Eric Clapton’s Self-Sabotage That Jeopardized His Entire Career
In 1976, during a concert in Birmingham, Eric Clapton faced a controversy that had a lasting impact on his career. Under the influence of drugs and alcohol, he openly voiced his support for the National Front, a far-right racist political party in the UK, and used insulting language towards foreigners.
The incident made the headlines in the UK at the time and later found itself a place in the 2017 documentary, ‘Life In 12 Bars,’ as it showed the guitarist expressing regret for his comments. Clapton shared his feelings about his past views at a Q&A session following the documentary’s screening in London by saying:
“I sabotaged everything I got involved with. I was so ashamed of who I was, a kind of semi-racist, which didn’t make sense. Half of my friends were black, I dated a black woman, and I championed black music.”
What Exactly Happened In 1976?
As political candidate Enoch Powell’s stance against immigration spread all over the UK in those years, Eric Clapton showed his support for that cause in the middle of the 1976 show by saying the politician was ‘right’ about wanting to send ‘foreigners’ away.
He used the National Front’s ‘Keep Britain White’ slogan and shouted, ‘Get the foreigners out, get the w**s out, get the c**ns out,’ asking the audience members from minority groups to leave the concert as follows:
“Do we have any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, please put up your hands. So where are you? Well, wherever you are, I think you should all just leave. Not just leave the hall, leave our country. I don’t want you here, in the room, or in my country.”
The Audience And Fan Reactions To The Incident
The audience included famous fans of Clapton at the time, such as author Caryl Phillips (a high school student back then) and singer Dave Wakeling, who revealed their surprise and disappointment with the guitarist years later. In fact, Wakeling once recalled those moments by explaining:
“As it went on, it was like, ‘Is this a joke?’ And then it became obvious that it wasn’t. . . It started to form a sort of murmur throughout the crowd. He kept talking, and the murmurings started to get louder: ‘What did he f**king say again?’. . . We all got into the foyer after the concert, and it was as loud as the concert: ‘What is he f**king doing? What a c**t!’”
Clapton’s racist remarks triggered the rise of the Rock Against Racism movement in the following period. Meanwhile, many people, including the names above, stopped listening to his songs while also criticizing him. Still, the guitarist moved on with his career with the release of his fifth studio album, ‘Slowhand,’ in 1977.