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#ThrowbackThursday: MTV’s Unplugged: Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton “Unplugged” MTV/Duck/Warner Bros Records

by Sean Smith

I have always been a believer in the phrase less is more. At social gatherings I’m not the kind of person who will talk to you for twenty minutes about the weather or some other meaningless bit of conversation just to keep the fear of awkward silence at bay. If I have something on my mind I’ll say it. If not, the silence doesn’t bother me. I’m not one for window dressing. Ask my wife. To this day I adamantly refuse to get curtains for our home’s windows. In my view the drapes do just fine in keeping our privacy from passersby on the street. I see no need for such extravagance. In short, I guess I would describe myself as a minimalist.

This belief in less is more carries over to my musical taste. If you read my Jewel #ThrowbackThursday post here on Clizbeats, you know that her Pieces of You album is one of my all-time favorites. I love the raw emotion she expresses over the acoustic melody. One of my favorite songs by Clizbeats featured artist ZZ Ward is the acoustic version of her song “Last Love Song” off of her Eleven Roses mixtape. I find myself getting lost in the rawness of emotion in the song’s simplistic delivery every time it plays on my iPod. So it should come as no surprise that my favorite program by far to ever air on MTV is their Unplugged series. Whether it was Jay-Z performing some of his classics with The Roots in 2001, Lauryn Hill bearing her soul in 2002, or Eric Clapton playing stripped down versions of his hits in 1992, I’ve always loved watching some of music’s greatest talents offer up stripped down versions of their songs. Which brings me to this week’s subject of #ThrowbackThursday here on Clizbeats.

On this day in 1992, Eric Clapton recorded his MTV Unplugged concert in Windsor, England at the Bray Film Studio. Of the many songs he performed that night, 14 songs were included on his 1992 live album Unplugged. An album that would go on to reach the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 album chart. But as great as that whole album is, I want to specifically remember two songs that stood out from this stripped down, minimalist masterpiece.

The first is “Layla.” While this song is most often attributed to Clapton alone, thanks in great part to his acoustic Unplugged version, it was originally released by the band Derek and the Dominos, a band that Clapton was member of. Clapton’s rendition from the Unplugged album has a much softer feel to it than the original. This softer rendition proved to be successful, as it reached the 12th spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1992, whereas the original 1970 version by Derek and the Dominos only reached the #51 spot on same chart in 1971.

The second song is “Tears in Heaven.” This song was originally featured on the soundtrack to the 1991 film Rush. The song was written by Clapton in the wake of personal tragedy. On March 21, 1991, Clapton’s 4-year-old son Conor tragically fell to his death from the 53rd floor of a New York City Apartment building. Writing this song was a way for Clapton to express his grief and it explores the concept of him encountering his son in heaven. A perfect song to be recorded in such a raw and intimate acoustic setting. The Unplugged version of this song went on to reach the #2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and won 3 Grammy Awards in 1993 for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Male Pop Vocal Performance.

And so in remembrance of this date 22 years ago,when Eric Clapton recorded his live MTV Unplugged concert in Windsor, England,  this week’s edition of #ThrowbackThursday here on Clizbeats remembers his acoustic versions of “Layla” and “Tears in Heaven.” Enjoy!

 Eric Clapton

“Tears In Heaven”

MTV/Duck/Warner Bros

Eric Clapton
MTV/Duck/Warner Bros
Derek And The Dominos 

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