Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat

Layla - Derek and the Dominos

Eric Clapton Layla 'Layla' is a song penned by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon. Gordon was an American drummer who backed numerous artists on record, including John Lennon, George Harrison, The Beach Boys, Traffic, Frank Zappa and Steely Dan. It was while Clapton was touring with Delaney & Bonnie in late 1969 and early 1970 that he took over their rhythm section and temporarily formed Derek and The Dominos with Carl Radle on bass, Bobby Whitlock on keyboards and Jim Gordon on drums. Duane Allman also played guitar on the track.

The number became the title track on Derek and the Dominos' only album 'Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs' issued in December 1970. The song was inspired by Eric's passion for his friend George Harrison's wife, Patti. He had been given a book by Ian Dallas called 'The Story of Layla and Majnun', written by the 12th Century Azerbaijani (Persian) poet Nizami. It was the tale of a man who fell hopelessly in love with a girl who was unavailable to him and was driven to madness. Eric identified with Majnun and wrote the song 'Layla' for Patti. He said: "It was the heaviest thing going on at the time. That's what I wanted to write about most of all".

Eric was also to comment, " 'Layla' is a difficult one, because it's a difficult song to perform live. You have to have a good complement of musicians to get all of the ingredients going but, when you've got that... it's difficult to do as a quartet, for instance, because there are some parts you have to play and sing completely opposing lines, which is almost impossible to do. If you've got a big band, which I will have on the tour, then it will be easy to do something like 'Layla' - and I'm very proud of it. I love to hear it. It's almost like it's not me. It's like I'm listening to someone that I really like. Derek and The Dominos was a band I really liked - and it's almost like I wasn't in that band. It's just a band that I'm a fan of. Sometimes, my own music can be like that. When it's served its purpose to being good music, I don't associate myself with it anymore. It's like someone else. It's easy to do those songs then".

The number was produced by Tom Dowd and The Dominos and Duane Allman also played guitar. Initially the album wasn't a hit and although the track 'Layla' was issued as a single by Atco in March 1971, it was trimmed to 2.43 from its original length of slightly more than seven minutes and only reached No.51 in the Billboard charts. In 1972 it was included on the album 'The History of Eric Clapton' and then issued as a single where it reached No.10 in the American charts and No.7 in Britain. It was re-issued in Britain in 1982 and reached No.4 in the charts. An instrumental version was recorded at Abbey Road Studios by the London Symphony Orchestra and it was also recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Clapton re-recorded the number for the MTV programme 'Unplugged' at Bray Studios in Berkshire on 16th January 1992. The acoustic version was issued as a CD single on Reprise and reached No.12 in the American charts, also receiving a Grammy Award that year for 'Best Rock Song.'

Layla - Derek and The Dominos

Duane Allman - The 'Layla' Guitar?        Eric Clapton's Guitars and Gear        'Layla' original on Layla

Sixties City: Eric Clapton: "I hadn’t planned to put a band together. I knew Carl Radle, Jim Gordon and Bobby Whitlock from playing with Delaney & Bonnie. They were leaving because they’d asked Delaney for a raise and, as I understand it, he said, ‘No’. So they told him they were off and Carl rang me and said, ‘Are you interested in a band?’ I thought, ‘Why not?’ So they came over to England and lived in my house at Ewhurst for several months and we evolved into Derek And The Dominos. I was looking for a musical context into which I could fit and they seemed to provide it. When we had some songs we went to Miami to work with Tom Dowd on an album. We got so far with it. Someone had given me a book called The Story Of Layla And Majnun, which was a Persian story about being driven mad by falling in love with a beautiful, unavailable woman. I loved the name and I had the main body of a song that was obviously about Pattie. But I knew it needed something else. A motif. I realised we had something after Duane Allman came up with the riff.




Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.


Article Bill Harry 2017               Original Graphics SixtiesCity 2017

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