It took me a while to come around Layla as well. I have never been a huge Eric Clapton fan - his stinging Fender Stratocaster tone tires my ears. But you would think that the addition of Duane Allman, and what was essentially Delaney & Bonnie & Friends' touring band, would put this one in the win column immediately for me. But it didn't.
The story of Layla has been recounted many times. Eric Clapton was in a bad place in the early 1970s. After years being hailed as a "Guitar God" (or the Guitar GOD) while playing with John Mayall, The Yardbirds, Cream, and (briefly) Blind Faith, Clapton decided to retreat to the side of the stage. Meanwhile, the criminally underrated Delaney & Bonnie & Friends were playing rootsy folk, blues, and country music with a stellar band that included Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon, and Carl Radle. At the suggestion of Eric Clapton's good friend, George Harrison, Delaney & Bonnie opened for Blind Faith during its brief tour before quickly disbanding. Enamored with the down to earth music Delaney & Bonnie were making, Clapton decided retreat from the spotlight and take the lead guitar chair with them on their next tour as a sideman (one that had been briefly sat in by Harrison, Dave Mason, and eventually, occasionally Duane Allman).
|Clapton, Bonnie & Delaney Bramlett, Harrison|
|Layla LP gatefold collage|
Derek & the Dominos didn't tour extensively. They performed only twice with Duane Allman whose time in the fold ended up being only a brief dalliance: though tempted to continue playing with one of his heroes, he quickly returned to his own band that was just beginning to catch fire. Eric Clapton's life would unravel in a downward spiral over the next few years before a late-1970s resurrection. The rest of the group, whose names are known primarily due to Layla, essentially drifted after a brief reunion with Joe Cocker. Only Whitlock, who has recently returned to performing music, seemed to survive the industry intact - Gordon went mad and killed his mother, Radle drank himself to an early grave. Duane Allman died a year later in a motorcycle accident.
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is heralded as a masterpiece.