Clapton: I won't play Vaccine Passport City

(Photo by John Davisson/Invision/AP)

Looks like Slow Hand has come full circle to the fight the power era. After Boris Johnson announced that all large-scale public venues would enforce vaccination screening for entry, Eric Clapton responded by threatening to cancel his shows at any venue that enforces the order. That may come up in the US before it becomes an issue in the UK, however:

Clapton issued his statement in response to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday, July 19th, that vaccine passes would be required to enter nightclubs and venues. Clapton’s statement was shared via the Telegram account of film producer and architect Robin Monotti, who has also been skeptical of the Covid-19 vaccine and expressed other doubts about the U.K. government’s response to the pandemic. (Clapton previously shared a message about his “disastrous” health experience after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine on Monotti’s Telegram page.)

“Following the PM’s announcement on Monday the 19th of July 2021 I feel honor-bound to make an announcement of my own,” Clapton said. “I wish to say that I will not perform on any stage where there is a discriminated audience present. Unless there is provision made for all people to attend, I reserve the right to cancel the show.”

The message was accompanied by a link to Clapton’s anti-lockdown song with Van Morrison, “Stand and Deliver.” Representatives for Clapton did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.

Clapton has plenty of time to change his mind, Rolling Stone notes:

Clapton’s next scheduled shows in the United Kingdom won’t be until May 2022, when he has two dates on the books at the Royal Albert Hall in London. He has a handful of North American concerts scheduled for this September.

Clapton’s unlikely to run into that problem here in the US, for a few reasons. Primarily, we never did use a secure system for documenting vaccinations. The cards used in the US are so easy to fake that there’s not much point in demanding their production as proof of anything. More than a few states have already pushed back against suggestions for adopting such requirements even in their own offices, and some notably have gone a step farther in preventing private businesses from doing the same.

None of that may not apply in the UK, however, which has a government monopoly on health care and vaccination. They may already have more robust resources for both vaccine passports and enforcement of their use. If this is a reaction to heavy government control, then that’s right up the counter-culture alley for performing artists. If it’s a protest against the vaccines themselves, though, that’s something else entirely … especially for a performer who qualifies as high risk in at least one category.

His choice of distribution for this message suggests the latter more than the former:

His announcement came through the social media accounts of an outspoken anti-vaccine activist. …

In May, Clapton said he had experienced a “severe” reaction to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

In a letter to Mr Monotti, he blamed “propaganda” for overstating the safety of the vaccine. He added that he feared the “disastrous” reaction would leave him unable to play music again.

Yeesh. It’s tough to begrudge someone hard feelings over their own personal experiences with negative side effects, but less tough to point out that no one promised vaccines would be side-effect-free, either. The overall safety and efficacy of these vaccines has been proven both in the trials and in real-world data, with the risks of serious side effects far lower than the risk for serious symptoms of the disease it prevents.

That’s neither here nor there if the issue is government compulsion or “discrimination,” but if that really is Clapton’s beef, one has to wonder why he outsourced the statement onto someone else’s social media account. Clapton certainly is well known enough to issue that statement on his own, which makes that choice interesting, at the very least. As for Clapton’s insistence on opposing discrimination, his critics are digging up an anti-immigrant rant Clapton allegedly made in 1976 in rebuttal … as though Clapton’s position on such issues might not have changed over the last 45 years. It ain’t just the Internet that’s forever, kids.

Anyway, this is probably a tempest in a teapot anyway. By May 2022, the UK will either be so fully vaccinated and/or exposed to COVID-19 that such passports will be superfluous. Those who choose not to get vaccinated can run their own risks, and everyone else can get back to normal. With that in mind, Clapton might have chosen more wisely to stick with an instrumental rather than use lyrics.