“After Midnight” by Eric Clapton
If you were living in the United States during the late-1980s and are actually old enough to remember that juncture in pop media history, hearing Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” will undoubtedly take your mind back to the Michelob beer commercials of old (which tended to air during sporting events).
That 1980s’ version was actually a reworking, by Eric Clapton, of the original “After Midnight”. But both versions of the lyrics are fundamentally the same in sentiment. And they basically feature the vocalist encouraging listeners to “let it all hang down”, i.e. loosen up and be completely free, in a party-like setting.
Indeed said expression being utilized on this track actually dates back to a member of the audience rather telling the man who wrote and first performed the tune, J. J. Cale, that he should “let it all hang out”.
So apparently he got the message, as in basing its entire wording upon such a notion. And as can be gathered from the title, all of this is transpiring “after midnight”.
And again, the setting of the song would apparently be some type of party or communal event. Also we can also say it would be one open exclusively to adults or those actually old enough to be up at such a late hour.
And in terms of the hypothesis that it is in fact a party, this idea is most evident in the chorus, when the singer speaks of ‘shaking your tambourine’.
And the overall storyline doesn’t appear to be anything complicated. Instead it’s more like the people he is addressing come off as being a bit shy or timid. But the vocalist is letting them know that they should verily let loose.
And in the end everything will “be peaches and cream”, i.e. all good. Or viewed alternatively, they shouldn’t be holding themselves back based on how others may perceive them. To the contrary, the singer is very much dedicated to him and the audience giving their own “exhibition”.
So conclusively the midnight hour may not yet have arrived. But with this song, you know exactly what’s going down when the clock does strike 12. And that would be some carefree partying, being led by the singer himself.
Writing Credits for “After Midnight”
This song was written by J. J. Cale (1938-2018). Even though that may be a name you never heard of he was instrumental in the development of Eric Clapton’s career, and even moreso vice versa.
That is to say that Clapton has covered a number of Cale’s songs throughout the decades. And in doing so, he helped establish J. J. as a career musician. In fact it was Eric’s cover of “After Midnight” in particular (the first of Cale’s songs he recorded) which led to J. J. Cale actually becoming famous.
Eric Clapton covered “After Midnight” at the insistence of one Delaney Bramlett (1939-2008), who also played rhythm guitar on the track.
At first Clapton was intimidated by the song as it incorporated a number of different genres, and he could not replicate J. J. Cale’s style of guitar playing.
Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight”
Clapton’s version was released during August of 1970 via Polydor Records. J. J. Cale had come out with his own rendition some years prior, in 1966. And just to note, at first he was convinced that Eric’s version of the song ‘wouldn’t go anywhere’.
However, he realized otherwise the first time he actually heard it, which was unexpectedly one day on the road. In fact Cale went on to note that up until that point, he had ‘never heard anything of his own on the radio before’.
In fact at the time J. J. Cale was going through a number of his own personal issues, including being “dirt poor” and suffering from something like a midlife crisis. But again, it was Eric Clapton’s intervention which turned his fortunes around.
And unlike the original, which peaked at number 42 on the Billboard Hot 100, Eric Clapton’s rendition of “After Midnight” proved to be a universal hit. For instance, in addition to reaching as high as 18 on the Hot 100, it also broke the top 5 of Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart.
It’s success didn’t end there. It went on to enjoy chart success in nearly 10 countries overall.
Eric Clapton’s version was originally featured on his first full-length, which itself is entitled Eric Clapton (1970). Additionally it served as the lead single from that project and thus was actually the first song he ever dropped as a soloist.
Indeed Eric Clapton is a very long-tenured musician, having been in the game since 1962. And in addition to his vocal chops, he is also an exceptional guitarist, one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” as deemed by Rolling Stone.
His musical accomplishments are too vast to all be mentioned here. But just to put things in perspective, as of 2008 he has taken home 17 Grammy Awards, the first one being earned way back in 1973.
He also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. And over the course of his career, he has established himself as one of the best-selling musicians in the history of the music industry.
And interesting to note is that one of the aforementioned Grammys Clapton received was actually for a project, “The Road to Escondido” (2006), which he dropped in conjunction with J. J. Cale. Said undertaking earned the pair a 2008 Grammy in the category of Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Eric Clapton re-recorded (and rewrote) “After Midnight” in 1988, to be featured on a commercial by Michelob beer. And that version can be found on his anthology album Crossroads (1988).
As noted earlier, Eric Clapton has actually covered a number of songs written by J. J. Cale. The most notable on the list would probably be 1977’s “Cocaine“.
But other Cale songs that he has lent his talents to include these:
- “I’ll Make Love to You Anytime” (1978)
- “Travelin’ Light” (2001)
- “Everything Will Be Alright” (2010)
- “Rivers Run Deep” (2010)
- “Can’t Let You Do It” (2016)
- “Somebody’s Knockin” (2016)