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Note: this is supposition, pure fiction. Enjoy.

“How’s it going Marty?”

“Well, to tell you the truth Robbie, I think we’re missing something.”

Robbie cocks an eyebrow and sips his whiskey. Marty seems to have every drink known to man in his Hollywood bar, but there’s nothing like a good ol’ Canadian Club to keep you grounded. “What’s missing?” He figured it was a missing wire or one of the crew locked in a drunk tank.

“Everything’s great, really,” he sucked back on his joint. “It’s just,” he exhaled, “it’s just that I think we’re missing something.”

He began to pace. Robbie knew it was serious when Marty paced.

“Rock concerts need something extra.” He looked at Robbie straight up, no pacing. “Woodstock had all kinds of extra, the swearing, the nudity, and the, he held up his hand, drugs.”

He paced again, and Robbie sipped his Club, already thinking of ways to get extra.

“The Beatles, on the roof. Can you get any more eccentric that John Lennon wearing a mink coat on a London roof?”

“Marty, you know I don’t want any drinking, drugs, or craziness.”

“I know Robbie, you’ve told me. This will be a clean, polished film. Your legacy deserves that much.”

“So what do you have in mind?”

“Well,” he stopped pacing again, “you have some of the biggest names in the business lined up to play with you. This shows you’re well respected, as a backup band. Is this what the film’s about Robbie? Are you just a glorified backup band? Look Robbie, I think we need to do something. I think we need to show you guys can lead; that you’re not only as good as the best but better than the best.”

“Jesus, Marty. It’s just a concert.”

“It’s your last concert.”

“It’s our last concert.”

“Are you as good as Eric Clapton?”

“Marty, nobody’s …”

“What if we could show you are as good as Eric. What if we could compare you two side by side in a competition?”

“This is not a competition, Marty.”

“But can you …”

“I would need a lot of practice. What do you want, a showdown? Jesus Marty, that’s Eric Clapton; that’s God on the guitar.”

“I know. I know. I know. So, whaddya think?”

“I can’t compete …”

“No, you won’t have to compete. We’ll stage something, an accident. Eric will fall off the stage, and you’ll take over. They’ll see you are as good by saving his butt.”

They looked at each other and stared. Marty huffed a big one and Robbie gulped his whiskey.

“Marty, we can’t throw Eric off the stage, but we can set up something. When we play songs that need a guitar change, there’s a little trick we do. We flip the strap over so when we give it a little tug, it flips right off. It saves us precious seconds so we can slide a new guitar on mid song.”

“I get it. It will look like his guitar strap falls off, something that could happen to anybody. You’ll pick up his solo and nobody will know the difference.”

Marty finishes his dooby.

“Except Eric. What do we tell Eric? Will he agree?”

“Marty, Eric loves us. Did you know he asked if he could join the band? Seriously, he did. Besides, he owes us. I’ll tell him on stage just before we start playing…”

“We’ll be ready. We’ll catch it all. ”

Postscript:

Notice how Robbie Robertson and Eric Clapton begin the video by talking. Then notice at the 10sec mark that Eric flips over his guitar strap with an intentional looking move. Blow it up and watch it. Later see how it’s flipped over. Is this really a mistake? Does Eric Clapton make such mistakes? Really? This is Eric Clapton.

At the 46sec mark Eric gives a little tug, tests the tension. He knows the break [pun] is coming up.

At the 50sec mark his solo ends when he pulls his strap off. Yes, his guitar doesn’t fall on its own, he pulls it off. Then notice the break in the music. The band stops playing for a moment. I know they are good, but are they that good? Were they all watching Eric while he played? The transition sounds way too clean to me.

Most important of all? Enjoy the tune. It’s the highlight of the movie, fake strap failure or not.

So what do you think?

This strap “malfunction” is the most talked about, most debated event of The Band’s Last Waltz concert released as a film 35 years ago in 1978. The discussion surrounds who’s a better soloist. Robbie is revered for his ability to ad-lib an Eric Clapton solo, pick it up without warning. Is there any better way to end a career stage? Nobody brings up the possibility that the whole thing was staged, and in my humble opinion, it clearly was staged. How many times have you seen a guitar strap fall off? How many times has it happened to Eric Clapton?

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