Eric Clapton and Duane Allman were a force of absolute nature when they teamed up in Derek and The Dominoes and, while they may have only released the one record together, it was one hell of a timeless creation. The stand out track from the record is the titular number ‘Layla’, an effort which is a perfect example of what happens when you get two of the best guitarists in the same room to create magic. The remarkable noise they assembled on ‘Layla’ is a joy when heard in the normal fashion but, when heard isolated, it is perhaps even greater.
Following the demise of Cream, the next step for Slowhand was to form a new group and alas Derek and The Dominos was born. Although Allman wasn’t a fully-fledged member of the band unlike Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle and Jim Gordon, what he added on tracks across the record with his slide guitar was an abundance of magic dust, which is an utter joy. The album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs was initially disregarded as not only a commercial disaster but a critical one too. However, the tide would turn on the album in the years since its release, finally earning the love it deserves. Despite being released in 1970, it would take until 2011 for the record to chart in Britain when it landed at the modest position of 68.
Of course, no Clapton list would be complete without his ode to Pattie Boyd (then the wife of his friend George Harrison) and the classic rock number ‘Layla’ follows suit. A seven-minute track built upon the foundations that Clapton and Duane Allman lay down on guitar and it is purely magnificent.
“I’m very proud of it. I love to hear it. It’s almost like it’s not me,” said Eric Clapton when recalling the iconic song written about his unrequited love for Patti Boyd. “It’s like I’m listening to someone that I really like. Derek and The Dominoes was a band I really liked — and it’s almost like I wasn’t in that band. It’s just a band that I’m a fan of. Sometimes, my own music can be like that. When it’s served its purpose to being good music, I don’t associate myself with it any more. It’s like someone else. It’s easy to do those songs then.”
There are six guitar tracks on this single and each one plays a hand in creating one of the most memorable guitar songs of all time. One particular moment of joy is the dual solo between Clapton and Allman that may be one of the best-equipped tracks ever recorded.
The collaboration between Allman and Clapton arrived after The Dominos headed to Miami for a recording session which ended up being a completely different type of ‘session’ to the one that the record label hoped for. There wasn’t a lot of work getting done to create the album and, instead, they were enjoying the many vices that Miami had to offer. Atlantic Records producer Tom Dowd knew something needed to be done and decided to send Clapton and the rest of the band to watch the Allman Brothers perform live.
It was the first time Clapton would see the guitarist play in person and he was instantly smitten. He invited Duane back to the band’s hotel and the two instantly connected over their shared love of the blues and expert playing. Later, Clapton declared his favourite guitar solo of all time was Allman’s on Wilson Pickett’s cover of The Beatles song ‘Hey Jude’ and it was clear, as Clapton himself has said, Allman was “the musical brother that I never had but wished I did.”
Allman’s introduction to the record would see the album finally begin to take shape. In the end, Allman was included on ten of the thirteen tracks on the record with his expert slide guitar playing—but there was one song on which he made the most vital contribution, ‘Layla’. The best way of enjoying this iconic song is through the chasm of Allman and Clapton’s isolated guitars, further proof of the instant chemistry that the two of them shared. There are also vocals thrown into the mix for good measure but the greatness comes from the guitars and how the two of these titans bounced off each other so fluently.