Eric Clapton and friends on Derek And The Dominos’ “Layla”: “It still knocks me out every time”

The guitarist, Pattie Boyd and Bobby Whitlock tell the story of the lovestruck hit

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Pattie Boyd (muse): Eric never sang the song to me before it was recorded, so I was like everybody else – the first I knew about it was when I heard the record for the first time. I remember when he came back from America, he played it to me before it was released. He put it on several times and the intensity was amazing. He’s such an incredible musician that he’s always been able to put his emotions into music in a way that goes right through you.

Of course, it was particularly fascinating for me to hear the song in the circumstances we were in. You can imagine the effect it had on me. I was bowled over not just by the words but the whole song. I hate it when you just hear the first part of it.

He says Duane Allman wrote the guitar riff and Jim Gordon came up with the piano part and that’s so Eric. He’s always been very ready to give credit to other musicians. He’s really happiest being one of the band, which was what Derek And The Dominos was all about.

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All I can say is I still feel deeply flattered and honoured to be the subject of a song like that.

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Bobby Whitlock (keyboards, backing vocals): I had half-a-dozen writing credits on the album, but ‘Layla’ itself wasn’t one of them. Eric had the middle of the song, the title and some lyrics. Duane wrote the intro and Jim Gordon came up with the piano part with Rita Coolidge, who he was dating at the time. The strange thing was the album didn’t sell very well at first and the song itself wasn’t a hit until a year-and-a-half after the band broke up.

A college radio station picked up on the extended album version with the piano coda and kept playing it over and over. Duane was dead, everybody else was strung-out and doing other stuff – and all of a sudden, the song was like the alternative national anthem.

By then, nobody even really knew who Derek And The Dominos were. The song just took its own wings, and flew itself.

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The May 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Johnny Marr on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive new interviews with John Fogerty, Dan Auerbach, Shirley Collins, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, John Prine and many more. Our free 15-track CD features 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, featuring Kacy & Clayton, Laura Veirs, Wye Oak, Cath & Phil Taylor, Mouse On Mars, Josh T. Pearson, A Place To Bury Strangers and Drinks.

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