Sunday, March 22, 2009

Behind The Mask

There are many musical acts who I find personally uncompelling but whose life stories are fabulously bizarre and hard to ignore. The chances of me getting home from a hard day at the factory and putting on an Eric Clapton record are slim. So why have I spent the last two weeks obsessed with his 1987 hit "Behind The Mask"?

In this inexplicable outing, the white blues guitar legend covers a Japanese synth-pop instrumental, not a hundred miles removed from the sort of music you'd get when a C64 game was loading off a cassette. He adds some of his mega fog-horn vocals, puts on some vast shoulderpads and unleashes.

I love this song and particularly this video. It's a vision of a world as far removed from the modern musical landscape as the Beatles were from ragtime jazz. The anointed kings of the new CD format, Phil Collins, Elton John and Mark Knopfler, join Slowhand to rip it up then presumably drink money juice backstage.

Growing up in the eighties, these guys were like the Easter Island heads, they were monolithic. They were old men playing a young man's game and it's hard to imagine that there will ever be "legacy" acts, 20-year unit-shifters like these again. Part of me thinks this is for the best and that we never want to see a 48 year old Julian Casablancas and a fat, heavily bearded Jack White squeezing out a mod-ish, late period hit together in 2026. Part of me wants nothing more.

BONUS: Here's the original "Behind The Mask" by Yellow Magic Orchestra. Beep beep bip!


Oliver Brackenbury said...

Predicting legacy acts of the future - sounds like a job for Dr. Ladysounds if there ever was one!

evaristo said...

The obvious suggestion would now be to hear the fantastic Señor Coconut version
(or download here - shhh!)

stefan autsa said...

If we were in a public house and the clapton cover came on the jukebox, you can be sure I'd be arguing with you about which version is the superior, spilling my pint all over. Of course, I would be in YMO's corner, for which I am a badge-carrying member.

I contest your live Eric Clapton tune with the live YMO tune. Like Public Enemy, they have people in black uniform wandering the stage.

The D.o.D said...

John, you also mention the mighty Phil collins, well in the below you tube URL, is said Mr Collins playing drums with Eric, Jools Holland R&B orchestra and Thunder thumbs from level 42 performing Behind the mask! I believe this is the Princes trust concert circa 1980.

Unknown said...

My wife claims some version of this was in the lemmings soundtrack. FWIW.

John A said...

Ruari, the addition of Mark King with his extreme thumb bass skills has taken this to the next level.

You get 100 points next time I see you!

Autsa: I have much respeck for Ryuchi Sakamoto but Slowhand edges this by making up words for it. If only this could happen in the modern world.

Martin said...

Clapton predicts the future with this unforgettable line: "Who do you love? Is it ebay? Is it here now?"

The D.o.D said...

Oh Man a hundred points! They will be right back achoo, if your printer tips are as you promise. Which I am sure they are! I think if I explain where I experienced my blogged problem you will know whom I speak of and be very surprised!

see you around!

Robert Shaw said...

I'm reliably informed that the guy playing the tambourine who looks a bit like Phil Collins is actually noted percussionist Ray Cooper (who can be seen giving a gong what for here and it's Steve Ferrone on drums.

Presumably the Yellow Magic Orchestra are pretty relaxed about who covers their tunes, because the Goldie Lookin Chain used Greg Phillinganes version on 'Your Mother's Got A Penis'.

Usby said...

Ray Cooper always popped up playing the bongos in Prince's Trust concerts in the eighties, but I feel he was at his best playing irritable civil servant in Brazil, and irritable aide in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He's probably in Jabberwocky too, but I can't confirm this.

Robert Shaw said...

Apparently not:

JonathanCR said...

Big hair. Big suits. Big sound.

Now when he was a young blistering-hot guitar god, Clapton fell out with his bandmates in the Yardbirds because they wanted to go in a more poppy direction instead of the respectful blues that he wanted to play. In fact when they recorded "For Your Love" he spent most of the time lying on his back staring miserably at the ceiling because it was such a sell-out record. I'm not sure what 60s Clapton would have made of 80s Clapton, but it's probably just as well that they never met.

The best hair/guitar combo of the 1980s was purveyed by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Have a look at for some true face melting.