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No. 27: Derek and the Dominos, ‘Layla’ – Top 100 Classic Rock Songs

Derek and the Dominos Layla

Can you imagine if the Eric Clapton / Pattie Boyd / George Harrison love triangle that inspired Derek and the Dominos’ undeniable masterpiece ‘Layla’ had played out in today’s media landscape?

Would TMZ have caught “slowhand” kissing the former Beatles‘ wife before he had a chance to confess this forbidden love to his friend? Would the two have gotten into a Twitter flame war instead of (unbelievably) remaining friends, with Harrison years later attending Clapton and Boyd’s 1979 wedding?

Also, given Boyd’s later confession that these years actually featured more of a love hexagon – with her and Harrison engaging in dueling affairs with Ron Wood and his wife, and Harrison allegedly also cavorting with Ringo Starr‘s wife Maureen behind his former bandmate’s back — how has this not become a TV movie yet, or at least a board game.

Is it terribly selfish to say, since we didn’t go through any of these romantic betrayals ourselves, that the twin-movement genius of ‘Layla’ is totally worth it? The pain in Clapton’s vocals cut even deeper than the famous stinging guitar riff that propels the first part of the song.

Hearing Clapton exorcise his demons on guitar — in tandem with unofficial and all-too-temporary bandmate Duane Allman — would probably be enough to get this song onto any responsibly run Top 100 Classic Rock Songs list.

Amazingly, that’s only half the musical story of this song, as Clapton was also able to convince Dominos drummer Jim Gordon to graft a lovely piano piece he had been developing separately onto the end of the song. The contrasting yet somehow complimentary moods of the two pieces elevated ‘Layla’ into a work of art, albeit one that Clapton says is extremely difficult to present live:

“You have to have a good complement of musicians to get all of the ingredients going… It’s difficult to do as a quartet, for instance, because there are some parts you have to play and sing completely opposing lines, which is almost impossible to do.”

Lucikly, as he told interviewer Mark Hrano, it’s worth the effort — and all the personal drama – for Clapton, who reworked the song in a vastly more mellow version on his album ‘Unplugged’ back in 1992: “I’m very proud of it. I love to hear it. It’s almost like it’s not me. It’s like I’m listening to someone that I really like. Derek And The Dominos was a band I really liked – and it’s almost like I wasn’t in that band.”

Next: Who are Those Masked Men?

Skip to: No. 100 | No. 80 | No. 60 | No. 40 | No. 20

Watch Eric Clapton Perform ‘Layla’

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