The British guitar legend Eric Clapton has told of the self-disgust he felt at seeing old footage of himself chanting racist slogans at a 1976 concert in the British city of Birmingham.
Clapton was speaking at a Q&A in London following the screening of the highly anticipated biographical documentary Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars.
The 18-time Grammy winner said he felt shame about the notorious incident, wherein he praised the racist Tory MP Enoch Powell, declared that Britain must stop itself from becoming a “black colony,” and said “England is for white people, man.”
“I don’t want you here, in the room or in my country,” Clapton declared. “Listen to me, man! I think we should vote for Enoch Powell. Enoch’s our man. I think Enoch’s right, I think we should send them all back. Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man. Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans and fucking… don’t belong here, we don’t want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we don’t want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don’t want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country. What is happening to us, for fuck’s sake?”
Clapton’s bizarre outburst, which helped spur the Rock Against Racism movement, saw him labeled a racist for many years, and he has subsequently apologized many times, blaming his addiction to drink and drugs for the outburst.
The musician reveals in the film that he would drink a bottle of cognac by midday, before snorting cocaine from a knife at lunch.
The singer said last night that watching the unedited footage, which is included in Lili Zanuck’s new film out next month, left him newly “disgusted” with himself for his “chauvinistic” and “fascistic” comments on stage.
According to the Daily Mail he added: “I sabotaged everything I got involved with.”
He said: “I was so ashamed of who I was, a kind of semi-racist, which didn’t make sense. Half of my friends were black, I dated a black woman, and I championed black music.”
Clapton believes that much of his addiction can be traced to the fact that he was brought up believing his grandparents were his parents and his mother was his sister. When he discovered the truth, his mother rejected him.
The film also covers the 1991 death of his 4-year-old son, Conor, who fell from the 53rd floor of a New York apartment building.
Clapton says the tragedy helped him get sober, and to exist from that point on “to honor the memory of my son.”
He also discusses his romance with Pattie Boyd, whom he fell in love with when she was married to George Harrison.
“I knew it was wrong, George was my best friend,” he says, “But I felt the compulsion toward her. She was the most incredible woman I had ever met. Even though they were married, I wanted her, even though she was unavailable.”
Clapton married Pattie in 1979 but they split nine years later.
Clapton—who is a three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, once as a solo artist and as a member of The Yardbirds and also Cream—added: “There is no doubt. I went into a cave of self-pity and despair and the only thing that was the light at the end of the tunnel was this music.”