- Adaptation Displacement: Clapton almost exclusively played the Unplugged Version of "Layla" in live shows for a time due to the extreme difficulty of coordinating the song outside the studio. These days, it mostly depends on which sidemen he has. A rare example of an artist displacing their own song, as the acoustic version is the version you are most likely to hear on pop stations these days and it is the version younger listeners are more familiar with, although the electric version still remains a beloved classic as well.
- Broken Base: Fans disagree as to whether his post-60s work was a welcome focus on songwriting and artistic growth or a misguided rejection of his guitar-god image that caused him to become boring and conventional. This even extends to guitar choice, with a number of fans rejecting any music Clapton released after he switched out his Gibsons for Fender Stratocasters.
- Cargo Ship: "I've Got A Rock 'N' Roll Heart" amusingly sounds like it's about this if you take lyrics too literally:I get off on '57 Chevys
I get off on screamin' guitar
- Covered Up: Clapton didn't write "Cocaine". That was J.J. Cale.
- Most people know "I Shot The Sheriff" was originally a Bob Marley song, but some think it's a Clapton original.
- Also "After Midnight", another J.J. Cale song.
- Clapton actually covered up Cale twice with "After Midnight". Clapton's up-tempo 1970 version was based on Cale's obscure 1966 original. When Cale re-recorded it in 1971 he rearranged it into a slow, bluesy song, and when Clapton re-recorded it in 1987 it was more in line with that take of the song.
- Ditto "Crossroads", a Robert Johnson tune.
- "Change The World" was first sung by Wynonna Judd.
- Epic Riff: Several, especially "Crossroads", where his arrangement is the most famous.
- Face of the Band: Much as he tried to avoid this, Derek and the Dominos is best known for Eric Clapton. On the other hand, while Cream is best remembered as one of Clapton's bands, back in The '60s all three members got equal attention. Bassist Jack Bruce was even the front-man.
- Genre Turning Point: Clapton's one album and subsequent live performances with John Mayall's Blues Breakers, particularly their cover of Freddie King's "Hide Away". There had been great rock guitarists before (e.g., Chuck Berry and Link Wray), but Clapton took the role to new levels, effectively creating the role of guitar hero.
- From a technical aspect, Clapton's use of a Les Paul overdriven through Marshall amplifiers innovated what has become the signature rock guitar sound, often accomplished by distortion pedals today.
- Mayall's original plan was to release a live album that would have emphasized Clapton's solos even more. Poor recording quality resulted in the studio version instead.
- Growing the Beard: The first time he grew a full beard was in 1969 with Blind Faith, when was getting disillusioned with his "guitar hero" status. After the tour, he joined Blind Faith's little-known supporting act Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. The duo encouraged him to work on his singing and song-writing abilities. He became more than just a guitarist and more well-rounded as an artist. This led directly to his first self-titled album and a very successful solo career. In fact, the most well-known image of him is with a beard during the 1970's and 1980's rather than the baby-faced (or thin-moustachioed) kid from The Yardbirds, The Bluesbreakers and Cream.
- Prior to that was the level of virtuosity and feel Clapton acquired between leaving The Yardbirds (where he was already well regarded as an impressive player) and the "Beano" album, which set the scene for the rest of Clapton's career.
- Heartwarming Moments: "Wonderful Tonight" and "Let it Grow"
- Memetic Mutation: CLAPTON IS GOD.
- Never Live It Down: Going on stage, dead drunk in 1976, and stumbling into an anti-immigration, anti-black rant including such choice sayings as "Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!". Clapton has tried to defend it in the past as drunken trolling, but mostly him, his fans, and his numerous multi-ethnic collaborators all just pretend it never happened.
- "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Clapton is best known in recent decades for his unplugged solo material, his blues revival efforts, and his lighter pop hits, but back in The '60s he was a certified rock god who essentially defined the role of lead guitarist. His work with Cream and John Mayall may not sound as innovative today, especially since it was almost immediately followed by the even more revolutionary work of Jimi Hendrix (who was a great admirer of Clapton), but rock audiences had never heard anything like it in 1966.
- In fact, Cream's "Tales of Brave Ulysses," which wound up on the B-side of "Strange Brew" in the spring of 1967, was the first record to utilize a wah pedal, beating Hendrix' "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" by several months.
- Suspiciously Similar Song: Goes both ways with "Let It Grow". Reviewers in 1974 noted the resemblance of the melody to "Stairway to Heaven". Fast forward eight years, and "Africa" has melodic similarities to "Let It Grow".
YMMV / Eric Clapton