Layla : Derek and the Dominos vs Eric Clapton unplugged

A fiery 25 year old vs his own wise self twenty years later.

Today, we discuss Layla, the (in)famous song about unrequited love, written when the young Eric Clapton fell in love with pal George Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd. Clapton got inspired after reading an old persian poem about a man who was sent into madness when he couldn’t be with the one he loved, an arabian princess named Layla. Legend has it, Clapton played the song in front of Pattie a couple of times and later came clean with George at a some rock and roll soirée.

That must have cooled down the party.

Of course we all know the rest of the story. Pattie stayed with George but eventually they separated. Eric and Pattie got together for a while, but it ended for them as well. Relationships aren’t easy and unfortunately they don’t always last forever. But brilliant songs that tap into something real can have a really long run.

Layla was originally released in the early 1970’s by Derek and the Dominos. Although it wasn’t successful as first, it gained a lot of recognition over the years and is now considered an all-time rock classic, and for good reason. What a powerful song, an emotional song, with its intense feature chords and the heartwrenching rendition of the lyrics. You can feel the suffering.

In the 1990’s, MTV’s unplugged sessions series produced some wonderful performances and albums. Eric Clapton’s unplugged performance appeared on the show in 1992 and became a huge hit. Recorded in England, it featured a slower acoustic version of Layla which touched the public once more. Clapton’s guitar playing is incredibly solid here, no doubt about it.

I usually find it hard to choose a winner between the original and cover versions in this series, but in this case, there is no battle. As much as I love acoustic songs, the original Layla wins hands down as far as I am concerned. The seven-note riff does the trick, it freaking rocks. And the original 1970’s version feels much more authentic. That poor desperate guy is in a dead end. “Let’s make the best of the situation, before I finally go insane.”

But I do remember reading once that Clapton originally intended for that song to be a ballad, before Dominos’ Duane Allman added his personal touches!

 

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