An almost fictitious group ended up making a double vinyl album that, though it bombed at the time, has since been re-evaluated as a rock classic thanks to the single success of its title track, Layla.
Behind ‘Derek’, The Dominos featured three Americans: keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle, and drummer Jim Gordon, all ex-members of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, a loose-knit aggregation with which Clapton had guested.
Most of the songs on Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970) resulted from a series of relaxed, informal jams, and all concerned played with refreshing economy.
Clapton’s masterstroke was recruiting Duane Allman as a guest player. Allman’s slide guitar on the title track screamed like a train coming off the rails over one of rock’s most memorable riffs. Even hard-bitten producer Tom Dowd was impressed . . .
“When I finished,” he revealed, “I walked out of the studio and said ‘That’s the best goddamn record I’ve made in ten years’.”
Having peaked at #7 first time out, Layla climbed three places higher when re-released exactly ten years later.
The song of unrequited love was inspired by Patti Boyd, the wife of Clapton’s best friend, George Harrison. Clapton channelled his frustrated passion into all the music on the album, offering energetic reworkings of blues classics by artists from Big Bill Broonzy to Hendrix, that are now classics in their own right.
The good things came to an end all too soon and Clapton retired from the rock scene when the group disbanded, until his appearance at the Rainbow in London in January 1973.