There was a girl one year ahead of Brian who believed she was Eric Clapton’s girlfriend. They dated briefly on the Slowhand tour in the showers at Pontiac Silverdome. Her name was Meredith, and she had a backstage pass given to her by her father, a waste management bigwig who had won the lucrative Silverdome contract, and so received benefits including the chance to sacrifice one’s underage children to visiting celebrities.
Brian wasn’t allowed to go to out-of-town shows, especially not Eric Clapton, who was the reason Brian’s parents had discouraged him from taking up guitar. It wasn’t the music—which they hadn’t heard—but the news that, several thousand miles away in the London borough of Islington, a devil had spray-painted the sacrilege “Clapton is God” on a corrugated tin wall along Arvon Road N.5.
Meredith wrote many letters to Eric Clapton care of Polydor Records and he always responded with a photograph of himself with his prized guitar, Blackie, signed, “Best, E.C.” Meredith taped one inside her locker. Brian hadn’t seen it, but he had heard about it.
Word of her fame spread like a rash through East Lansing High School. The story became that Meredith and Eric Clapton were dating. Sometimes, when boys asked her to McDonald’s for lunch or to Campus Corners to buy her a beer, Meredith let it be known she was taken.
Meredith was not an object of ridicule. The populace did not see themselves in any way above Meredith or better than Meredith. Boys fantasized about groping her in the rec room while their parents were out. Girls dreamed of besting her, possibly with someone from Journey or Hall and Oates. Brian dreamed that Meredith played the didgeridoo on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, a variety show that came on after your parents went to bed and featured lip-synched music and skits with a discoing Papier-mache Nixon head, or at least that’s how it was in the dream. This stirred in Brian the urge to practice “Layla” in the commons outside the school library with the hope that Meredith, walking to her locker, would hear him—and pause.
The entire town of East Lansing was complicit in Meredith’s relationship. They worked her into conversations with strangers, apropos of nothing. Everyone wanted it to be true, and everyone wanted him to care about her. If only he could be in town more frequently than never. No one wanted it to be like what Brian did the summer before with the girl from the Beekman Center who dropped her pants in public. It wasn’t like that. It was real. East Lansing was a groupie. And when Eric Clapton returned to the Silverdome two summers later, with Brian away at Plan B University and Meredith living in Arizona with her TA, even some parents—Brian’s among them—made the two hour drive and bought shirts for those left behind.
John Mattson is a writer, screenwriter, songwriter, and teacher. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son. His bio is incomplete.