Eric Clapton – Cocaine

This song has been covered by so many bar bands that the smell of beer comes with the song.

This was written and originally recorded by no other than J.J. Cale. Clapton gave Cale a huge boost he recorded Cale’s song “After Midnight” in 1970 and released it as his first solo single. This helped earn Cale a record deal.

This was on Clapton’s album Slowhand. The version that was a hit was the live version from Just One Night. 

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In his autobiography Clapton, Clapton said when he recorded this song he had kicked a serious heroin habit but was filling his body with cocaine and alcohol. His attitude at the time was that he could manage his addiction and quit at any time…he just didn’t want to; that’s why he could sing so objectively about a drug that was consuming him.

After he cleaned up, Clapton removed this song from his setlist because he thought it gave the wrong message about cocaine use. He started playing it again after he rearranged the song to include the line, “That dirty cocaine” into the choruses.

The song peaked at #30 in the Billboard 100 and #3 in Canada in 1980.


From Songfacts

When Clapton was looking for songs for his Slowhand album, he once again looked to Cale, and chose “Cocaine,” which became the first song on the set. Clapton would later cover Cale’s song “Travelin’ Light,” and in 2006, the pair teamed up to record an album together called The Road To Escondido.

The lyrics are about drug addiction, something Clapton knew quite well. As he When he finally did get off drugs and alcohol, he had to learn how to make music while sober, which was a big transition as everything sounded very rough to him. He also realized how damaging his addiction was to himself and others on a personal level, and became active in helping others get through their addictions; in 1998 he opened the Crossroads rehab center in Antigua, where clients go through a 29 day wellness-centered approach to treatment.

During the Slowhand sessions, Clapton and his band got to see a J.J. Cale concert, and Cale brought Clapton on stage to duet on this song.

This is one of Clapton’s most famous songs, but the studio version was never released as a single. Clapton included the song on his 1980 live album Just One Night (Live At Budokhan), and the version from this show was released as the B-side of “Tulsa Time,” which was also taken from the concert. This single charted at #30 in the US.

When J.J. Cale wrote this song, he envisioned it as a jazz number. His producer, Audie Ashworth, convinced him to make it a rocker, which required some overdubbing by Cale, since he played very simple guitar parts. Cale did three single-string overdubs of the riff. He played the bass himself, but had session pro Reggie Young play the guitar solo. Clapton’s version has a much more complex guitar line and vocals that are more prominent in the mix.

After Clapton recorded this song, J.J. Cale saw many new faces at his concerts, but many of them expected him to sound like Clapton. Cale didn’t conform, and took a more laid-back approach to his next album, 5, which was released in 1979. There were no hits on that one, although a Santana cover of one of the cuts, “The Sensitive Kind,” made #56 in 1981.


If you want to hang out, you’ve gotta take her out, cocaine
If you want to get down, get down on the ground, cocaine

She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie,

If you got that lose, you want to kick them blues, cocaine
When your day is done, and you want to ride on cocaine

She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie,

If your day is gone, and you want to ride on, cocaine
Don’t forget this fact, you can’t get it back, cocaine

She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie,

She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie,

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

44 thoughts on “Eric Clapton – Cocaine”

  1. Certainly a classic riff. I remember seeing it on the charts back in ’80 but the radio would always play “Tulsa Time”… which I see Wiki now puts as the “Single” with “Cocaine” on the b-side.


  2. When I was in high school at our Xmas Assembly friends of mine we’re asked to play there but rock it up with some Xmas time fun!
    They did and one of them was Cocaine but they did it as a
    Musical! One of the guys in the band told me technically it’s about Snow lol…
    Great times Max
    I miss those days at times lol

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A good friend of mine was a heavy coke user and he packed an once of cocaine in his luggage for a week stay in Atlantic City. The bellhop brought his bags to the wrong room and when somebody else saw all the drugs, he was arrested and served two years in jail. Some vacation!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yea you are right…only some hipsters would get it….lol..yea the 420 would be popular plus I’d have my son’s birthday on my shirt.


      2. The first time he recognized it was when he turned 16…Dad… not only was I born on national pot smoking day…it’s also Hitler’s birthday! He wasn’t happy at first…

        I told him son…everyday is national pot smoking day…and if Hitler would have had it…things may could have been different lol.


  4. A true classic with a signature guitar riff!

    As much as I dig Eric Clapton’s cover, I like J.J. Cale’s original studio version even better. Perhaps it’s in part because I knew Cale’s original, which got lots of radio play in Germany, before I heard Clapton’s cover for the first time.

    While I was well aware of Clapton’s drug addiction and that he replaced heroin with alcohol, I didn’t know he refused to perform cocaine live until he added the line “That dirty cocaine.” Interesting!

    The fact Clapton managed to kick his heroin addiction nearly borders on a miracle, in my view. He could well have become another early drug casualty like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and so many others! It’s just a tragedy how easily drugs were available in the late ’60s and early ’70s, especially in music circles!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pattie Boyd said he could get addicted to anything…when he quit heroin he actually got hooked on fly fishing and would not come home for days.
      He must have a super addictive personality.

      I agree he was extremely lucky he got through all of his addictions.

      JJ Cale was really good…he wrote some classic songs.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My favourite song that Clapton’s played, I think. (Well, certainly since Cream days, anyway). But I hate that he changed the lyrics after he got clean… I always find that sort of thing patronizing to those who still ‘do’ the drug whatever it is – it was okay when he was addicted, but not afterwards? Lots of people will then feel shame because of the change, and that’s not right. A drug addiction is not a choice – the effects of a drug change the body.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Writer and a lot more. You pretty well hit on my favorite music people this morning. Good stuff Max. Looking forward to your pick tomorrow.
        (I know I’m late on this but when you did your independence thing did Dave Alvin’s 4th Of July get any consideration? It’s fave. Up with Van and Bruce).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Man…that is really good. I never heard that before. I’m listening to it now. Hey next 4th of July it will be there!

        Liked by 1 person

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