Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Derek & The Dominos’ epic “Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs” album, UMe/Polydor will release a new edition as a 4-LP vinyl box set on November 13, 2020.
Joining in the chorus, this reporter is presenting previously unpublished excerpts from an exclusive 2012 interview with Dominos co-founder Bobby Whitlock, as he flashed back to the epic “Layla” sessions in Miami in late summer-early fall 1970.
The first two LP’s feature the original double-album’s 14 songs, including the Top 10 title track and other classics like “Bell Botton Blues” and “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?”
The third and fourth LP’s include “Mean Old World” (session outtake); both sides of D&D’s Phil Spector-produced “Tell The Truth” b/w “Roll it Over” single; D&D’s four songs from the “Johnny Cash Show” on November 15, 1970; and seven tracks from the band’s spring 1971 sessions for a second album, which was never completed.
The Cash performances and 1971 tracks make their vinyl debut on the 50th Anniversary set, which also includes the 12″×12″ book of sleeve notes from the 2010 super-deluxe 40th-Anniversary Edition.
Complete ‘Layla’ Vinyl Box Tracklist
“I Looked Away”
“Bell Bottom Blues”
“Keep On Growing”
“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”
“I Am Yours”
“Key to the Highway”
“Tell the Truth”
“Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?”
“Have You Ever Loved a Woman”
“It’s Too Late”
“Thorn Tree in the Garden”
“Mean Old World” (Layla session outtake)
“Roll It Over” (Phil Spector-produced single B-Side)
“Tell the Truth (Phil Spector-produced single A-Side)
“It’s Too Late” (Live on The Johnny Cash Show, 11/5/1970)*
“Got to Get Better in a Little While” (Live on The Johnny Cash Show, 11/5/1970)*
“Matchbox” — with Johnny Cash & Carl Perkins (Live on The Johnny Cash Show, 11/5/1970)*
“Blues Power” (Live on The Johnny Cash Show, 11/5/1970)*
“Snake Lake Blues” (From April/May 1971 sessions for The Dominos’ second album)*
“Evil” (From April/May 1971 sessions for The Dominos’ second album)*
“Mean Old Frisco” (From April/May 1971 sessions for The Dominos’ second album)*
“One More Chance” (From April/May 1971 sessions for The Dominos’ second album)*
“High” (From April/May 1971 sessions for The Dominos’ second album)
“Got to Get Better in a Little While Jam” (From April/May 1971 sessions for The Dominos’ second album)*
“Got to Get Better in a Little While” (From April/May 1971 sessions for The Dominos’ second album)*
* = previously unreleased on vinyl
Derek & The Dominos – ‘Layla’ Prelude, 1970
The Derek & The Dominos saga officially began in May 1970, when the group was formed in the U.K. by Eric Clapton (guitar, vocals, songs); Bobby Whitlock (keyboards, vocals, songs); Carl Radle (bass); and Jim Gordon (drums), and Dave Mason (guitar, vocals).
They’d all toured and recorded with Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. More recently they’d been among the musicians backing Clapton on his eponymous solo album in Los Angeles and George Harrison on the London sessions for “All Things Must Pass,” the ex-Beatle’s first solo album.
Mason exited after the first Dominos gig at the Lyceum in London on June 14. The quartet carried on, further road-testing their new songs, then flew to Miami, Florida, where they recorded the “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” album at Criteria Studios in suburban North Miami from August-October.
Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers Band, also Criteria clients (most recently, the second ABB album, “Idlewild South,” that summer), was Clapton’s special guest for the sessions, playing on all but three songs on the 14-song “Layla” double LP.
Behind the glass in the control room capturing the magic were legendary producer Tom Dowd and upstart recording engineer Ron Albert, who had also recorded “Idlewild South.” Clapton’s label, Atco, released the double-LP that November 7.
Domino Bobby Whitlock Interview: ‘Layla’ (2012)
On January 6, 2012, after reading the best-selling “Bobby Whitlock: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Autobiography,” co-written with Clapton biographer Marc Roberty and featuring a foreword penned by EC, this reporter and Whitlock connected by phone for an interview.
We talked at length – he generously spent an hour-and 40-minutes answering my questions about his life and times, including those legendary “Layla” sessions.
At the time, Whitlock was based in Austin, Texas, living and working with his wife CoCo, also a singer-songwriter-musician-producer, and a multimedia artist. They had recorded albums as a duo (including a couple of tracks with famous local Willie Nelson) and had a weekly residency playing at the Saxon in Austin.
Whitlock’s book, published by McFarland in December 2010, was still hot after a year, he said, running down the latest Amazon stats: “No. 1 on top writing in Rock Music, No. 1 in Music Biographies, No. 2 in Arts and Literature, No. 2 in Memoirs, No. 2 in Arts and Photography, No. 8 in Biographies and Memoirs, No. 31 in Non-fiction, and as a bestseller, it’s No. 33 in Rock Music and No. 90 in Music Biographies.”
A few weeks later, the first part of our interview, covering Whitlock’s childhood and early years, was published on the Peeples Place at KHTS page and was updated and reposted on StephenKPeeples.com in May 2017.
But our 2012 flashback to the “Layla” sessions appears now for the first time.
As noted in Part 1, Whitlock emerged from his support role as the first “friend” in American rock ‘n’ soul band Delaney & Bonnie & Friends in 1968, and met Clapton when the guitarist later became a short-term Friend. Whitlock would become the perfect rock ‘n’ roll foil for EC in the new Dominos.
Born in 1948 in Memphis, Tenn., Whitlock was raised poor there and in other areas of the rural American South by an abusive father who was an itinerant preacher. His mother was still a teenager when she got pregnant.
His father’s work often separated Whitlock’s parents, so the youngster was more or less raised by colorful but dysfunctional members of his extended family, some of whom were involved in bootlegging and prostitution as well as music.
Singing since childhood and a working musician from his early teens, with Delaney & Bonnie, Whitlock embodied the pure, genuine Southern soul that Eric the Englishman thought lacking in his own singing, playing and songwriting.
After Clapton joined up with D&B, he and Whitlock hit off famously, sharing an affinity for the rock star lifestyle – fast cars, wads of cash, lots of women, piles of cocaine, and eventually, heroin.
Clapton’s unrequited longing for his friend George Harrison’s wife Pattie, plus Whitlock’s empathy for all three of them as a songwriting partner, expressed in the music Eric and Bobby made with Radle and Gordon, one of the best rock rhythm sections ever, resulted in songs and records we’re still enjoying and talking about a half-century-plus down the road.
That most of the musicians were doing heavy drugs makes their body of work all the more remarkable, and we’re left to wonder how it might have differed, if at all, had they played it straight, half a century ago…
Peeples: The “Layla” sessions – what led up to the trip to Miami?
Whitlock: Well, when we finished “All Things Must Pass,” we went on the road as the Dominos and played real small clubs all over. Tickets for a pound, all word of mouth.
Nobody knew who the hell we were until we got to the venue. They never forgot. And at the end of it, we came back and played another venue in town, I think the Lyceum again. All these things were falling in line, happening so naturally. I’ll say “naturally” was all of us just wanting to do the right thing in the situation – Eric having a band and it being so tight and hot. So when it was time to go record the “Layla” thing, (Robert) Stigwood (Clapton’s manager) contacted Tom Dowd (at Criteria) and set it up, and we went to Miami.
Whitlock: Yeah, the last time I’d been there was with Delaney and Bonnie to record what would be the next to last thing I would do with them.
And if you look closely (to the album jacket), you’ll see she’s sporting a black eye in that photo.
Peeples: I’m looking at the photo now – yeah, her left eye is a little puffy.
Whitlock: Yeah. He gave her a right cross before they left the house that morning.
Peeples: Oh, my… Well, Duane Allman played on “To Bonnie From Delaney,” too…
….But before we get any further into “Layla,” please set the stage for us, if you would – what the studio looked like when you showed up at Criteria, and a little bit about the crew that you worked with – from Tom Dowd to the engineers.
Whitlock: It used to be called Studio A, a big room on the left as you walked in. Studio B at that time was the little room – the original room on the right in the back. Sam the Sham was back there, recording. It was a great big room, it’s a big
soundstage room with about 30-foot ceilings and 60′ by 60′ or something like that, I think. It was a great big room, and it had a drum carousel in it.
Ronnie and Howie Albert were the engineers. And they had Albhy Galuten – he was a runner. Turned out to be a famous producer (Bee Gees, Frankie Valli, Barbra Streisand).
Peeples: Karl Richardson and Chuck Kirkpatrick were also assisting, according to the credits…
Whitlock: Yeah, but I didn’t keep up with all those people. I just remember the ones that I remember. Ronnie and Howie, because they were brothers.
Peeples: What was it like working with them?
Whitlock: I don’t know, because I was out in the other room.
Peeples: How about Tom?
Whitlock: He stayed behind the glass, so it was really good working with him. Everybody that was an engineer or an executive producer stayed behind the glass and didn’t interfere with the musicians. So, we produced the record, and they made sure it got down all tight. I don’t know what they had to go through to turn on the machine when we walked into the room.
Peeples: How were the musicians set up?
Whitlock: There was a grand piano up against the wall, it had a [bodo/photo/phono] on top of it. It was about a foot tall, and they closed it. There was a Hammond B3 next to that, a drum carousel in the back of the room with the drums in it, and beanbags and airplane seats along the walls for chairs. That was the setup.
Amps were just put in the middle of the room. Carl’s was back in the back, right, I believe, in the back corner, isolated. The Leslie was put in the broom closet with the mops and the brooms, right behind the organ.
Whitlock: Set out in the middle of the room, with a partition between them. Duane was playing through like a Super-something – I can’t remember. Eric was using a (Fender) Champ and Pignose.
Peeples: So, it wasn’t really loud-loud-loud in the room, was it?
Whitlock: You could talk over it. You had to be quiet. Anybody around had to be quiet – we kept people out of the foyer, and no one could come into the recording room, into the studio room.
Peeples: But Duane wasn’t in the picture at first…
Whitlock: Before he came in, we’d already done the first three songs, with overdubs completed and everything. “I Looked Away,” “Keep on Growing” and “Bell Bottom Blues” – that’s Derek & The Dominos. That’s Eric Clapton playing all those guitars.
Peeples: I loved “Keep on Growing” because of all of the lead guitar parts Eric played, then mixed them all together. The interweave of it is just joyful noise.
Whitlock: It was amazing. You should’ve been me, standing there when all of this was going down, and he was going it through that little Pignose amp. He’d do one, then come back and put another on top of that, and another one, and another – without listening to the others. Without listening to them. And then it was over. I think he put like four guitars on top of the original, and man, it was incredible. That’s really incredible.
There was a panic because “Keep on Growing” was just an instrumental, and this was slated to be a one-disc release, so there was no room for an instrumental. I asked them to give me 20 minutes, and I went out into the foyer and took a pen and a little envelope, and my short and extraneous life just fell out. Melody and words in all of about two minutes and 47 seconds. Went back and sang it, and got halfway through the first verse and told Eric to came out, and we did it. That’s how that song came down.
Peeples: Once again, a collaboration in the studio that’s just magic.
Whitlock: So if Duane hadn’t (played slide guitar) on “Layla,” it would’ve still been a great record, period. The first three songs attest to that. Eric Clapton was one badass slide player, too, man. I mean, he played some serious slide.
Peeples: So three tracks deep into the sessions, you guys took a break to go see the Allman Brothers play a gig in Miami… (Dowd made the arrangements.)
Whitlock: They were playing in Miami somewhere when we were recording with the Dominos. We went there and snuck up under the stage and out front. Duane just stopped playing when he saw Eric looking up at him. Couldn’t believe it. Dickey (Betts) did the same thing.
After that show, they came back to the studio, and we jammed all night long. Duane and Eric hit it off like Eric and Delaney had hit it off. They really clicked.
Peeples: So, how was it decided to add Duane to the “Layla” session?
Whitlock: He was never was a member of our band. He was a hired gun. When he came on, Eric said, “Hey, man, what do you think?” I said, “I think he’s great.” It took the weight off of Eric.
When Duane came on board with us, even though it sounded live – it was structured., for the better part. Everybody worked it out before they got in there. You go this direction, I go this direction, and that’s how it came together.
The songs we were doing were perfect, and Duane took us to another level. “I Am Yours” is live, except for the third part, the harmony I put on. We were able to do some things live, like “Nobody Knows When You’re Down and Out,” stuff that we wouldn’t have been able to do. But as I said before, the first three songs are evidence that it would’ve been a great record without Duane Allman. There are no two ways about that.
Peeples: “Key to the Highway” – what’s with the fade-up at the beginning?
Whitlock: We told Tom to leave the tape running at all times. I didn’t care if Eric was in there by himself or it was me or me and Eric and Duane, whatever. Anytime a musician walked in there and started playing, it was to be recorded. It was just tape. I brought that idea from when I recorded at Apple Jams (Apple studios in London) and suggested it to Eric, and we told Tom to keep the tape running. It’s supposed to be running at all times. And we’re out there, jammin’, and Tom had to excuse himself – he went to the bathroom down the hall. We started playing “Key to the Highway,” and he came running in: ”Push up the faders! Push up the faders!” And that’s why we faded into it.
You could see Tom Dowd pulling up his pants (laughs), straining to push up the faders, trying to hang on to that pipe with his teeth. Paints a picture, doesn’t it?
Peeples: That’s pretty hilarious. Now, wasn’t “Key to the Highway” one of a couple of covers Sam (Samudio) suggested you try?
Whitlock: Domingo Samudio suggested we do a couple of songs, “Nobody Knows You…” and “Key…” Sam and I were family friends for many, many years. He was there doing a record called “Hard and Heavy” or something like that. There’s a picture (on the cover) of him sitting on a motorcycle.
But he suggested them. We really didn’t have enough songs for a record, but it turns out that worked out perfectly.
Everyone was doing songs that were familiar to them. On “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” Duane played exactly the same thing he did when he recorded it with Hourglass.
“Little Wing” was a tribute to Jimi (Hendrix, who died on September 18, a couple of weeks before the “Layla” sessions wrapped). Duane came up with “doo-loo-loo, doo-loo-loo doo-loo-loo doo-loo-loo,” and while they were getting the guitar parts together, I had to learn and sing it and play it at the same time. I had the lyrics laid out on top of my organ. It was done completely live, vocals and all.
Peeples: That’s probably one of the most powerful vocal performances on the record, and there are many of them.
There was also a slower single version of “Tell the Truth,” which you guys had cut with Phil Spector that didn’t really make everybody happy. So, what were you guys thinking about by way of a rearrangement?
Whitlock: We weren’t thinking about it, we just did it. The tempo of that song all depended on how Eric felt. There was one time when we did it with the Dominos. It was right at the very last of our tour, and he started out real slow, and then he just lit up in the middle of it and did it even faster than the earlier one.
I could tell by how he started it out how long it was going to be. Sometimes, “Tell the Truth” turned out to be a pretty long song, like 14 or 15 minutes, and that’s a hell of a long time when you’re banging away on a piano.
They didn’t have, in those days, sound systems weren’t what they are today. Keyboards weren’t amplified like they are, they were just getting it together. And mine – I had them take the whole damn top off so I could hear it, so I was pretty much just going by what I could hear. And then I got Eric’s amplifier under my feet and… It was pretty interesting, what can I say.
Peeples: Your style is percussive, not really a “touch” style…
Whitlock: I’m a rhythmic player, ’cause I was a drummer first. But I’m a rhythmic player, and my piano worked, my B3, everything – it’s all about that. And I think that’s why we all worked so well together, with Jim and Carl, because in a three-piece section, we were all locked into the rhythm part of it.
Peeples: And “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad” – smokin’ performance, a standout among many others on the album.
Peeples: Out of everything on the album, that’s the one that really resonated with me the most, and lasts for me the most, even more than “Layla.” Thank you.
Whitlock: You’re welcome.
Peeples: (laughs) So, where did “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad” come from?
Whitlock: We were in the TV room at Eric’s, talking about guitars and cars and girls and women, and the difference in them. We’d been working. We hadn’t eaten in a day or so and were working on some ideas, just lettin’ it flow, and he said, “Why does love have to be so sad?” He was talking about Patti (Boyd).
And I went, “Why does it have to be such a long title?”
He started playing this A minor-G progression, and it just fell together.
* * * * *
At that point, an hour and 40 minutes into our interview, Whitlock had to go and asked that we wrap it up. The time had flown by. He thanked me for taking the time to read his autobiography and I thanked him for being so generous with his time.
I referred back to his book for comments on the rest of the “Layla” songs, including the title track, “Have you Ever Loved a Woman,” and the album closer, “Thorn in the Garden,” and some post-session observations about Duane Allman.
Here are excerpts:
“Have You Ever Loved a Woman”: “The title says it all. Eric Lamenting over his “Layla” and the precarious predicament he had gotten himself into. He took it all out on his guitar. This is all live with no overdubs. Some mighty fine intro guitar and some of the most anguished vocals he ever sang.”
“Layla”: “Those seven notes that Eric brought to the sessions were from the Albert King song ‘As The Years Go Passing By.’ They were notes of the vocal melody of that blues song sped up and done on the guitar. It was not a guitar lick at all in the beginning.”
(The famous piano coda, suggested by drummer Jim Gordon, turned out to be something his ex-girlfriend, Rita Coolidge, said he copped from her. Coolidge tells the story in her 2016 book, “Delta Lady.”)
“The piano solo is something that I was against from the very first time I heard it. It has nothing to do with (“Layla”) and never did. The nature of its origin taints the integrity of this beautiful song that Eric wrote all by himself.”
“Thorn Tree in the Garden”: “We were in the foyer of Criteria and a guy came in with several guitars to show us. He had the orange acoustic guitar you see Eric holding in the centerfold of the album. He bought that guitar just to play the acoustic end of ‘Layla’ and ‘Thorn Tree in the Garden.’
“There was also a Martin D35 there as well. Eric picked it up and played it, then handed it to me and said, ‘It’s yours.’ And then I handed it to Duane and asked him to play it before I did. Then we went into the studio and used it to record ‘Thorn Tree in the Garden.’
“Eric asked me to close the album with this song. It was about my little dog that went missing at the Plantation (communal digs of starving hippie musicians in Hollywood, as detailed in Whitlock’s autobiography). We did it after the recording and mixing were done.
“We were all strategically gathered around one omnidirectional microphone. I was sitting on a wooden stool and Eric was to my left and Jim was to his left standing back a little and playing a bell. Duane was sitting directly across from me, a little to the right, and was playing his Dobro. Carl was standing between Duane and Jim and played a pedal note.
“We ran through it twice to get everyone positioned in just the right place and then it was roll tape and one take did it. Tom Dowd said this was the most perfect stereo recording he ever made. We were sitting in a circle around one microphone, simply perfect. Just like the whole record, which won a Grammy in 2000 (inducted into the Hall of Fame).”
When Clapton asked Whitlock for his opinion on Allman joining the sessions after their initial jams, the organist had supported Eric’s decision out of respect. After the sessions and a few live guest appearances with the Dominos, Allman famously politely declined Clapton’s later offer to permanently join the band, deciding to stick with his Brothers. Whitlock commented on all that in his autobiography:
“At first, I didn’t think we needed another guitar player on our ‘Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs’ album. Eric was more than capable of taking care of that department himself. … Eric is a great slide player and was quite capable of handling it all on his own.
“But then it would have been a very different-sounding album without Duane Allman. I remember when he came out and played with us live for a few shows on our U.S. tour and how full and complete the sound was. Then, when he left, how that completeness went with him. Because the album had two guitarists, when performed live there was a void we tried to fill and it didn’t always work.
“I believe that if Duane had continued with us, we would have had more structure and longevity. He was a born leader. He had a command of his ability to lead so the respect for him was an added thing that came naturally.”
In his autobiography, Whitlock details the “Layla” aftermath and Derek & The Dominos’ demise, as Clapton turned to heroin for solace after Pattie Boyd, George Harrison’s wife at the time, ultimately rejected his romantic advances after he played the album for her. All that’s been well-documented by both Clapton and Boyd.
Whitlock goes on to recall his ensuing solo career, surviving some lean years, meeting CoCo Carmel, getting sober, moving to Austin, how he lost and ultimately regained his songwriting copyrights and royalties, re-establishing his spiritual connection with the music that made him famous, and embarking on new musical adventures with Carmel.
To catch up with Bobby Whitlock and CoCo Carmel today, visit their website. Here’s a live version of “Layla” with Eric Johnson guesting on lead guitar.
Grammy nominee Stephen K. Peeples was raised by career newspaper journalists and music-lovers in Miami and Los Angeles. He earned a Grammy nomination as co-producer of the “Monterey International Pop Festival” box set with Lou Adler and Geoff Gans (Rhino/MIPF, 1992). • Peeples was the original, award-winning producer of “The Lost Lennon Tapes” radio series for Westwood One from 1988-1990, and writer/producer of hundreds of WW1 programs in the preceding five years. • His first music industry gig was as an Associate Editor at Cash Box magazine in Hollywood in 1975. He went on to be a Media Relations-PR executive for Capitol Records (1977-1980), Elektra/Asylum Records (1980-1983) and Rhino Entertainment (1992-1998). • Moving online, he was Rhino’s first web editor (1996-1998), then elevated to content editor of Warner Music Group websites (1998-2001). • Based in the Santa Clarita Valley just north of L.A., Peeples was the award-winning Online Editor for The Signal newspaper’s website from 2007-2011, and wrote-hosted-co-produced SCVTV’s WAVE-nominated “House Blend” local music TV show from 2010-2015 (archived online and still airing in reruns). • The Santa Clarita journalist is now a News Editor at SCVTV’s SCVNews.com, SVP/New Media for Rare Cool Stuff Unltd. and developing a biography of notorious Texas Artlaw Boyd Elder. • For more info and original stories, visit https://stephenkpeeples.com/. For exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews, subscribe to Peeples’ YouTube channel.
Article: ‘Layla’ at 50: New Vinyl Box Set; Inside the Sessions with Domino Bobby Whitlock
Author: Stephen K. Peeples
Category: News and Reviews
Article Source: StephenKPeeples.com