Recently, in an interview with Uncut magazine, you hinted at the possibility that you would most likely retire sometime in the near future, thus ending your storied career as one of most rock music’s most recognizable and influential guitarists. Your decision seems to be the result of some deep soul searching and continued suffering of what you call “odd ailments.” Surely you have earned the right to enter this next phase of life. After all, you’ve been in the music game for some 50+ years now. That’s a really long time to be in any profession, much less one as fickle and physically taxing as the music business.
As you can imagine, many of your biggest fans greeted this news with trepidation. They argue that your skills haven’t diminished in the least and that you still have any number of great albums/performances left in you. In fact, for many, your career has yet to complete its natural arc. You’re an elder statesman of the British Invasion and a towering figure among guitarists the world over. No doubt about it.
But I would like to appeal to you from a slightly different, albeit more selfish place. Simply put, if you retire, I will have absolutely nothing left to talk to my asshole neighbor Curtis about.
I know, I know. It’s probably the last thing in the world that would make you change your mind. But I’m afraid you don’t know how awkward my asshole neighbor Curtis is and how talking about your music is the only thing saving us from being complete and total strangers. Without your continued presence on tour or in guitar magazines or on TV talking about some long dead Mississippi bluesman acting as some sort of conversation buffer, we would be forced to interact in new and uncomfortable ways. And I, for one, am having none of it.
From the moment I first moved in, Curtis has been a real thorn in my side. Just the sight of him in his Titleist visor and camouflage Crocs is enough to make my skin crawl. And always with the witty comments. “Hey, that lawn ain’t gonna cut itself.” Or my personal favorite, “Looks like your car has some clean on it. Better wipe that off.” At first, I just smiled uncomfortably and brushed off his juvenile wisecracks. But gradually, I developed an active disdain for the man. I avoided him at all costs, going so far as to change my work schedule to escape his morning Survivor recaps. And it probably would have continued that way, had it not been for one summer afternoon when he showed up to my door pressuring me to join the neighborhood watch program. It just so happened I was wearing an old shirt from one your many post-Unplugged tours. “I didn’t know you liked Slowhand,” he said, in his trademark caustic tone. And that was all it took. After that, the conversation quickly devolved into a flurry of predictable anecdotes. “Clapton is way better than Page.” “Clapton is way better than Beck.” “Clapton is way better than Hendrix.” Truth be told Eric, I really stopped listening to you for the most part in the early aughts, but desperate times require desperate measures. I’m sure you can understand. Curtis had thrown me a lifeline and I gladly grabbed hold of it with the full force of my being.
From that point on, our entire interaction revolved around your abilities as a guitarist or ambassador for Fender products. It reached a fever pitch during your Royal Albert Hall reunion with Cream. We watched the show together in Curtis’ game room while his wife talked loudly to her sister in the kitchen. The night ended with us playing air guitar to “White Room” and high-fiving each other in front of his ’95 LeBaron convertible.
But lately, the conversation has started drying up. With your career somewhat on the wane, and no new real solo album recordings on the horizon, there has been little for us to bond over. Still, just two weeks ago, there was Curtis, poking his dumb reddish-gray goatee over my backyard fence, “You see Clapton with Bonamassa on PBS last night? Killer version of ‘Further On Up The Road.’ He was playing the Daphne blue Strat.” Had it not been for that simple conversation entry point, I would have had to make up an excuse about something burning in the kitchen. Clearly time is running out. Soon, he’ll be haranguing me about my overgrown hedges again or asking me to give money to his kid’s soccer team, The Yardbirds.
Look, I’m the last person that would want you to do something just out of pity for me, especially with all you’ve accomplished in the realm of music. I mean, it’s probably not that big of a deal, right? No. It’s absolutely that big of a deal. Curtis’ communication skills are about as remarkable as Ginger Baker’s empathy skills, which is to say virtually non-existent. And it’s not like he lives on another continent either. He lives next door. I can see that stupid Journeyman promo poster that hangs in his garage from my bathroom window.
So please, whatever it takes, pull yourself together and get back to touring. You can do it Eric. You have to do it. Curtis and I are counting on it.