How many times have I had sex with Eric Clapton? Countless. Also, never.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’ve never even met Mr. Clapton. But when I’m having a really colossal sexual experience; I hear music in my head. It’s always the same song – ‘Layla,’ by singer-songwriter Eric Clapton’s then group, Derrick and the Dominoes. When I hear it, it’s not even all of ‘Layla,’ it’s just those haunting, twangy electric guitar riffs by Eric C.
I know I’m not the only one who hears imaginary music in their head at intimate moments. Surely others experienced sexual thrills listening to that guitar riff. You know the part – every teen-age boy from my generation played it – standing in their underwear, gazing in the mirror, bounding into a resounding, crowd pleasing air-guitar solo, imagining a cheering crowd. After all I’m a child of the 70’s.
“Layla,” was unsuccessful on its initial release. And my first time doing it, was equally unsuccessful. But there was one guy, Bill, who looked and sounded like Clark Gable. He was more than a Clapton fan. He was a devotee, played him in the house, in the car. The soundtrack of our relationship was all Clapton, to the point where even if there was no music playing, I heard it in my head, especially in bed, in that moment when excitement reaches orgasm. For me, it was with the crescendo of Layla’s twangy riffs.
Bill and I saw Clapton live in concert in 1987. I was on crutches at the time, after foot surgery, hobbling though the bleachers to my seat. But I didn’t care. I was certain, in the encore, he’d be playing my twang! We’d have our intimate moment again.
Shortly thereafter my relationship with Bill turned rocky. One Sunday afternoon, I filled the five count CD player with a few Clapton discs, hoping to recapture our initial spark that was dissipating between Bill and me. Surely Eric would help me out. As another famous guitarist, B,B, King sang, “The thrill is gone.” Not even Clapton could save this relationship. Bill and I soon parted.
For the next few years, I was unattached. Whenever I heard Clapton on my radio, I’d immediately change the station, as painful memories bubbled up. But when I was alone, in the intimate moments of self-pleasure, there was Slowhand, riffing away in my head, the opening bars of Layla.
I remember in 1992 Clapton performed “Layla” for the MTV Unplugged series, additionally recording an acoustic version of the song. Now “Layla” was a twang free acoustic ballad. I felt betrayed. How could he? Deleting the most exhilarating part of the song, the rambunctious youthful passion of “Layla” had morphed into a mature, sedate love ballad. Many people enjoy it. Not me.
As Clapton’s sound changed, so did my sex life. I went through “the change.” Thus, the late nineties became an era of sexual mishaps, the side effects of perimenopause, unpleasant surprises and disappointments that I’d learned had names like mind body disconnections and erectile dysfunction. My mind made plans my body couldn’t keep. Partners had the same frustrations, and feigned tiredness. Engines revved, our sex lives seemed stuck in neutral. Within my own body, I questioned, “Where’s your twang?” I felt lost and confused. My hormones were changing and Clapton had gone acoustic.
I took Clapton’s newer version as a personal wound. For me, it’s the driving, fierce, instrumental part of the original “Layla” that haunts me in a hot crotch way, remembering a pants dropping, decades before Cialis popping sex-life. No lyrics were needed. Eric, a man with rhythm in his body, you had me on my knees! Those original electric guitar riffs had an urgent naked abandon. Passion, as if twanging till your fingers bled. Then Mr. Clapton let me down. The newer, slow, twang free glacial tempo has more of a sit-in-cozy-pajamas a while and chill vibe. Eric, have you loved and lost or just lost interest?
Eric Clapton is on a world tour now, supposedly his last string of concerts before retirement. The girlish part of me that loved him when I was Bill’s girlfriend, wants to see him, hoping I can remember him as he was, and recapture a slice of our youth together that’s sadly faded away. The part of me that all too frequently misplaces my keys and eye glasses wants to leave my Clapton chapter in the safety of memory, twang intact.
My “Ode to Joy” will always be “Layla’s” haunting, 24-second twangy guitar riffs. What happens now when I hear the original “Layla” on my car radio? Thankfully, classic rock stations still play the earlier version. I get all giddy, tingly and for that moment I find my youthful inner twang again. Mr. Clapton, we’ve shared so many intimate moments together, I feel I can call you Eric. Thanks, Eric honey.
Watch and Listen to Eric Clapton’s Layla here: