Today, John Tierney in the New York Times reports that people are willing to pay many thousands of dollars for a replica of an Eric Clapton guitar. Now, as Tierney points out, it was bad enough when fans stood in line for the chance to plunk down a cool million for Clapton's famed Blackie, an instrument that he actually used extensively and that over the years accumulated many scratches, dents, and nicks, which only made the guitar all the more endearing to his followers. But since there is only one Blackie, it was inevitable that a perfect replica, with all those imperfections lovingly recreated, would have to be fashioned by some enterprising craftsman. That replica is going up for auction in New York City today and is likely to fetch well over $20,000.
Tierney claims that the desire to possess a celebrity's guitar is not hard to understand. He posits that the theory of "celebrity contagion" explains it all, that the penchant to hold the guitar that was actually used by a rock star or to wear the sweater that really did adorn his body allows fans to imagine that they were somehow close to or intimate with their idol.
But what about the yearning for replicas of such objects? Same principle apparently. If you can't experience "celebrity contagion" with the real thing, why not the almost real thing, or the authentically faked "real thing?" And if you can't have either one of those, how about the knobs he twiddled with from one of his amplifiers? Or the guitar strings available from his favorite neighborhood music shop in London, even though he never actually bought any there. It is plausible, after all, that he browsed there and even considered purchasing some of their guitar strings. Does that increase their value?
Incredibly, it turns out that sections of concrete were recently removed from the sidewalks along Richmond Road in Kingston, UK, that run outside of Kingston College where Clapton was briefly an art student. There is no question that at one time his feet actually landed on these sidewalks, which, according to the theory of celebrity contagion anyway, makes these hunks of concrete somewhat more valuable than run of the mill concrete. Police have accordingly taken preventive action and have initiated a huge project to barricade all of the streets and sidewalks outside of all of the known former domiciles of Mr. Clapton. Considerable research has gone into this project and authorities now see it as a race against time and Mr. Clapton's cagey followers. I'm betting on the followers and the likelihood that a lot of neighborhoods in the UK and the USA will have to get by without sidewalks for a while.