Saturday, October 23, 2010

Derek & The Dominoes: Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs

Last week’s selected album of the “Allman Brothers at Fillmore East” inspired me to look beyond the Allmans into other projects with the late Duane Allman and remembered Eric Clapton’s classic 1970 recording with Derek and the Dominoes and “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.”

I bought this album somewhat late in the game at DJ Records Shop, the Sundry Store, or Ralph’s in Grayson, KY – the only places where you could by albums in this small town of 4,000 in the 1974. While a double album purchase was fairly expensive for a struggling college student with no income, being an record collector, I wanted a copy of the original ATCO release as these were being phased out with the switch to Polydor USA Records.

Prior to 1972, Polydor had no outlet in the US and its artists were released on a variety of American labels including American DECCA and Atlantic and its ATCO and Cotillion subsidiaries to name a few. With the merger of Polydor and Phonogram, Mercury (a Phonogram label in US) became the operation whereby the Polydor releases could be manufactured and issued. Confused yet, no? Then read on for more chaos.

Eric Clapton’s recordings with his first solo LP and with Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek and the Dominoes were originally issued on ATCO. When Polydor USA was created, the original albums continued to be released on ATCO under contract for a short timeframe. In the meantime, Polydor issued competing compilation albums such as “Heavy Cream,” “Eric Clapton at his Best,” “Ginger Baker at his Best,” and “Jack Bruce at his Best.” All four albums had a similar cover theme.

Around the same time, ATCO’s last hurrah was the very excellent “History of Eric Clapton.” I mention these releases as they had impact upon the ultimate sales of the Derek and the Dominoes LP.

By 1974, the original releases were then switched Polydor distribution, as was “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.” Eventually, these albums would be issued on Robert Stigwood’s label: RSO Records. Very confusing, but for collectors – labels and distribution labels are very important. I thought I was killing a bear by scarfing up the ATCO release; however, the short-lived Polydor releases are rarer and more valuable. Who would have thunk it in 1974?

The concept of Derek and the Dominoes came about when Eric Clapton was tired of the fame associated with his genius and being a member of a super group like Cream, Blind Faith, and the Plastic Ono Band. Following his tour with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Clapton and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock took some time off from recording, rehearsing, and revues and concentrated on songwriting. These tunes became the basis for the classic first album by Derek and the Dominoes.

Joined by Delany and Bonnie and Friends’ bassist and drummer Carl Radle and Jim Gordon, Clapton and Whitlock set out for a small club tour using the name Derek and the Dominoes. They were careful not to Clapton’s name or fame in relation to the band. In August 1970, the band assembled with producer Tom Dowd at Criteria Studios in Miami and began working on their first release.

Dowd, who was also producing the Allman Brothers’ “Idlewild South” album invited Clapton and crew to an Allman Brothers concert. After the show, the Allmans came down to Criteria and participated in a jam session that lasted at least 15 hours. Duane Allman was asked to sit in with the band during the recording sessions and was an unofficial member of Derek and the Dominoes although he is listed as a full member on the band on the LP. Duane contributed to 10 of the 14 cuts.

Tell the Truth

The first intended single for the debut album was not recorded at Criteria in Miami, but rather at Apple Studios in London during the same sessions as George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” LP in June 1970.

The concept of this song was to be like a Sam and Dave number and included Dave Mason on second guitar. Produced by Phil Spector, the original version was faster than the officially released version. The original was later released on CD form.

The Original

The Official Album Version

When Tom Dowd and Duane Allman came up with a new arrangement, it clicked with the remainder of the band. Clapton told ATCO to scrap the original single release as it was not indicative of the remainder of the album.


The most popular song from the album is the LP’s signature tune “Layla.” Although released as the album’s first official single, this song that was inspired by the 12th century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi’s legend of unrequited love called “The Story of Layla.”

The song was originally intended to be a love ballad that was dedicated to George Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd. Boyd, a young British model, had met Harrison during the filming of “Hard Day’s Night.”

They were married in January 1966. Difficulty in their marriage was attributed to Harrison’s religious beliefs and changes in his personality had affected the marriage. Boyd divorced Harrison in 1974 after a short affair with the Faces’ Ronnie Wood. Boyd and Clapton married in 1979 and subsequently divorced ten years later.

The face that launched a half a dozen songs: 
Pattie Boyd Harrison Clapton AKA Layla

In addition to “Layla,” Boyd was the inspiration for Harrison’s “Something” and “For You Blue” recorded by The Beatles and Harrison’s solo recording of “Isn’t It A Pity.” Clapton also penned and recorded “Bell Bottom Blues” and “Wonderful Tonight” in her honor.

The ballad was changed to a rocker when Duane Allman devised the opening guitar riff for the song. The rest, as they say, is history. ATCO released the single twice. The first version was released in March 1971 with 2:43 edit for radio airplay that only charted at #51.

When ATCO released “The History of Eric Clapton” in late 1971, the full length version of “Layla” at 7:10 was released and charted at #10 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Both versions of the single were issued by ATCO under the same number 6809. I have both in my collection.

Bell Bottom Blues

Another song inspired by Pattie Boyd, “Bell Bottom Blues” was another single from the LP that failed to chart in the top 40. Pattie had asked Eric to bring her back a pair of bell bottom jeans from the US when he returned to England. Duane Allman is not on this cut.

Little Wing

In 1972, Polydor issued the song “Let it Rain” from Clapton’s first solo album as the single from the LP “Eric Clapton at his Best.” The flip side, also issue under the name of Clapton from this LP, originally appeared on “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.” It was the band’s rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” Clapton and Whitlock share vocal duties.

The Album in its Entirety

Here’s a YouTube playlist that allows you the opportunity to hear the entire album in the order that the songs appeared on the original release.

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