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| 30 August 2014 | Reply

BOOK: Allen & Unwin, 23 July 2014 rrp $32.99
CD: Warner Music, 8 August 2014
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
BOOK: 8/10
CD: 9/10

Richard Clapton - Best Years Of Our Lives book cover               Richard Clapton - Best Years CD cover

Richard Clapton barely mentions his childhood and upbringing in his new autobiography, apart from casually mentioning his estrangement from his family later in the book. Instead, he opens his memoirs as a sixteen year old lad inveigling his way in to meet The Rolling Stones at their Sydney hotel in 1966, an experience that gave him a clear path forward – and also taught him not to treat people like shit, as he says Mick Jagger did at the time.

It’s a pivotal moment for the wannabe musician, and in a flash he finds himself a long-haired hippy, living in communes and travelling with barely a Franc, Penny or Pfennig in his pockets through Europe.

Fittingly, this Australian songwriting icon divides his book into chapters titled after songs from his amazing repertoire: Lucky Country, Burn Down Your Bridges, Prussian Blue, Girls On The Avenue, Goodbye Tiger, Deep Water, I Am An Island, Glory Road, Distant Thunder and, of course, the title track.

They’re more than just songs though: each is a snapshot of a moment in time with a back story, real characters, and the essence of where the man was emotionally and geographically at the time they were written.

Like the very best Australian songwriters, Clapton has managed to encapsulate the feeling of being Australian – or, often, of being an Australian overseas – in his songs, but unlike some of his contemporise, he never really broke through to become a household name.

Clapton’s songs are timeless and wonderfully evocative, and this box set to celebrate forty years in the business is a timely reminder of the many coulda-woulda-shoulda been hits he has to his name.

Similarly, he brings his keen sense of observation, wit and wry humour to the book, which pulls no punches as he tells of his longing to get away from Australia and the rut he was stuck in from time to time, his joy at living in Germany, his successes, his failures, working with INXS, and time after time his struggles with booze and drugs.

There’s not a skerrick of whinging or any palpable regret though, just an admittance that at times he was his own worst enemy, but for better or worse, here he is now.

Both a magnificent listen and an enjoyable read, The Best Years Of Our Lives memoir and CD box set are essential items in any collection of Australian music.


Category: Book Reviews, CD Reviews

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