By Robyn Collins
Guitar legend Eric Clapton was disappointed when his three daughters, who range in age from 11 to 14, became Justin Bieber fans. Then he heard the pop star’s latest music, and while he’s not still exactly a “Belieber,” he agreed, “It’s got some substance now.”
Related: Eric Clapton Releasing Live Box Set
Clapton made the comment in a Billboard article that also addressed the guitar legend’s new album I Still Do, which comes out May 20. The record features two originals and covers of songs by Robert Johnson, JJ Cale and Bob Dylan. While I Still Do is filled with Clapton’s trademark acoustic and electric guitar licks the actual performances proved to be unexpectedly painful.
Right as he was going into the studio with Glyn Johns, who produced Slowhand with Clapton 40 years ago, the guitarist came down with an intense case of eczema. “It was a nightmare,” he said. “I started thinking that it was psychosomatic, that maybe I was nervous. And maybe I was. Who knows? I had full-body eczema and it ended up my hands.”
The back cover of I Still Do pictures Clapton’s hand in a protective mitt holding the neck of a guitar; only his fingertips are exposed.
Clapton credits Angelo Mysterioso for acoustic guitar and vocals on the song “I Will Be There.” A near-identical pseudonym was used by the Beatles’ George Harrison when he played on a Clapton album but couldn’t be credited for contractual reasons. Because of this, some have speculated that the track had been left behind by the late Beatle.
It’s not, in fact, Harrison; however there’s an interesting reason Clapton revived the pseudonym. As it turned out, the real artist’s record company didn’t want the guitarist on the track associated with Clapton. “I like the idea that people will speculate,” Clapton said. “They might get it right. They might get it wrong. But I’m not going to say [who it is]. I gave my word.”
Clapton has talked about retirement, about knowing when it’s time to hang up the guitar before someone has to tell him. He agreed that it’s impossible to ignore the swell of music-related deaths lately, but while David Bowie and Prince got the biggest headlines, bluesmen J.J. Cale and B.B. King hit Clapton the hardest.
The last song on Clapton’s new disc, the standard “I’ll Be Seeing You,” made famous by Billie Holliday, might just be a message. “It’s one of those things that’s been haunting me,” he said. “I love the song and I love the sentiment. Just in case I don’t cut another record, this is how I feel. I kind of might be saying goodbye. But I’ve been doing that for a while.”