Spurned from dissipating energy from Cream and Blind Faith, Eric Clapton was quietly entering his masterpiece phase. And by quietly we mean strung out on smack, blow and the unrequited love for his best friend’s wife, Patti Harrison. But he was still ‘slowhand’, and threw all that angst into his first love, the blues, and lined up collaborations with friends of bands past – Delaney & Bonnie & Friends – to form Eric Clapton and Friends. Such characters, as a British pop band once said, that help a man get by.
Today marking their first gig at the modest Lyceum theatre in London in 1970, Clapton and crew decided to diffuse the star spotlight and name themselves Derek and the Dominos, just moments before taking the stage, a move that would later lead to poor album sales for a bit, on account of its doo-wop connotations, but also allowed for the band to dive deep into some jam sessions without hype on their minds.
Some time after the Lyceum gig, Duane Allman joined the project, immediately Southern-gospelizing Clapton’s downtrodden ways in both energy and slide-guitar ways, with the iconic “Layla” being the first song that bared fruit for the band’s one and only album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. One of many songs written about Patti, it’s a defining statement in the history of rock, a soul-grit ballad that morphs into a transcendental archetype of the veritable savior role the genre can take on, Clapton howling unabashedly over searing guitar pulls:
Layla, you’ve got me on my knees
Layla, I’m begging, darling please
Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind