|Derek and the Dominos - Layla lyric meanings and song
|This is about George Harrison's wife, Patti.
She and Clapton began living together in 1974 and married in 1979.
Clapton and Harrison remained good friends, with George playing at
their wedding along with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Clapton
left her for actress Lori Del Santo (with whom he had his son, Conor)
|Clapton was seeing Patti Harrison and deeply
in love with her when he wrote this. A lot of people knew about the
affair, since it wasn't easy for someone as famous as Clapton to
keep a secret. Bobby Whitlock, who was in the band and good friends
with both Harrison and Clapton, explains:
"I was there when they were supposedly sneaking around. You don't
sneak very well when you're a world figure. He was all hot on Patti
and I was dating her sister. They had this thing going on that
supposedly was behind George's back. Well, George didn't really care.
He said, 'You can have her.' That kind of defuses it when Eric says,
'I'm taking your wife' and he says, 'Take her.' They got married and
evidently, she wasn't what he wanted after all. The hunt was better
than the kill. That happens, but apparently Patti is real happy now
with some guy who's not a guitar player. Good for her and good for
Eric for moving on with his life. George got on with his life,
that's for sure."
|The lyrics are based on the book by Persian
poet Nizami, Layla and Majnun, about a man in love with a
woman who cannot have her because her parents object. When they
cannot be together, he goes insane. Clapton's situation with Patti
was different, but he liked the title and the theme of unattainable
|Dwayne Allman came up with the famous guitar
riff and played lead with Clapton. Allman was a big Clapton fan and
arranged to drop by the session through Tom Dowd, who produced the
Allman Brothers' album Idlewild South. Dowd was working with
Clapton on the Derek And The Dominoes album and made sure Duane paid
a visit. When he came by, Allman was thrilled to learn that Clapton
not only knew who he was, but also thought he was a great guitarist.
They got along very well and Clapton asked Allman to record with the
|An edited version was released as a single in
1971. it ran 2:43 and flopped on the charts. The full, 7:10 version
was released a year later and became one of the most famous songs in
rock history. Allman's death in a motorcycle accident in October,
1971 helped renew interest in the song.
|Clapton went into a drug-filled depression
when the single tanked in 1971. He couldn't understand why it wasn't
a hit. The record company did very little to advertise the album,
figuring any project with Clapton would get plenty of publicity. It
eventually did, and the record company made out very well.
|Derek And The Dominoes formed after Eric
Clapton, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle and Jim Gordon worked on George
Harrison's first post-Beatles album, All Things Must Pass.
They got together at Clapton's house in England and started writing
songs and playing small clubs. Bobby Whitlock explains:
"We toured all over England. We did a club tour, and no ticket was
over a pound. It was all word of mouth. We played the Speakeasy in
London and The Marquee Club, then we played some really funky places
up in Nottingham and Plymouth and Bornmouth - we went all over Great
Britain. Here we were, these so called "big rock stars," and we were
playing these funky places that would hold like 200 people. Of
course, people were jam packed and spilling out on the streets and
stuff. It was pretty wild, it was a great time. We did this one tour,
we rode around in Eric's Mercedes. We were all crammed in one car.
The second time we went out in Great Britain, we upscaled it. We
played small concert venues - Royal Albert Hall and places like that.
We went down to Miami, recorded the Layla album and went on
tour in the United States. We preceded the record for the most part.
All Things Must Pass Came Out, it was a big record, "My Sweet
Lord" was #1. We were on the road in the United States, George was
playing all over. We were all over the radio with our playing with
George, and the album Layla - nobody could get it."
|The group did a lot of drugs while they were
recording this. Clapton thinks the drugs may have actually helped
the recording process.
|Clapton's affair with Patti Harrison wasn't a
big concern with the band. Says Whitlock, "It was nobody's business.
They were adults making adult, life-altering decisions."
|At the end of the song, Dwayne Allman produced
the "crying bird" sound with his guitar while Clapton played
acoustic. It was a tribute to Charlie Parker, a jazz legend known as
|The piano piece at the end was edited on a few
weeks later. Drummer Jim Gordon came up with it as a solo project
and had to be convinced to use it on "Layla." Gordon was one of the
most successful session drummers of the late 1960s and early 1970s,
playing on many classic albums of the time. Sadly, in the mid 1970s,
severe psychological problems began to manifest in Gordon's behavior.
He complained of hearing voices, especially the voice of his mother.
By the late '70s, Gordon's mental difficulties - later diagnosed as
acute paranoid schizophrenia - had ruined his musical career. In
1983, Gordon brutally murdered his own mother using a claw hammer.
The insanity defense having been narrowed in California, Gordon was
convicted of second-degree murder in 1984 and sentenced to 16 years
to life. If he ever gets out of jail, Gordon will have lots of money
waiting for him as a result of his songwriting credit on this. (thanks,
Dan - Auckland, New Zealand)
|The piano at the end has become famous. It was
used to great effect at the end of the movie Goodfellas, and
radio stations almost always play the version with the piano. At the
time, not everyone liked it. Says Whitlock, "I hated it. The
original 'Layla' didn't have a piano part. When we did the song, we
didn't have a piano part in mind. Jim was playing it, and Eric said,
'What about that - that's good.' Jim's not a piano player. He plays
so straight - everything is right on the money. They wanted me to
give it some feel, so Jim recorded it, I recorded it, Tom Dowd mixed
them together. It's 2 pianos."
|Clapton performed a slow, acoustic version for
an MTV Unplugged concert in 1992. It was released as a single
and made #12 in the US, getting lots of airplay on pop, rock, and
adult contemporary radio stations. This version also won a Grammy
for Best Rock Song.
|In 1985, Eric Clapton played this at Live Aid,
a benefit concert for famine relief. Phil Collins played drums
during his set. (thanks, Ethan Bentley - Southampton, England)
|Andy Summers from The Police named his
|In England, this was reissued in 1982, hitting
|The band broke up when they tried to record a
second album. Clapton and Gordon had a falling out in the studio,
which ended the sessions and marked the end of the band. Says
Whitlock, "Eric says it was drugs and paranoia. It was just a lot of
everything. We were road weary. We did 50-something dates in as many
days in the United States. I would wake up and not even know where I
was. They didn't expect us to live very long anyway. We surprised
them, at least a couple of us did - Eric and myself. That was it."
Carl Radle died of heroin-related kidney failure in 1980. (Thanks to
Bobby Whitlock for speaking with us about this song. He recorded an
acoustic version of the album in 2003 called Other Assorted Love
Songs. For more, check out www.bobbywhitlock.com)
|As a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, they recorded a
version of his "Little Wing" the same day. Hendrix died 9 days