Layla – Derek and The Dominos – 1971

Layla - Derek and the Dominos - 1971Known as one of the great love songs of all time, Derek and the Dominos’ 1971 hit, Layla features a distinctive guitar riff by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman.

reading about slowhand

Derek 1The other day, a friend loaned me Eric Clapton’s self-titled autobiography. It’s an interesting, though not overly riveting read. What it does contain is a pretty candid record of his drug taking; man, it’s a wonder the guy is still living, and without the rather well-worn face of Keith Richards and co.

One thing I learned was what most of you probably already know… where Eric received the nickname, Slowhand.

I always thought it was something to do with his playing and the sustained notes he played, but not so. The way Eric tells it, he gained the name very early on in his music career because he would often break strings while playing live and it took him so long to replace them. The rest of the band and the audience would just have to wait and so, the band named him Slowhand.

we all know the story

The story of Layla is well-known. Eric wrote it for Patti Boyd. Back then she was George Harrison’s wife. Eric was besotted with her and made no secret of it. He hounded her for years until she finally left George. Eric and Patti almost immediately became a couple and later married.

As with many such dreams, the reality of the catch wasn’t quite as exciting as the thrill of the chase, and Eric and Patti later separated.

The clincher is in the opening verses and chorus of the song where Eric challenges Patti who he knows is not happy with George:

What’ll you do when you get lonely

And nobody’s waiting by your side?

You’ve been running and hiding much too long.

You know it’s just your foolish pride.

Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.

Layla, I’m begging, darling please.

Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.

I tried to give you consolation

When your old man had let you down.

Like a fool, I fell in love with you,

Turned my whole world upside down.

derek and the dominos

Derek and the Dominos is one of a number of bands Eric was in before going solo. His major bands were, in order; The Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith and then Derek and the Dominos.

A couple of things about Derek and the Dominos:

  • Eric was, in his early days, a blues purist. He believed music needed to stand on its own, and so didn’t want his name associated with the music he made. He believed, if it was good, it would sell. It was a theory that didn’t always work in reality.
  • Almost immediately after forming Derek and the Dominos, Eric realised he’d made a mistake. They produced only one studio album. It was a double LP titled, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. All other musicians were American and it featured Jimi Hendrix’s, Little Wing.

Layla fax

  • Layla was written by Eric Clapton and fellow band member, Jim Gordon. It was recorded in late 1970 and released in 1971 by Eric’s band Derek and the Dominos.
  • The musicians on Layla were all American; musicians Eric met while touring with Delaney and Bonnie.
  • The distinctive Layla guitar riff is played by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman.
  • There were two versions of Layla. One contains a contrasting piano coda that stretches the song to over 7 minutes. The single version without the piano coda is just 2:43.
  • Layla is often included in lists of the greatest rock songs of all time. In 2004 it was ranked #27 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • Layla has achieved chart success three times: In 1971 it made no impression on the charts, probably because it was too long. In 1972 it was re-released on the album, The History of Eric Clapton. It peaked at #7 in the UK and #10 in the US. In 1982 Layla was re-released as a single peaking at #4 in the UK. Then, in 1992 it was again released as a single from the acoustic album Unplugged. While it failed to chart in the UK, it peaked at #12 on the US charts.
  • The acoustic version of Layla won the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.
  • There have been a few cover versions of Layla including: The London Symphony Orchestra’s 1982 instrumental version which was recorded at Abbey Road Studios; and in 2003, the Allman Brothers Band began playing the song in concert.

Layla lyrics.

layla – derek and the dominos – 1971 – video

layla – eric clapton – 1992 – acoustic version – video

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2 Responses to Layla – Derek and The Dominos – 1971

  1. wozza says:

    Great song (finally – your radio rule means you often get a lot of the absolute crud of this fantastic musical decade to write about). Interesting that while Patti and Slowhand split, he and George remained best buddies through the years, Yes the book is a dog!

    Jim Gordon is an ‘interesting’ case – still incarcerated for the murder of his mother I believe.

    Happy new year brother!

    • Greg.K. says:

      Not just a great song – one of the greatest songs!
      Yes you are quite correct – the radio rule does mean that I get some real melodical dregs, but that doesn’t worry me too much. This isn’t so much a blog about great music of the 70s, but music that made up the 70s and there was some wonderful stuff released, but there was also a lot of wasted vinyl.
      Yes, interesting that George and Eric remained close friends – the longer time goes on, the more I realise what a musical genius George was. Maybe he’s my favourite Beatle… in reality, they were all, in their own way, musical geniuses. Maybe that’s why they turned out to be a fairly good band :-).

      Jim Gordon, yes, still in prison I believe.

      Yes, Slowhand’s book is… well, not a dog, but certainly ponderous. One thing I’ll say though, at least he is quite honest about his insecurities and lesser traits – maybe a little too honest a little too often.

      Happy New Year to you also my Chinese friend – although, New Year in your neck of the woods isn’t for a while yet…

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