After Midnight

Album: Eric Clapton (1970)
Charted: 18


  • The Oklahoma songwriter and guitarist J.J. Cale wrote this song. The first version was an uptempo rendition that he recorded with his band, the Leathercoated Minds, which was released in 1966 as the B-side of a song called "Slow Motion." Released on Viva Records, the song was produced by Snuff Garrett, who owned the label.

    The song (and the only Leathercoated Minds album, Take A Trip Down Sunset Strip) went nowhere, but Eric Clapton was very impressed with the song and included it on his first solo album in 1970, also releasing it as the only single from the album. Clapton sought out more of Cale's music and became a huge fan; he later recorded other Cale songs, including "Cocaine" and "I'll Make Love To You Anytime," and began using Cale's whispery vocal style on some of his tracks.

    Clapton's cover was a very big deal for Cale, who seemed to have an aversion to fame and was going through serious financial difficulties. Cale recalled to Mojo magazine September 2009 that when he heard Clapton's version playing on his radio, "I was dirt poor, not making enough to eat and I wasn't a young man. I was in my thirties, so I was very happy. It was nice to make some money."

    Cale finally got a record deal in 1971 and released his first album, Naturally, that year on Shelter Records. A single from the album, "Crazy Mama," was a hit, going to #22 in the US. Cale also released a new version of "After Midnight" on the album and issued it as a single. This new version was done in Clapton's relaxed style, and this time Cale scored a minor hit with it, reaching #42 in July 1972.
  • There are a several different stories about how Clapton heard the original J.J. Cale version of this song. Here are a few:

    1) Cale was friends with another Oklahoma musician named Carl Radle, who played the song for Eric Clapton when he was the bass player in the act Delaney & Bonnie (Radle would later join Clapton in Derek and the Dominos).

    2) Clapton heard the song on his car radio and went looking for it.

    3) Buddy Holly's drummer, Jerry Allison, was familiar with the song and introduced it to Clapton when the two were working together.

    4) Delaney Bramlett of Delaney & Bonnie knew about the song and suggested that Clapton cover it.
  • J.J. Cale's original existed as an instrumental for a while before he came up with a lyric for it. Cale said that he finally got the idea for the words when he was playing a show in Atlanta and someone shouted, "Let it all hang out."
  • Clapton released another, more mellow version of "After Midnight" in 1988 on his greatest hits compilation Crossroads. It was released as a single, but did not chart. This 1988 version was used in commercials for Michelob beer.

    Clapton was the marquee player in "The Night Belongs to Michelob" campaign, which also featured spots by Steve Winwood, Genesis and Wang Chung.

    Clapton helped sell a lot of beer, but you won't see him pushing booze anytime soon: he was an alcoholic when he made the commercials and went through extensive rehab to clean up.
  • The album was going to be called Eric Sings, because it was his first release as a solo artist and he was usually not featured as a vocalist with the groups he played with: Cream, The Yardbirds, and Blind Faith. Clapton was revered for his guitar work, but not his vocals.
  • Clapton switched guitars for this album. He started using a Fender Stratocaster instead of a Gibson Les Paul.
  • Clapton was still a member of Derek and the Dominos when he released this song. Along with Stephen Stills, they supported Clapton on the album.
  • J.J. Cale was always very gracious about Clapton recording his songs. "It's very flattering that people of that caliber are listening to what I do," Cale said.

    Clapton held Cale in such high regard that he recorded an album with him in 2006 called The Road To Escondido. Cale passed away in 2013 at age 74.
  • A Scottish singer named Maggie Bell took this song to #97 US in 1974. It was her only chart entry in America, although he had a few hits in the UK.
  • This was used in the 1988 movie Rain Man, starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman.
  • Eric Clapton has listened to J.J. Cale's original version of "After Midnight" many times and he still hasn't worked out how he did it. Said Slowhand to Uncut magazine: "Are there four guitars on there? Three, two, five? Interlocking, all playing different stuff. It's like a Chinese puzzle."
  • When "After Midnight" became a Top 20 hit it inspired Cale to pick up his faltering career. "He didn't even know about it," said his longtime friend and drummer Jimmy Karstein. "He was driving down the street one day and heard it on the radio. He thought, 'well that's something.'"

Comments: 20

  • Bill Cline from Lancaster PaEric is the “golden man” of rock music. His timeless music has inspired many current day rockers.
  • Mr. Dingaling from Bangkok Eric Clapton is overrated. This tune was ok when your a teenager but it’s old boring butt Rock now. Boring with a capital B.
  • David Marshall from Orlando, FlI have no idea why you think "After Midnight" was recorded with the Leathercoated Minds or appeared on Via records. Cale record After Midnight by himself on the Liberty label cat# 55931. After Midnight did not appear on the Leathercoated Minds album. This is the record that Clapton had and he based his version on this 45.
  • Melinda from AustraliaCan I say it? This is just a really sexy song. ‘After midnight we’re gonna shake your tambourine’. Get it. This is about gettin it on. Annnnd that’s why I love it. ‘We’re Gonna cause talk and suspicion. Give an exhibition’. To me it’s always been about 2 people who have decided, nope, who cares what they all think, we’re havin an affair. And if they find out too bad. I prefer the JJ Cale version myself. But regardless it’s the best song ever to dance to.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaI for many yeas thought the name of the song was Captain Midnight. Love the tune and love the drummer.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 11th 1970, "After Midnight" by Eric Clapton entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #75; and on December 6th, 1970 it peaked at #18 {for 2 weeks} and spent 12 weeks on the Top 100...
    It made the Top 10 in Canada, right at #10...
    And sad* to say, Eric Patrick Clapton will celebrate his 70th birthday come next March 30th {2015}...
    * The reason it’s sad, well I will be turning seventy years old two months before he does; my birthday is on January 15th {guess I’m not taking ‘old age’ too gracefully}.
  • Doug from Bristol, MeWarrinder, E.C. learned about this (and other Cale songs) from Delaney Bramlett, liked it, and decided to record it. Supposedly Cale didn't know his song had become a hit until he happened to hear it on the radio in 1970. He was happy to be making some money through that, and it led him to release his own first album.
    For something special, catch the video on YouTube of E.P.C. and J.J.C. playing it (and "Call Me the Breeze") together live. I think it was at the 2004 Crossroads Festival.
    RIP, J.J. Keep on rockin', Eric.
  • Michael from Woodbridge, VaI am not sure if this is completely accurate but I thought that I read somewhere that the Michelob Beer commercial came out when Clapton was in rehab. Supposedly Clapton was sitting in front of a TV in rehab when the commercial came on and one of his fellow rehab patients asked, "Hey, isn't that you?" to which Clapton embarrassingly admitted it was.
  • Dave from Akron Oh, OhThe slowed down coors mix of After Midnight ranks in my top 10 songs and video of all time. I own every thing that EC has released from the yardbirds to '08.
  • Marissa from Akron, OhWhen I was younger and didn't know much about music, whenever someone said the words "after midnight" the Nelly Furtado song that goes "after midnight, morning will come..." popped into my head. Now it's usually either this one or Judas Priest's "Living After Midnight."
  • Andy from Rockaway , NyNo one does this tune like Clapton, he is a living legend.
  • Bob from Manchester, EnglandEC played with JJ recently. He said "after 3 minutes of playing I didn't realise it was After Midnight JJ was playing." Further "I realised I had been playing it wrong for years"
  • Eric from New York, NyThis song was used in the late 70's and 80's in the opening of a talk show on public access in Manhattan called "Interludes After Midnight". The show was hosted by the owner of a swing club called "Midnight Interludes". The host and all the guests on the show were naked.
  • Kevin from Jacksonville , Flwhat is singer saying in song when he says so completely _ _ _ _ free?
  • Warrinder from A Town, CanadaI'm pretty sure J.J. wrote this song for God. God's version came out in 1970, JJ. Cale's came out in 1971 on his debut as a solo artist.
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaI love the slow version...makes me reach for a beer.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScThanks evan, that's what I thought it was too. I was pretty sure it was recorded before the Dominos were formed.
  • Evan from Fullerton, CaDerek and the Dominos hadn't been formed yet. He had toured with Delaney and Bonnie, and used their backup band on the album. Some of them would later be in the Dominos, but they weren't yet.
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, Camy friend says Clapton has an "Annoying voic-" (He is always cut off for some reason) i see no prob
  • Joshua from Twin Cities, MnThere are actually two different versions of "After Midnight" on the "Crossroads" boxed set. One is an alternate mix of the original version that includes a horn section; the other one is the aforementioned remake (titled "After Midnight '87").
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