Eric Clapton’s album August was not considered by critics to be one of his better albums. Some criticized August’s production, while others criticized Clapton in general for not sounding like he did in the 60s and 70s. August is an album that holds a special place in my heart, though, as it came to be a powerful reminder of my dad’s love for me. This next article could be considered a Flashback Review, alongside the many Flashback Interviews I’ve done, but it’s a positive review, as August was a positive thing for me to listen to.
My dad, whom I called Johnny Caps Sr., died 24 years ago on April 3rd, 1995. I was only 12 at the time, and while the 90s were already pretty bad for me as I was dealing with extensive bullying at school, lapsing into bullying behaviors myself at times, and the at-the-time undiagnosed effects of Asperger’s Syndrome, my father’s death made the 90s a whole lot worse for me.
I felt adrift in the years after my father’s passing, but one day in 1998, I went on a Big Brothers/Big Sisters trip to New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure. I couldn’t relate to most of the kids on the bus with me and my brother, so I turned to my cassette player. I had gone through my dad’s cassette collection, and I found Eric Clapton’s album August. My dad was a huge Eric Clapton fan, and he passed that love of Clapton on to me. I even put my cassette of 1994’s From The Cradle, which I’d gotten as a birthday present the year before, in my dad’s coffin during the wake for him.
3 years later, August was the only cassette I had in my cassette player, and I played it over and over on the trip to and from Six Flags. Every song I listened to on there was one that I loved. I would return to August time and again as I got older, and as I listened to the lyrics, I found that not only did the songs remind me of happy memories, but the album as a whole served as a message from my father.
The track that started the album off was “It’s In The Way That You Use It”, Clapton’s theme song to the 1986 film The Color Of Money.
The lyrics were about the characters in The Color Of Money, but as I listened to it, I could imagine my dad giving me the title as advice. What could the “It” have been from my dad? I would say his positive outlook. My dad was a Vietnam veteran and a proud Union member. Vietnam was a devastating war, and being in a union put us under financial strain at times, but my dad managed to keep a positive attitude and a smile on his face. Did ge get angry at times? Yes, he did. All parents do. All in all, though, my father was a very cool and comforting person. He always maintained calm in a storm, and his life could be quite stormy at times. I wouldn’t gain his positive outlook until well over a-decade-and-a-half after his passing, but that was my dad’s “it”, and I’m glad I finally got it.
The second track on August was called “Run”.
The song was about trying to get out of a bad relationship, and to me, the message my dad sent to me via this song was that you don’t need to be in a relationship to be happy. I had a girlfriend in the late 90s, but although I did feel love for her, I had entered into the relationship for selfish reasons. After my diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome in 1996, I was determined to live as normal a life as I could. I had no idea that “normal” was just a word, and not an actual concept, so I tried to live the life of a neurotypical high school student, and that included getting a girlfriend. When you’re younger, you’re selfish. You only think about the world as far as it concerns you. That selfishness can extend to relationships, so the advice I got from my dad via this song was “Don’t be selfish. Run towards a more positive and open-minded worldview”. Again, I wouldn’t get that until well after my dad’s passing, but I’m glad I did.
Moving along on August, we come to the third track, “Tearing Us Apart”, a duet with Tina Turner.
Although the song was based on Clapton’s relationship with Pattie Boyd, my dad would’ve put it to me a different way. The advice I got from “Tearing Us Apart” was not to listen to what others have to say, and to march to the beat of my own drum. This was reflected in the early years of my 80s fandom. I would find my views on the pop culture of the 80s, the thing that kept me sane, influenced by other people, whether they were critics or regular fans. For example, I was influenced by movie criticism websites to write a very harsh review of the 1980 Cannon Films release The Apple, as well as to dub a fun 1986 musical comedy called Valet Girls as “cheesy”, not knowing that the word meant “shabby” and “cheap”, things that weren’t compliments. I reevaluated both Valet Girls and The Apple as I got older, and I realized I needed to think for myself, and now I genuinely enjoy both projects.
Moving along to track 4 on August, it’s the Robert Cray cover “Bad Influence”.
The advice my dad would’ve given to me through this song is, basically, to stay away from bad influences. Some of my worst influences were the bullies who said all sorts of nasty and vindictive things about me. They influenced me to feel that I was unworthy of love or respect simply because I was who I was. Even my mom would alternate between telling me not to verbally abuse myself or listen to people who did, and engaging in some nasty verbal abuse herself towards me, even imitating my depressed feelings in the same tone of voice schoolyard bullies and hostile coworkers did. Eventually, I developed a large network of people I could rely on to boost me and cheer me up. My family of choice are some of my best influences, and I’ll gladly turn to them at any time. They love me, respect me and won’t steer me wrong.
Moving to August’s 5th and 6th tracks, we come to the songs “Walk Away” and “Hung Up On Your Love”.
The advice my dad would’ve given me via these songs would be about the importance of maintaining friendships and relationships, as well as staying out of toxic friendships and relationships. I’ve tried my best to heed that advice, but it hasn’t always been easy, and has led to some very painful arguments, especially in my relationship with my mom after my dad died. The last 15 years of her life (she would die in 2010 from cancer) saw my relationship with her turn codependent and toxic. We loved each other on a familial level, but we didn’t like each other as people. We were always threatening to get out of each other’s lives, but we couldn’t do so because, at the time, I needed help in dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome. My mom wasn’t prepared for the diagnosis, and things were just very bad between us. Neither of us could walk away, though, until her passing, which was probably the best thing that could’ve happened for our relationship, as harsh as that sounds. It gave us both a fresh start, myself because I could finally start making changes in my life that needed to be made, my mom because I do believe in an afterlife, and I like to think she and my father are back together and she’s happy again, especially as she doesn’t have to worry about me anymore, although therapy and medication have helped improve my life.
The second half of the album begins with the 7th track, “Take A Chance”, my favorite song from August.
I was a rather scared individual for much of my teens and all throughout my 20s, dealing not only with fears on the national level, but also on the personal level. Could I rely on my family to love me? Would I end up getting fired from my job if the problems of Asperger’s impacted me severely? What would happen to me as I got older? Would I even get older? Whenever I listened to “Take A Chance”, I heard my father telling me to not be afraid, and to know that life could be a grand and great adventure. I had difficulty believing that for years, but eventually, I came to see that life can be wonderful, and I’m living a great life now. That once-scared individual is now thriving in a retail job I’m good at, making lots of friends and landing interviews by the bushel. This song provided me with a lot of inspiration.
Going to the 8th track on August, it’s the song “Hold On”.
This song, to me, is about the importance of forgiveness. My dad was a very forgiving individual. Whenever I would have trouble, he would be firm in his discipline, but forgiving in his attitude. My dad would have encouraged me to be forgiving, but this is something I admit to some difficulty with. I’ve often been on the receiving end of comments and complaints about my appearance and my attitude, even after that attitude improved in my 30s. Some people still have an image of me as a volatile, screaming, shrieking, lunatic man-child, and even though I’ve changed, they’ll always carry that image of me. I wish I could be forgiven for those actions, but all I can do is apologize and hope I’ll be forgiven for having been such an asshole in my teens and 20s. Thankfully, while some people’s image of me hasn’t changed, most people’s image has, and I’m thankful for that.
August’s 9th track is called “Miss You”, and it’s a song about having mixed feelings.
The song is about breaking up with someone, and both missing and not missing them. This could again apply to matters of life and death as well. I imagine my father’s message from this song would be to forgive my mother for what I suffered at her hands, but that’s difficult. My dad was cool, calm and collected. My mom was worried, weary and way too volatile. Unfortunately, until I started seeing the right therapist and got on the right mix of medication, I inherited my mom’s traits and not my father’s. My mom could cut you out of her life over the smallest of misunderstandings, and while I didn’t inherit that from her, I lost touch with people who were friendly with me because my mom was hard to forgive people. I wish she could’ve had my father’s attitude, but that was not to be.
Track 10 of August is “Holy Mother”, a song that I could easily change to “Holy Father” and still keep the sentiment of it.
This song was written in tribute to the late Rick Danko of The Band, but I heard this song, and instead of it being a message from my father, it was a message to my father from me. I was in a very dark place from 1995 to 2012, and thoughts of loneliness and suicide were often on my mind. I missed my dad’s guidance, and when I heard this song, I wished he could’ve been there for me in person. My own mother didn’t have patience or sympathy for me. As mentioned earlier, she would make fun of my depression and sadness. She would tell me to get over the pain of the past or she would kick me out of the house. If you recall my article Lessons I’ve Learned From 80s Movies, you’ll remember how she pulled a knife on me and screamed for me to kill myself, an action that my brother thinks was justified to bring me back down to Earth. When we had a vicious argument about memories of my mom around this time in 2018, he even said, “You didn’t kill yourself, did you?”, when I talked about the pain of that memory. There is NO justification for a mother to pull a knife on her child at any age. My parents weren’t holy. They were human, but my dad was a nice human and my mom was a nasty human. I try to take after my father as much as I can, and that’s why I’d rather call this song “Holy Father”.
On a lighter note, we come to August’s 11th track, the Yellow Magic Orchestra cover “Behind The Mask”.
This song’s message is that you should be honest about your life. I’ve always been a very honest person. Sometimes that’s been a blessing, and other times it’s been a curse. My dad was an honest person as well, but he knew that sometimes you had to keep your opinions to yourself. That’s a lesson from my father that I haven’t quite learned yet, either. Sometimes my honesty has led to trouble at work. At other times, my honesty has had family members accuse me of lying about my memories of my mom. I would have nothing to gain by being dishonest. That’s why I love writing. I’m very honest about the ups and downs of my life. Am I a little too blunt? Probably, but honesty is a trait I got from my dad, and I think it’s a good one to have.
August’s 12th and final track was originally a CD bonus track, but later added to all future pressings of the album. The song is called “Grand Illusion”.
The final message from my father would be for me to try and keep my memories of him alive, even if it does seem like a grand illusion at times. I’m 36 years old now. My dad was only around for 12 of those years before his life was claimed by a heart attack. It’s so difficult to recall the sound of his voice now, and a lot of those positive memories admittedly have faded with the passing of time. I do have pictures, though, and home videos converted to DVD to help keep his memories alive. I really need to dig those out again. I’ll do so soon. My dad’s life wasn’t an illusion, but it was certainly grand. I miss him desperately, but August is an album full of memories from my dad in the great beyond. Thank you, dad.
R.I.P Johnny Caps Sr., 1947-1995