Time Pieces – The Best of Eric Clapton (1982)

Kronomyth 11.0: REHAB, RINSE, REPEAT. In 1982, Clapton entered rehab and into a new contract with Warner Bros., prompting RSO to release this “greatest hits” compilation. I put those words in quotation marks because, really, what RSO has assembled here are Clapton’s greatest covers: “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Cocaine,” “After Midnight,” “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” “Promises.” Also included are “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and “Willie And The Hand Jive,” two songs that few consider among Clapton’s most timeless recordings. Certainly, RSO had a profit in mind when they assembled Time Pieces, but you can’t help but wonder if there weren’t a little revenge here at work as well. At the time of its release, this was the lowest charting of Clapton’s official U.S. releases, but over the years steadily increasing sales have made it one of his biggest-selling records in the U.S. (only Unplugged has sold more copies). The album has its shortcomings—too few tracks, choosing the live version of “Cocaine” over the superior studio version, leaving out “I Can’t Stand It” and “Let It Rain”—which subsequent releases partially addressed by adding one more track, “Let It Grow.” Since that’s about all I have to say on the matter, I’ll spend a moment on the Legend of Blackie, the guitar depicted on the front and back cover of this album (I say “depicted” because it’s unlikely that Clapton lent his famous black Stratocaster or less-famous Gibson Memphis to RSO for the album cover shoot). For those unfamiliar with the tale, Clapton bought six 1950s-era Stratocasters in a Nashville music shop (Sho-Bud), gifting three of them to George Harrison, Pete Townsend and Steve Winwood. The remaining three were re-assembled by a Nashville-based luthier into a single guitar, dubbed Blackie (joining his earlier sunburst-finish Strat, Brownie). Blackie debuted on The Rainbow Concerts and remained an integral part of Clapton’s career until the mid Eighties. It was eventually auctioned off in 2004 to Guitar Center for a little under $1 million in a charity event to fund Clapton’s newly opened rehab facility in Antigua, the Crossroads Centre. The whole thing always struck me as a sort of samurai tale of rock and roll, starring The Six and the Three That Became One. Or maybe I just have way too much time on my hands.

The Songs

  1. I Shot The Sheriff (Bob Marley) 4:30
  2. After Midnight (J.J. Cale) 3:15
  3. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan) 4:30
  4. Wonderful Tonight (Eric Clapton) 3:41
  5. Layla (Eric Clapton/Jim Gordon) 7:06
  6. Cocaine (live version) (J.J. Cale) 7:10
  7. Lay Down Sally (Marcy Levy/Eric Clapton/George Terry) 3:52
  8. Willie And The Hand Jive (Johnny Otis) 3:46
  9. Promises (Richard Feldman/Roger Linn) 3:01
  10. Swing Low Sweet Chariot (traditional, arr. by Eric Clapton) 3:32
  11. (Bonus track): Let It Grow

The Plastic
Compilation released on elpee and cassette in April 1982 in the UK (RSO, RSD-5010), the US and Canada (RSO, RX/RX4-1-3099), Argentina and Brazil (RSO, 2394 303), Japan (RSO, 25MW-0022) and Mexico (RSO, LPR-16425); reached #20 on the UK charts and #101 on the US charts (RIAA certified 7X platinum record). PolyGram bought RSO in 1983 and re-released it with one bonus track, “Let It Grow,” on CD in 1983 in the US (Polydor, 800 014-2); these original CD copies are marked “Printed in W. Germany.” Polydor also re-issued this on elpee and cassette (with no bonus track) in 1984 in the US (Polydor, 825 382-1/4). Later re-issues on CD and cassette were released in the US, Canada and the Netherlands (800 012-2/4); these versions are printed in their country of origin and all of them feature the one bonus track except, oddly, the Canadian cassette version. In 1988, the expanded CD was re-issued in Japan (PolyGram/RSO, P28W-25036). In 2014, the 11-track version made its vinyl debut in the US as part of the 180g vinyl audiophile Back To Black series.

The Pictures
Art direction and design by Bill Smith. Photography by Gererd Mankowitz. At the time (1982), Mankowitz was enjoying his first major exhibition at The Photographer’s Gallery in London.

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