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‘Money And Cigarettes’: A Rich Collection Of Eric Clapton’s Smokin’ Blues
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‘Money And Cigarettes’: A Rich Collection Of Eric Clapton’s Smokin’ Blues

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Graham Hughes’ album cover for Money And Cigarettes shows Eric Clapton, cigarette in hand, standing next to an ironing board with a melting Fender Stratocaster guitar on top. Clapton said he chose the title of the album “because that’s all I saw myself having left” after his first rehabilitation from alcoholism.

Buy Eric Clapton’s ‘The Complete Reprise Studio Albums, Vol.2’ vinyl box set here.

Making a change

By the time Clapton travelled to Nassau, Bahamas, in late 1982 to record Money And Cigarettes at Compass Point Studios, he had finally enjoyed some lengthy periods of sobriety, taking his mind off his problems with spells of fly-fishing. Clapton was candid about his alcohol addiction, later telling David Frost in an interview: “In my case it was very hard because I loved drinking. I mean, being an Englishman, I think drinking’s so much part of our heritage, especially the country pub, and on a summer’s day. I’d love to do that but unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to stop, you see. I’d just go on and on and on.”

Clapton shared co-production credits with renowned studio engineer Tom Dowd, who believed that the musician needed to shake up his band for the record. Guitarist Albert Lee was recalled for the sessions, but several of Clapton’s long-term bandmates – including keyboardist Gary Brooker and drummer Henry Spinetti – were replaced by session professionals, among them Stax Records’ long-serving bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn and Muscle Shoals drummer Roger Hawkins.

The most inspired change was to bring in slide guitar maestro Ry Cooder. Clapton and Cooder clicked, especially on the album’s opening track, a version of Sleepy John Estes’ Everybody Oughta Make A Change. The pair also worked well together on The Shape You’re In, a song in which Clapton reportedly bemoans his wife Pattie Boyd’s freedom to drink when he couldn’t (“Well, my little girl really loves that wine/Wine will do it to her most every time/If it’s red or it’s white or it’s in between/She can drink more wine than I’ve ever seen.”

The rock’n’roll heart goes overboard

The Shape You’re In was one of six songs Clapton wrote for Money And Cigarettes. The others were Ain’t Going Down, Man Overboard, Pretty Girl, Man In Love and Slow Down Linda. Pretty Girl was an enjoyable, atmospheric ballad, while Man Overboard is a rocking, driving number featuring some great drum work from Hawkins, who was famous for having played on When A Man Loves A Woman (Percy Sledge), Respect (Aretha Franklin) and Mustang Sally (Wilson Pickett). The song’s melody and catchy refrain, “I’m like a man on fire, man on fire, man overboard, man overboard,” has made it a perennial Clapton favourite.

The track I’ve Got A Rock’n’Roll Heart – co-written by Troy Seals, Eddie Setser and Steve Diamond – was a success in the US when it was released as a single, in January 1983. The song peaked at No.6 on the Billboard charts and remained popular in the streaming era, partly down to its use, in 2010, as part of an ad campaign for a Fender edition of a mobile telephone. The track also featured the work of Grammy-nominated Hammond organ player Peter Solley.

A stressful experience overcome

One of the Money And Cigarettes songs Clapton had the most fun recording was a version of Crosscut Saw, a 1941 Delta blues song often credited to by Tommy McClennan and which Clapton used to listen to as a youngster. Though Clapton enjoyed playing alongside fine musicians – and they were joined by backing vocalists Chuck Kirkpatrick and John Sambataro for an upbeat version of Johnny Otis’s Crazy Country Hop – the sessions were not without their fraught moments. Writing in his biography Slowhand: The Life And Music Of Eric Clapton, Philip Norman described recording the album as “a stressful experience” for Clapton, who was at one point brought to tears from the pressure.

The hard work was worth it. When Money And Cigarettes was released, in February 1983, it proved that the guitarist had more than cash and smokes to his name. Kicking off Clapton’s Reprise Records years, it went Top 20 in the US, UK and Germany, and was a particular hit in Sweden and Japan.

Buy Eric Clapton’s ‘The Complete Reprise Studio Albums, Vol.2’ vinyl box set here.

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