November 9, 1970
LAYLA AND OTHER ASSORTED LOVE SONGS was released by Derek and the Dominos.
The Dominos was born out of Eric Clapton’s frustration with the amount of hype he dealt with in his previous two bands, Cream (dissolved in 1968), and Blind Faith (a single album supergroup with Steve Winwood). During the 1969 Blind Faith tour, Clapton became disillusioned with the new band, and began to spend his time hanging out with the opening act, the American roots-blues duo Delaney & Bonnie. Blind Faith called it quits after that one tour and album, Clapton joined Delaney & Bonnie as a member, and played on their 1970 live album. Other members of D&B’s live band included drummer Jim Gordon, bassist, Carl Radle, and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock.
Clapton used most of D&B’s band to record his first solo album, ERIC CLAPTON, in early 1970. This group of musicians also was used by George Harrison at the same time in the recording of his first solo album, ALL THINGS MUST PASS. This was when Clapton met Harrison’s wife, Patty Boyd, and he became infatuated with her. When she spurned his advances, Clapton and Whitlock spent most of April 1970 writing songs, many of which reflected Clapton’s romantic and professional frustrations. Dave Marsh, in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, wrote that “there are few moments in the repertoire of recorded rock where a singer or writer has reached so deeply into himself that the effect of hearing them is akin to witnessing a murder, or a suicide … to me, ‘Layla’ is the greatest of them.”
Disillusioned at always being the “name” member of the group, and not just part of an ensemble, Clapton organized a new group with D&B’s backup band “Eric & The Dynamos”. The band did a quick tour of small clubs in England, and the announcer at their first concert mispronounced the band’s name as “Derek and the Dominos” which Clapton decided to keep, because it kept his name and celebrity from getting in the way. When the tour was over, they headed for Criteria Studios in Miami to record an album.
Producer Tom Dowd (Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding) was recording the Allman Brothers second album, IDLEWILD SOUTH, when the studio received a phone call that Clapton was bringing the Dominos to Miami to record. Upon hearing this, guitarist Duane Allman indicated that he would love to drop by and watch, if Clapton approved. When the Allmans performed in Miami on August 26, Clapton insisted on going to the show, saying, “You mean that guy who plays on the back of (Wilson Pickett’s) ‘Hey Jude’? … I want to see him play … let’s go.”
After the show, Allman asked Clapton if he could come by the studio to watch some recording sessions, and Clapton responded: “Bring your guitar; you got to play!” Jamming together overnight, the two bonded; Dowd reported that they “were trading licks, they were swapping guitars, they were talking shop and information and having a ball – no holds barred, just admiration for each other’s technique and facility.” Clapton wrote later in his autobiography that he and Allman were inseparable during the sessions in Florida; he talked about Allman as the “musical brother I’d never had but wished I did.”
The majority of the songs on LAYLA were products of Clapton and Whitlock’s collaboration, which produced six of the nine originals on the recording, with five covers making up the balance. They co-wrote “I Looked Away”, “Keep on Growing”, “Anyday”, “Bell Bottom Blues”, “Tell the Truth” and “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?” Whitlock also contributed “Thorn Tree in the Garden”, while Clapton brought “I Am Yours” and “Layla” (with the piano coda credited to Jim Gordon). Duane Allman played lead and slide guitar on eleven of the fourteen songs.According to Dowd, the recording of the blues standard “Key to the Highway” was unplanned, triggered by the band hearing Sam Samudio performing the song for his album “Hard and Heavy” in another room at the studio. The Dominos spontaneously started playing the song in their studio and Dowd told the engineers to roll tape, resulting in the tune’s telltale fade-in. Bobby Whitlock’s version of the story is that the tape was rolling non-stop for the entire session, but that Dowd had taken a bathroom break leaving the faders on the mixer down. As the jam began, he came running back into the control room, still pulling up his trousers and yelling, “Push up the faders!”
LAYLA AND OTHER ASSORTED LOVE SONGS was initially regarded as a critical and commercial disappointment, it failed to chart in Britain and peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Top LPs chart in the United States. It returned to the US albums chart again in 1972, 1974 and 1977, and has since been certified Gold by the RIAA. The album finally debuted on the UK Albums Chart in 2011, peaking at number 68.
LAYLA also flopped critically. Harry Shapiro wrote: “As with Eric’s first solo album, the reviewers liked the guitars-on-fire-stuff … but regarded the [love songs] as little more than fluff.” Roy Hollingworth, writing in Melody Maker, claimed the songs ranked “from the magnificent to a few lengths of complete boredom”, and specified: “We have Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’ played with such spreading beauty that Jimi would surely have clapped till his hands bled, and then we have ‘I Am Yours’ … a bossa that novas in pitiful directions.” While he identified portions of “pretty atrocious vocal work”, Hollingworth considered Layla to be “far more musical” than Eric Clapton, and praised Clapton and Allman for “giv[ing] about every superb essay possible on the playing of the electric guitar”.
Ellen Sander, writing in Saturday Review, described it as “pointless and boring” and “a basket case of an album”, and said that Clapton had “all but blown his musical credibility”. Since its initial reception, LAYLA has been acclaimed by critics and regarded as Clapton’s greatest overall work. In Christgau’s Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), Christgau dubbed it “Clapton’s most carefully conceived recording”, while admiring the album’s “relaxed shuffle and simple rock and roll” and Clapton’s “generally warm” singing.
Eric Clapton – vocals, guitars
Bobby Whitlock – vocals, keyboards; acoustic guitar
Carl Radle – bass, percussion
Jim Gordon – drums, percussion; piano (on “Layla”)
Duane Allman – guitars (on all tracks except “I Looked Away,” “Bell Bottom Blues,” and “Keep on Growing”)
Albhy Galuten – piano (on “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”)