Clapton’s defence of Enoch Powell….
As Britain prepares itself for another General Election with the UK Independence Party (UKIP) very much at the centre of attention with its promise to leave the EU and stop mass immigration, I thought I would take you back to the 1970s to see how, in some quarters, the issue was raised.
In 1976, a clearly drunk Eric Clapton played a concert in Birmingham, England and came out with the most extraordinary outburst against immigration and a declaration of support for the far-right MP, Enoch Powell. Whilst the comments are alleged to have taken place, Clapton has never denied them and there are interviews on YouTube in which he freely discusses the occasion and his reasoning behind it.
Some of the comments are very blunt and some readers may find them offensive, it should be noted that Clapton says he no longer holds these views. During a break between songs he asks if there are “any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, put your hands up. Wogs I mean.” He continues with a claim that an Arab grabbed his wife’s behind and goes on: “Wherever you all are I think you should just leave. Not just leave the hall. Leave our country. I don’t want you here, in the room or in my country. I think we should vote for Enoch Powell. Enoch’s our man. I think Enoch’s right, 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. F*****g wogs man. F*****g Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs” And on it went.
He allegedly goes on to say that he doesn’t want ‘them’ living next door to him with ‘their standards’. He finishes with an appeal for the crowd to vote for Powell before raising the matter again later in the show and shouting the National Front slogan of ‘Keep Britain White’.
Clapton’s diatribe helped create the Rock Against Racism movement later the same year and its founders challenged Clapton over his remarks and his hypocrisy given the success of his Bob Marley cover ‘I Shot the Sheriff’. Interestingly, Clapton maintained his admiration for Powell many years later and never considered him a racist. In later interviews he said that his anger was directed at rich Arabs who began buying up considerable parts of London in the 1970s which led to a loss of national character and identity.
Clapton’s heavy drinking and drug use at that time will have contributed to the level of what he said but the sentiments were obviously heartfelt and whilst his popularity was beginning to wane it was a potentially career-wrecking move to make. Had he made them in the last twenty years it would impossible to see him come back from it and we can see why so few public figures will back Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader whose policies are considered, by many, to be racist.
Clapton was by no means the only major celebrity to raise the issue of race, John Wayne, in a remarkable interview with Playboy magazine in the late 60s claimed the American negro was not yet educated enough to be at the point of responsibility.
Whilst racism still exists, indeed thrives in certain countries we have come some considerable way since the 1970s and whilst the question of immigration is never far from many people’s thoughts, one can but hope for a more dignified attitude towards the matter in this and future elections.
Categories: The Music Lounge