The Great Divide: Rod and Eric share their longing for glory days gone by.
Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton are old and in San Jose
By Mike Connor
NEWS FLASH: Two 61-year-old, Grammy-winning British rockers are still playing music.
OK, so maybe it's not as exciting as, say, bread popping out of the toaster ("Now it's toast!"), but what can you expect when the only live music venue in town bigger than your average deli is a pavilion big enough to seat some 18,000? That's right: teeny bopper pop stars and big, old names.
Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton are cool and all, but at $55-$150 a ticket, who can afford to see them both? Certainly no one reading this article, because rich people spend their free time eating the fins of poor shark people, not reading. The majority of us fans of formerly exciting musicians are going to have to pick one or the other. But instead of just picking the guy you want to see, let's act like rich people for once and do our due diligence before we invest in either of these aged fixer-uppers.
First of all, both of them are arguably "damaged goods." Eric's father left when he was a baby, he was raised by his grandparents and found out at the age of 9 that his older sister was actually his mother. Weak.
Rod's grand entrance was more explosive: Just minutes before he was born (in London), a German rocket blew up the police station down the street, hence the mullet-shaped shock of blonde hair permanently expressing his earliest surprise.
Whereas Eric starting his working life as a mailman, Rod wins the "working class" mantle for his early work as a gravedigger. Eric's facility on the guitar earned him a spot in the Yardbirds, but Rod's sterling if scratchy voice earned him a spot as the lead singer of the Kinks when they were still the Ray Davies Quartet, and of Shotgun Express with Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green, who would go on to form Fleetwood Mac.
Rod scored five No. 1 albums and four No. 1 singles in the United States, allegedly sold over 250 million records and once played to a crowd of 3.5 million fans. Eric Clapton played 15-minute songs like "Spoonful" and "Crossroads" that people actually enjoyed listening to all the way through, was friends with Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison and Duane Allman, once passed out onstage, was revived and continued with the show, and beat his heroin addiction with acupuncture. He is now a Commander of the British Empire (CBE).
As far as sexual prowess goes, Rod may seem like the clear winner here to the supermodels not reading this (he shagged Rachel Hunter and Bond girl Britt Ekland, among many, many others), but Clapton shagged George Harrison's wife and Sheryl Crow. Not sure what to make of having that prepubescent girl pose topless for the Blind Faith album cover, but Eric more than made up for it when he squelched accusations of racism by shagging Naomi Campbell. He was also apparently safer in the sack, too, fathering only five kids with three women, whereas Rod obviously had a problem wrapping it up, fathering a whopping seven kids, who are now toddlers, teenagers and middle-aged men that range in age from 2 to 42. Who's your daddy? Probably Rod.
Both have had their mortality scares: Eric narrowly avoided death by giving his seat on a ground-bound helicopter to Stevie Ray Vaughan. In 2000, Rod underwent surgery for thyroid cancer and afterward had to relearn to sing.
These days, Eric is touring with J.J. Cale, one of his idols, and mining anything related to the blues. Rod is mining anything by songwriters like Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington and Ira Gershwin. They're both making a mint.
Favorite quotes: "Instead of getting married again," said Rod, "I'm going to find a woman I don't like and just give her a house." Spoken like a true real estate mogul prone to divorce. The Clapton outlook, on the other hand, is decidedly working class and lazy.
"Given the choice between accomplishing something and just lying around," said Clapton, "I'd rather lie around. No contest."
Rod Stewart performs on Thursday (March 15) at 8pm ($75-$125) and Eric Clapton performs on Sunday (March 18) at 8:30pm ($55.50-$125) at HP Pavilion, 525 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose. (408.998.TIXS)
Send a letter to the editor about this story.