Monday, April 30, 2018

Songs from '78: "Cocaine"

More cheating. Eric Clapton's version of "Cocaine," a deliriously ambiguous rock song by J.J. Cale--a song that Clapton has insisted is "cleverly anti-cocaine"--appeared in 1977 on his tremendous album Slowhand. It wasn't released as a single, but got a lot of airplay (mostly on FM stations) all the same; and it was the B-side of "Lay Down Sally," a county blues tune that slow climbed up the charts through 1978, peaking in April, forty years ago this month, so plenty of people flipped the single over and gave "Cocaine" a listen. It finally got a proper release and made it onto the radio with a live version recorded at Budokan (everyone was going there, apparently!) that appeared on Just One Night. That was the version which I became familiar with, when I picked up the Clapton collection Timepieces a couple of years later which for the longest time was the only Clapton album I owned. But whenever I first heard it, and whenever it made it onto the radio, it is a song that utterly belongs to the seemingly exhausted, yet still furiously burning, rock world of the late 1970s. Just check out this wonderful, drunken performance; note how everyone in the audience knows all the words. Or, at least, they know when to shout "cocaine!"--which is all that really matters, of course.

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