurt or scare. And needless to say, my family and friends, they got scared, and I think they were scared on my behalf."

Clapton then questions the impartiality of the UK's British Broadcasting Corporation and touches upon Belgian clinical psychology professor Dr Mattias Desmet and his theory on Mass Formation Psychosis. But it was the British government that really sparked him to react.

"I felt really motivated musically, it instigated something something that was laying dormant. I was playing live gigs up until the lockdown and without really being socially involved in any way but then these guys that were in power really started to piss me off, and everybody. But I have a tool, I have a calling and I can make use of that. So I set about it and started writing.

One of the results of that inspiration was This Has Gotta Stop, a standalone single Clapton released in August 2021. 

"What's offending me now is I'm being insulted by the media," Clapton says of the influence behind this particular song. "I can't take this anymore. In England they were using a lot of guilt and fear. And it was overwhelming. So I thought about Curtis Mayfield and I've always adored Curtis Mayfield. I think he was an incredible inspiration to me, and I made an album called Pilgrim. It was pretty much devoted to his memory, and the album he made before that [New World Order], his last album, he made playing on his back, as far a know, because he was paralysed from the neck down from an accident onstage.

"His comments on his own community were pretty outstanding, I thought," continued Clapton. "And I sang [This Has Gotta Stop] originally with a Curtis Mayfield voice. Ann then I started to develop it… but that's what it was for me. What would Curtis do if he was alive? And he was a brave, brave man."

5 songs guitarists need to hear by… Eric Clapton (that aren't Layla)

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.