The good news: Eric Clapton was in love. The bad news: He was in love with George Harrison’s wife.
Fortunately for Clapton, Pattie Boyd would eventually divorce Harrison and marry him (only, in turn, to divorce him as well years later). The album inspired by this love triangle, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, is one of the finest in rock history.
Eric Clapton quickly parted ways with Delaney & Bonnie just as he’d done with The Yardbirds, The Bluesbreakers, Cream, and Blind Faith. This time, however, he took their rhythm section along him for his next project, which probably did not endear him to the Bramletts.
Clapton has spoken highly of Derek and the Dominos down through the years. Keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, drummer Jim Gordon, bassist Carl Radle, and guitarist Duane Allman were truly a talented group and complimented Clapton well. While Clapton went on to further fame and fortune, the Dominos didn’t fare as well. Allman died in October of 1971 in a motorcycle accident; Radle passed away in 1980 of various addictions; and Jim Gordon has been confined to a mental institution for 25 years. Despite writing five songs together Clapton and Whitlock didn’t play together again for over thirty years.
Clapton’s state of mind while recording Layla has been analyzed over and over again as he was in love and had a couple of other addictions as well. Whatever his personal state of mind at the time, though, it all comes back to the music, which in this case was some of the finest he ever produced.
The title track remains the album’s most famous song. From Duane Allman’s guitar introduction to Clapton’s emotional vocal to both guitarists playing off one another, it is a rock classic. “Layla” returned in a far different form over twenty years later on MTV Unplugged, where an acoustic arrangement and a more understated, philosophical vocal earned Clapton the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song of 1992.
Going back back to original release, though, there is much to like. “Bell Bottom Blues” featured only Clapton on guitar, playing both rhythm and lead. “I Am Yours” is a nice acoustic performance by E.C.. “Tell The Truth” finds him and Whitlock alternating vocals by verse and Allman contributing some classic slide guitar work. And they just roar through Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.”
Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs leaves you wanting more as Derek and the Dominos dissolved during the recording of their second album. Regardless, their one complete studio album remains a shining example of rock ‘n’ roll at its best.