I just searched for “most annoying songs” on Google and what came up — “My Humps”, “Macarena”, “Barbie Girl” — make total sense. These are objectively annoying songs, tunes that make your jaw set when you hear the opening notes at the supermarket or the drug store or whatever place you have to be in to do those chores that you’ve been putting off for three days now. Part of the reason why chores are called chores is because they put you in such a vulnerable position, your respiratory system open to random viruses and your eardrums subject to someone else’s cruel whims. True story: I actually complained at Emporium one dark, unlucky day when for some reason some monster decided to play “Way Back Into Love” on a loop over and over again. Customer Services actually laughed at me. When I returned to finish my grocery shopping I heard the ladies at the cheese counter humming along to the chorus. TLDR: “annoying” can be subjective.
So I understand if you will disagree with me when I say that Eric Clapton is annoying. Not only does he look like a guy who would buy a villa in Phuket only to eat a steak-and-potatoes diet and complain nonstop about Thai people, but he has now committed full-time to his role as “old white guy who gets all his news from Facebook.” This is how we get stories like this one. TLDR: Eric Clapton is now an anti-vaxxer, a logical progression from his tenure as booster of “white Britain” and as creator of “You Look Wonderful Tonight”, a song annoying enough to make me want to drown myself in the nearest body of water.
If I would allow myself a moment to be smug — it is my blog after all — I never went through a “this guy is ok” phase, not during the “Tears in Heaven” period, or even during the Derek and the Dominoes era. Admit it: “Layla” is only a great song after Clapton stops his sing-shouting and Duane Allman is finally allowed to take center stage. If no one knew the story behind this song (the same marketing ploy Justin Timberlake would ape decades later with “Cry Me A River”), it would be something that people knew exclusively from Martin Scorsese movies as a signal when characters got whacked. I have never liked Eric Clapton because he stole “I Shot the Sheriff” from Bob Marley and made a ton of money off of it, and built on a career of playing black music while being hailed as among the best guitarists of them all. It has always stuck in my craw, and when he made those horrible remarks about non-white immigrants to England, it sealed the deal for me, case closed, game over. TLDR: the temerity of this dude, who makes his money off of playing blues guitar.
Some Thais feel that Thai restaurants outside of the motherland are guilty of “pulling a Clapton”, as it were, making lesser approximations of someone else’s creative labor while profiting handsomely from it. Indeed, some Thais feel so strongly about this that they created a Thai food tasting robot (no, I will never not talk about this story, so stop asking). I myself can attest to some truly hair-raising meals at Thai restaurants abroad involving burnt crab rangoon (who created this? How has it become a thing?) and iceberg lettuce in a wan, chili-less yum salad dressing. TLDR: I understand the impulse to make sure this never, ever happens again by using taxpayer money to build a robot that will keep all of those culinary nightmares at bay. He would be 8 feet tall and painted in red, white and blue (the colors of the Thai flag, of course) and make his pronouncements in the voice of Optimus Prime in the cartoons from the ’80s. Alas, this was not what we got (stop telling me to quit harping on this, or I will continue posting links).
But maybe we are looking at this from the wrong way around. Maybe we should champion these missionaries of Thai food, brave enough to spread the gospel of aharn Thai worldwide. Of course, one must make a living when one lives by their own wits; of course, this means making an adaptation or a hundred off of the “real thing”. So if this means serving drunken chicken and crab rangoon (seriously, I’m a fan), or designating your curries as “red”, “orange” or “green” in accordance with the color of the chili used, or doing some sort of all-you-can-eat buffet deal that includes some sort of Jell-O, we must not malign these soldiers on the front of the food popularity wars. Instead, shouldn’t celebrate these innovations, the eventual Thai equivalent of General Tso’s, or even the crab rangoon (seriously, where can I find this in Thailand)? After all, no one complains when we do our own little tweaks at home (finally, we come full circle to the photo of the reimagined Thai “ice cream in a bun” at very top of this long and rambling post). TLDR: authenticity is a mirage, adaptations are a necessary fact of life, and Clapton was a musical missionary. He’s still annoying, though.