Derek and the Dominos was born out of Eric Clapton’s frustration with the hype associated with previous musical endeavors, namely the super-groups Cream and Blind Faith.
The band included keyboardist and singer Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jim Gordon, all who had previously played together in Delaney and Bonnie and Friends.
The band only ever released one album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. 44 years later, the album is still considered one of the greatest rock albums ever. It tells the story of one man’s love for his best friends wife. Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is an album that has and will continue getting better as time passes.
Story-telling of relatable experiences and creating a connection with the audience, is one of the most powerful tools in creating ever-lasting music. Layla and Assorted Love Songs tells the world of the emotional journey Eric Clapton went through, falling in love with his best-friend, George Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd.
The album kicks off with ‘I Looked Away’. One of the less known songs of the album, tells the story of loneliness, rejection and acceptance the Eric Clapton will keep loving Pattie Boyd. The sad background is supported by the bluesy feel to the song, whilst sporting a long guitar solo. The emotional roller-coaster is just beginning.
When visiting the United States from England, Pattie Boyd asked Eric Clapton to buy her a pair of bell-bottom jeans. In this case, even though the song has a background story, the sheer power and courage in the words is what makes the song so memorable. Desperation, the absence of pride and the power of Eric Clapton’s voice creates one of the most memorable blues songs ever.
“Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?”
“You won’t find a better loser”
“In your heart I long to stay”.
Next comes ‘Keep On Growing’. A major contributor to the album was guitarist Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers. He starred in 11 songs released on the album. The guitar in the song is reminiscent of so much of the Allman Brother’s graceful guitar work.
In ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out’ the desperation and longing returns in the style of blues. Another Eric Clapton, Duane Allman combination creates another stunning song, proving the cohesion and friendship the guitarists shared.
The defining love song in ‘Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs’.
If only I had unlimited pages. Two more examples of the brilliance of Duane Allman in ‘Anyday’ and ‘Key to the Highway’. Eric Clapton said that during recording, Duane Allman pushed him further as a guitarist and musician than anyone every had before. The heartfelt blues returns with ‘Key to the Highway’ with some sharp Duane guitar solos, Clapton lyrics and vocals and all-rounded excellence from the Dominos.
‘Tell the Truth’. “I said see it, yeah, can’t you see it?” and “Tell me who’s been fooling you?” are recurring themes in this song. Not sure what Eric is insinuating here.
From blues to rock and back to blues. It all keeps to the general idea of loving Pattie Boyd.
The bands producer, Tom Howd said “What came about with Layla was the true fusion of American Blues and Jazz with the British invasion.” Nothing could be more evident in this song.
Have you ever loved a woman
So much you tremble in pain?
And all the time you know
She bears another man’s name…
The guitar almost cries with the lyrics.
Well she’s walking through the clouds
With a circus mind that’s running ’round.
Butterflies and zebras, fairy tales,
That’s all she ever thinks about.
When I’m sad she comes to me
With a thousand smiles she gives to me free.
Said, “It’s all right, take anything you want
A Jimi Hendrix original, one of the most beautiful songs ever and perfect company for the rest of the album. The song creates an angelic, pure image of whoever Jimi wrote it about. at 4:17, Eric can be heard shouting “Right on, Duane”, further highlighting the relationship between the two and Duane’s ability at a young age to successfully purvey such emotions with music.
‘It’s Too Late’ and ‘Thorn Tree in the Garden’, two of the closing songs of the album.
Before getting to the best-known song of the album, we can listen to another song written to Pattie Boyd, this time by her husband George Harrison for the Beatles. ‘Something’ was widely regarded as George Harrison’s rise as a composer to the levels of Paul McCartney and John Lennon. It won ‘The Best Song Musically and Lyrically’ award in 1969 and became the second most covered Beatles song after ‘Yesterday’.
And onto the star of the show. The idea for Layla came from a 12th century Person poem, ‘The Story of Layla and Majnun’, the tale of a young man who goes crazy after falling hopelessly in love with a woman he cannot marry, analogous to Eric Clapton’s love for Pattie.
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.
The song is a final plea, a sea of emotion created by Eric’s tone, Jim Gordon’s drumming, Carl Radle’s bass and Duane Allman’s slide guitar solo. Finished off by a mellow piano solo with Duane’s guitar in the background. Layla was, is and will continue being regarded as one of the greatest rock songs ever.
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs highlights to importance of story-telling and being able to relate to lyrics to the popularity of music. It was the only album released by Derek and the Dominos and regarded as one of the greatest ever.
We have Pattie Boyd to thank for it, essentially being the catalyst in unlocking an extra dimension of Eric Clapton’s creativity and resulting in some of the greatest songs he ever released.