LAYLA – ROCK MASTERPIECE!

by admin on September 15, 2011

      Well … it's no secret that Layla was my choice for the opening to all my instructional videos. I can remember when I first heard that riff and was absolutely floored! Like nothing before its time, "Layla" is a song written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon, originally released by their blues-rock band, Derek and the Dominos, as the thirteenth track from their album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (December 1970). It is considered one of rock music's definitive love songs, featuring an unmistakable guitar figure played by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, and a piano coda that comprises the second half of the song. Its famously contrasting movements were composed separately by Clapton and Gordon. Inspired by Clapton's then unrequited love for Pattie Boyd, the wife of his friend and fellow musician George Harrison, "Layla" was unsuccessful on its initial release. The song has since experienced great critical and popular acclaim, and is often hailed as being among the greatest rock songs of all time. Two versions have achieved chart success, the first in 1972 and the second twenty years later as an acoustic "Unplugged" performance. In 2004 it was ranked #27 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", and the acoustic version won the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.

      In 1966 George Harrison married Pattie Boyd, a model he met during the filming of A Hard Day's Night. During the late 1960s, Clapton and Harrison became close friends. Clapton contributed uncredited guitar work on Harrison's song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on The Beatles' White Album, and Harrison co-wrote and played guitar pseudonymously (as L'Angelo Misterioso) on Cream's "Badge" from Goodbye. However, trouble was brewing for Clapton. Between his tenures in Cream and Blind Faith, in his words, "something else quite unexpected was happening: I was falling in love with Pattie." The title, "Layla", was inspired by The Story of Layla / Layla and Majnun (ليلى و مجنون), by the 12th-century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi of the Ganja (present day Azerbaijan) Seljuq empire. It is based on the true story of a young man called Qays ibn al-Mulawwah (Arabic: قيس بن الملوح‎) from the northern Arabian Peninsula, in the Umayyad Caliphate during the 7th century. When he wrote "Layla", Clapton had been told the story by his friend Ian Dallas,[4] who was in the process of converting to Islam. Nizami's tale, about a moon princess who was married off by her father to someone other than the one who was desperately in love with her, resulting in Majnun's madness (A name, مجنون, which translates to "madman" in Arabic), struck a deep chord with Clapton.
      According to Boyd, Clapton played the song for her at a party, and later that same evening confessed to George that he was in love with his wife. The revelation caused no small upset among the three of them, but Pattie and George remained married for several more years, and Harrison and Clapton retained their close friendship with no apparent signs of damage. Boyd divorced Harrison in 1974 and married Clapton in 1979 during a concert stop in Tucson, Arizona. Harrison was not bitter about the divorce, and attended Clapton's wedding party with Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. During their relationship, Clapton wrote another love ballad for Pattie called "Wonderful Tonight" (1977). Clapton and Boyd divorced in 1989 after several years of separation.

      After the breakup of Cream, Clapton tried his hand with several groups, including Blind Faith and the husband-and-wife duo Delaney and Bonnie. In the spring of 1970, he was told that Delaney and Bonnie's backup band, consisting of bassist Carl Radle, drummer Jim Gordon, and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, was leaving the group. Seizing the opportunity, Clapton formed a new group, which became Derek and the Dominos. In mid- to late 1970, Duane Allman joined Clapton's fledgling band as a guest. Clapton and Allman, already mutual fans, were introduced at an Allman Brothers concert by Tom Dowd. The two hit it off well and soon became good friends. Dowd said of their guitar-playing chemistry: "There had to be some sort of telepathy going on because I've never seen spontaneous inspiration happen at that rate and level. One of them would play something, and the other reacted instantaneously. Never once did either of them have to say, 'Could you play that again, please?' It was like two hands in a glove. And they got tremendously off on playing with each other." Dowd was already famous for a variety of work, and had worked with Clapton in his Cream days (Clapton once called him "the ideal recording man"); his work on the album would be another achievement. For the making of his biographical film Tom Dowd and the Language of Music, he remixed the original master tapes of "Layla", saying "There are my principles, in one form or another."

      Clapton originally wrote "Layla" as a ballad, with lyrics describing his unrequited love for Pattie Boyd, but the song became a "rocker" when Allman reportedly helped to compose the song's signature riff.[9] With the band assembled and Dowd producing, "Layla" was recorded in its original form. The recording consisted of six guitar tracks: a rhythm track by Clapton, three tracks of harmonies played by Clapton against the main riff, a track of slide guitar by Allman, and one track with both Allman and Clapton playing duplicate solos. Shortly afterward, Clapton returned to the studio, where he heard Gordon playing a piano piece he had composed separately. Clapton, impressed by the piece, convinced Gordon to allow it to be used as part of the song. "Layla's" second movement was recorded roughly a week after the first, with Gordon playing his piano part, Clapton playing acoustic guitar and slide guitar, and Allman playing electric and bottleneck slide guitar. After Dowd spliced the two movements together, "Layla" was complete and will live on in rock immortality!

     Here are two vids for you …….  a nice live recording, followed by Eric's Grammy award winning unplugged version!


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

John March 28, 2012 at 10:05 AM

Is "Layla" available as a lesson?

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admin March 28, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Hi John …… The electric Layla referred to in my post is the week three lesson on my membership site … songmentor.com … I also have the unplugged version on the free site. Song Mentor though … is a very reasonable program worth checking out …. cheers!

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admin March 28, 2012 at 12:41 PM

Well ……. welcome to Song Mentor John …. I’ll think you’ll really like the mix of music I’m offering …. all the best …. Jackson!

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JeffR May 18, 2012 at 9:19 PM

John, 
I joined Jacksons other site 3 weeks ago and received Layla last week and it is dead on.  His other site is well worth the money and Jackson makes it really easy to learn.  I wrote another post in another section on this site and I'm impressed.  Thanks Jackson.
JeffR

Reply

gibstrat June 5, 2012 at 8:22 AM

how do you play that opening lick in layla, is it in a tuning other than standard?????

Reply

admin June 5, 2012 at 8:27 AM

Hi! The full lesson for the rock version of Layla including the intro is available on my other site … songmentor.com. No … it’s standard tuning!

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