Layla

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Albert Flores

"Layla" is a song written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon, originally recorded by Derek and the Dominos, as the thirteenth track from their only studio album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970). Its contrasting movements were composed separately by Clapton and Gordon. The piano part has also been controversially credited to Rita Coolidge, Gordon's girlfriend at the time.

The song was inspired by a love story that originated in 7th-century Arabia and later formed the basis of The Story of Layla and Majnun by the 12th-century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, a copy of which Ian Dallas had given to Clapton. The book moved Clapton profoundly, because it was the tale of a young man who fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful young girl, went crazy and so could not marry her. +more The song was further inspired by Clapton's secret love for Pattie Boyd, the wife of his friend and fellow musician George Harrison. After Harrison and Boyd divorced, Clapton and Boyd eventually married.

"Layla" has since its release 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 (without the piano coda) 20 years later as an acoustic Unplugged performance by Clapton. +more In 2004, "Layla" was ranked number 27 on Rolling Stones list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", and the acoustic version won the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.

Background

In 1966, Beatles guitarist George Harrison married Pattie Boyd, a model he met two years before during the filming of A Hard Day's Night. During the late 1960s, Clapton and Harrison became close friends. +more Clapton contributed uncredited (although openly acknowledged) guitar work on Harrison's song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on the Beatles' self-titled double album (also known as the White Album), and Harrison co-wrote and played guitar on Cream's "Badge" from Goodbye. However, between his tenures in Cream and Blind Faith, Clapton fell in love with Boyd.

The title of "Layla" was inspired by the story of Layla and Majnun, which Clapton had been told by his friend Ian Dallas, who was in the process of converting to Islam. Nizami's tale, about a moon princess who was married off by her father to a man she did not love, resulting in Majnun's madness, struck a deep chord with Clapton.

Boyd divorced Harrison in 1977 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 his former bandmates Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. +more During their relationship, Clapton wrote another love ballad for Boyd, "Wonderful Tonight" (1977). Clapton and Boyd divorced in 1989.

Writing and recording

After the break-up of Cream, Clapton tried his hand with several groups, including Blind Faith and the husband-and-wife duo Delaney & Bonnie. In the spring of 1970, he was told that some members of Delaney & Bonnie's back-up band, including bassist Carl Radle, drummer Jim Gordon and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, were leaving the group. +more Seizing the opportunity, Clapton formed a new group with Whitlock, Radle and Gordon. Naming themselves Derek and the Dominos, the band "made our bones", according to Clapton, while backing Harrison on his first post-Beatles solo album, All Things Must Pass.

During the recording of the Layla album, Duane Allman joined Clapton's fledgling band as a guest. Clapton and Allman, already mutual fans, were introduced by Tom Dowd at an Allman Brothers concert on 26 August 1970. +more 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 & 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 Boyd, but the song became a "rocker" when, according to Clapton, Allman composed the song's signature riff. With the band assembled and Dowd producing, "Layla" was recorded in its rock form. +more The recording of the first section consisted of sixteen tracks of which six were guitar tracks: a rhythm part by Clapton, three tracks of harmonies played by Clapton (the main power chord riff on both channels and two harmonies against that main riff, one on the left channel and one on the right channel), a track of solos by Allman (fretted solos with bent notes during the verses and a slide solo during the outro), and one track with both Allman and Clapton playing duplicate solos (the 7-note "signature" riff doubled in two octaves and the 12-note "signature" riff doubled in unison). According to Clapton, Allman played the first seven notes of the 12-note "signature" riff fretted and the last five notes on slide in standard tuning. Each player used one input of the same two-input Fender Champ amplifier.

Shortly afterwards, Clapton returned to the studio, where he heard Jim Gordon playing a piano piece he had composed separately. Impressed by the piece, Clapton convinced Gordon to allow it to be used as part of the song. +more Though only Gordon has been credited with this part, according to Whitlock, "Jim took that piano melody from his ex-girlfriend Rita Coolidge. I know because in the D&B days I lived in John Garfield's old house in the Hollywood Hills and there was a guest house with an upright piano in it. Rita and Jim were up there in the guest house and invited me to join in on writing this song with them called 'Time' . Her sister Priscilla wound up recording it with Booker T. Jones . Jim took the melody from Rita's song and didn't give her credit for writing it. Her boyfriend ripped her off. " "Time" ended up on the 1973 album Chronicles by Booker T. and Priscilla Jones. Whitlock's story was echoed by Coolidge herself in her 2016 autobiography. The claim is also substantiated in Graham Nash's 2014 autobiography Wild Tales.

"Layla"'s second movement (the "Piano Exit") 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.

\relative a' { \key f \major \time 4/4 r2 r8 a16 c16 d16 f16 (d16) c16 d1~ d2~ d8 a16 c16 d16 f16 (d16) c16 d1~ d2~ d8 a' 16 c16 d16 f16 d16 c16 }

The opening five bars to the guitar part of "Layla"

Due to the circumstances of its composition, "Layla" is defined by two movements, each marked by a riff. The first movement, which was recorded in the key of D minor for choruses and C-sharp minor for verses, is centred around the "signature riff", a guitar piece using hammer-ons, pull-offs and power chords. +more The first section contains the overdub-heavy slide guitar solo, played by Allman. By placing his slide at points beyond the end of the fretboard, Allman was able to play notes at a higher pitch than could be played with standard technique. Dowd referred to this as "notes that aren't on the instrument. ".

The second movement is commonly referred to as the "Piano Exit". Originally played in C major, the tape speed of the coda was increased slightly during mixing. +more The resulting pitch is somewhere between C and C sharp. The piano interlude at the end of the song is augmented by an acoustic guitar, and is also the accompaniment to the outro-solo. The same melody is also played on Allman's slide guitar an octave higher. Gordon does not improvise or deviate from the piano part; Clapton and Allman are the ones who improvise the melody. The song ends with Allman playing his signature high-pitched "bird call" on his slide guitar. This portion is featured prominently in the film Goodfellas.

Clapton commented on the song:

[wiki_quote=e850860e]

Pattie Boyd later reflected: "I think that he was amazingly raw at the time . +more He's such an incredible musician that he's able to put his emotions into music in such a way that the audience can feel it instinctively. It goes right through you. ".

Personnel

Eric Clapton - lead vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar * Duane Allman - lead guitar, slide guitar * Bobby Whitlock - Hammond organ, piano, background vocals * Carl Radle - bass guitar * Jim Gordon - drums, percussion, piano * Tom Dowd - producer * Howard Albert, Ron Albert, Mack Emerman, Chuck Kirkpatrick, Karl Richardson - recording engineers

Beyond the original album

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs opened to lacklustre sales as the Derek and the Dominos album never actually reached the music charts in the United Kingdom, possibly in part because Clapton's name was found only on the back cover. In addition, the song's length proved prohibitive for radio airplay. +more As a result, a shortened version of the song, consisting of the first 2:43 of Part I, was released as a single in March 1971 by Atco Records in the United States. The version peaked at number 51 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. When "Layla" was re-released on the 1972 compilations The History of Eric Clapton and Duane Allman's An Anthology and then released the full 7:10 version (including the "Piano Exit" that formed Part II) as a single, it charted at number seven in the United Kingdom and reached number 10 in the United States. With good sales figures, the Billboard magazine was able to rank the Rock single as the 60th best-selling song in 1972.

In 1982, "Layla" was re-released as a single in the United Kingdom, and peaked at number four. This time the whole seven-minute single charted, containing the trailing two-thirds which is instrumental only. +more Critical opinion since has been overwhelmingly positive. Dave Marsh, in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, wrote that "there are few moments in the repertoire of recorded rock where a singer or writer has reached so deeply into himself that the effect of hearing them is akin to witnessing a murder or a suicide. to me 'Layla' is the greatest of them. " Marsh listed "Layla" at number 156 in his The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made.

In May 1980, "Layla" was covered by the London Symphony Orchestra, but without the lyrics, being recorded at EMI Studio One, Abbey Road, London. A similar version has been performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. +more On 20 September 1983, a benefit show called the ARMS Charity Concert for Multiple Sclerosis at the Royal Albert Hall in London featured a jam with Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page performing "Layla". Clapton, Beck, and Page were the Yardbirds' successive lead guitarists from 1963 to 1968.

In 2003, the Allman Brothers Band began playing the song in concert. Warren Haynes sang the vocal, Gregg Allman played the piano part, and Derek Trucks played Duane Allman's guitar parts during the coda. +more The performances were seen as a tribute not only to Allman, but also to producer Tom Dowd, who had died the previous year. Eric Clapton recorded yet a third version. "Layla" appears as track seven on Play the Blues: Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center. Personnel on this version include Wynton Marsalis (vocals, trumpet), Eric Clapton (vocals, guitar), Victor Goines (clarinet), Marcus Printup (trumpet), Chris Crenshaw (trombone, vocals), Don Vappie (banjo), Chris Stainton (keyboards), Dan Nimmer (piano), Carlos Henriquez (bass), and Ali Jackson (drums).

Charts and certifications

Weekly charts

Chart (1971)Peak position
Australia (Kent Music Report)100
Japanese Singles Chart8
Netherlands 40 Singles Chart9
Polish Singles Chart3
US Billboard Hot 10051
US Cash Box Singles52

Chart (1972)Peak position
Canadian RPM 100 Singles9
Irish Singles Chart10
Netherlands 40 Singles Chart12
New Zealand Singles Chart2
Puerto Rican Singles Chart1
UK Singles Chart7
US Billboard Hot 10010
US Cash Box Singles14
US Record World Singles12

Chart (1982)Peak position
Irish Singles Chart4
Japanese Singles Chart9
Polish Singles Chart10
UK Singles Chart4

Chart (2007)Peak position
Japanese Singles Chart189
UK Singles Chart113

Year-end charts

Chart (1971)Position
Japanese Singles Chart75

Chart (1972)Position
New Zealand Singles Chart51
US Billboard Hot 10060

Chart (1982)Position
Japanese Singles Chart32

Certifications

Unplugged version

Recording

In 1992, Clapton was invited to play for the MTV Unplugged series. On 16 January 1992, he recorded an acoustic album, accompanied by a concert film, at the Bray Studios in Bray, Berkshire. +more Although the production team and Clapton's staff liked the recordings, Clapton did not want to release either the album or the concert film. Finally, Clapton agreed to release the album in a limited edition. When Unplugged sold out, Clapton gave Warner Bros. and Reprise Records the permission to delete the limited album production. For the album, Clapton decided to record both new material like "Lonely Stranger" and old songs he grew up with such as "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" or enjoyed listening to or had written as an adult, like "San Francisco Bay Blues" and "Layla". Clapton, who plays acoustic guitar and sings on the live track, was backed by Andy Fairweather Low who played acoustic rhythm guitar, Nathan East on acoustic bass guitar and background vocals, Ray Cooper on percussion, Steve Ferrone on drums, Katie Kissoon and Tessa Niles on background vocals as well as Chuck Leavell on piano. Pianist Chuck Leavell recalled that recording the acoustic version of "Layla" felt natural to him and liked that the band was given some space to play during the body of the song and not just during the reprise like it is on the original recording. "It gave us a chance to interpret the song in our way and it did work out well and it gave it a rebirth I think. ", Leavell said. The acoustic version of "Layla" was produced by Russ Titelman.

Clapton recorded the acoustic version of "Layla" on a +more_Martin_&_Co. '>C. F. Martin & Co. steel-string acoustic guitar in OOO-42 style from 1939 which was hand built in Nazareth, Pennsylvania (No. OOO-42/73234). Clapton called this guitar one of the finest instruments he has ever used and called its sound "incredible". The auction house Christie's noted, "the guitar became one of the most enduring images of recent music history" being a part of the Unplugged album cover. Christie's expert for the musical department Kerry Keane called the instrument "in the hands of Eric Clapton singly responsible for the repolarization of playing acoustic guitar today". When Keane played the guitar, he also remarked an "amazing" sound as the acoustic guitar seems to have a "wonderfully balanced tone [which is] loud and sweet at the same time with an incredible bass note. " The vintage instrument was estimated to sell for between $60,000 and $80,000 but was in the end sold for $791,500.

Arrangement

Rhythm acoustic guitar player Andy Fairweather Low was invited by Clapton to his flat in Chelsea, London to work out the songs to be recorded for the Unplugged album in January 1992. During the process, Clapton suggested that it would be a good idea to do another version of "Layla". +more Fairweather Low agreed because he had wanted to release one himself as a big Derek and the Dominos fan. Clapton thought that the perfect arrangement for the rock anthem would be a shuffle because he always liked changing the tempo of a song and looking at something from a different angle.

When Clapton was asked about the acoustic version of the song by the MTV Network, he replied: "'Layla' sort of mystified me. I have done it the same all these years and never ever considered trying to revamp it. +more And a lot of artists do that, you know? Bob Dylan for instance changes everything everytime he plays it and I thought this was another great opportunity to just take it off on a different path, to put it to a shuffle and for a start, making it acoustic denied all the riffs, really. They would have sounded a bit weak, I think, on the acoustic guitar, so it just seemed to become Jazzier somehow. And of course, I'm singing it a whole octave down. So it gives it a nice kind of atmosphere. ".

The song was written in the key of D minor which Clapton recalled pushed him to the top of his singing range. When Clapton slowed it down, Fairweather Low suggested Clapton should sing the track a whole octave down. +more Clapton was pleased with the result as it sounded "nice" and "sort of Jazzy" to him. The new arrangement slowed down and reworked the original riff and dispensed with the piano coda. Because Clapton changed the arrangement so much, he decided to introduce this version to the unsuspecting live audience by stating: "See if you can spot this one. ".

Reception

AllMusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine said that "Layla" seemed to be the Unplugged album's hit; he describes it as a "slow crawl through Derek & the Dominos' version, turning that anguished howl of pain into a cozy shuffle and the whole album proceeds at a similar amiable gait, taking its time and enjoying detours into old blues standards. " Journalist Steve Hochman called the acoustic version a "low-key but seductive recasting". +more Music broadcaster VH1 thinks the Unplugged version revealed Clapton's guitar skills in the acoustic setting, which was particularly obvious on the reworking of "Layla" that "stressed Clapton's tender side without forfeitting intensity". Entertainment Weekly journalists picked the tune as the mega hit off the Unplugged album. The critics especially liked Leavell's piano work on the song, saying that it "adds a smoky-jazz-joint torch-song ambience that's both expectation shattering and emotionally compelling to the tune".

Weekly charts

Chart (1992-1993)Peak position
Australian Singles Chart7
Belgium Flanders 30 Singles Chart22
Belgium Flanders 50 Singles Chart19
Canadian Adult Contemporary4
Canadian Singles Chart1
German Singles Chart35
Icelandic Singles Chart5
Irish Singles Chart20
Italian Singles Chart8
Japanese Singles Chart1
Netherlands 100 Singles Chart8
Netherlands 40 Singles Chart4
New Zealand Singles Chart3
Swiss Singles Chart28
UK Singles Chart45
US Cash Box Top 1007

Year-end charts

Chart (1992)Position
Australian Singles Chart28
Belgium Flanders 50 Singles Chart102
Canadian Singles Chart5
Canadian Adult Contemporary27
German Singles Chart196
Japanese Singles Chart25
Netherlands 100 Singles Chart40
Netherlands 40 Singles Chart40
New Zealand Singles Chart52
Swiss Singles Chart144
US Billboard Hot 10088
US Billboard Radio Airplay83
[wiki_table=3e60a62a]

Certifications

Critical reception and legacy

In 1970, Jamrock Entertainment listed "Layla" as the best song of the year. In 1972, "Layla" was one of the most performed songs of the year, and was already considered a "rock standard". +more With its re-release in 1982, the song cemented its reputation. It is featured on a number of "greatest ever" lists. The song was chosen by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of its "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll", and Rolling Stone ranked the song at number 27 on their list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". The Recording Industry Association of America ranked "Layla" at number 118 on their Songs of the Century on 7 March 2001. Music critic Dave Marsh placed the tune at number two in his "Best Singles of the Year 1972" compilation. Based on such rankings, Acclaimed Music lists the original version as the 61st most acclaimed song of all time, the most acclaimed song of 1970 and the 12th most acclaimed song of the 1970s.

With its reworking in 1992 for the Unplugged album, "Layla" became an all-time hit song, as it won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song in 1993, and was broadcast nonstop in 1992 and 1993 on the radio, in stores, and on television around the globe. In 1992, "Layla" was the most performed song of the year, and won a BMI Broadcasting Award for radio and television appearances of the 1992 "Layla" for more than two million times in summer of 1994. +more As of 2011, "Layla" had attained more than six million broadcasts on television and the radio or performances on other records and during live concerts.

"Layla" was used in Goodfellas during the scene portraying the aftermath of the 1978 Lufthansa heist. Director Martin Scorsese planned out the sequence with the song specifically in mind, playing it on set to synchronise with the staging and camera movement. +more The song also plays during the film's ending credits, after a cover of "My Way" by Sid Vicious.

American record producer DJ Khaled sampled the Derek and the Dominos' arrangement of "Layla" in his 2021 song "I Did It" featuring American rappers Post Malone, Megan Thee Stallion, and Lil Baby.

Further reading

[[Category:1970s ballads]] [[Category:1971 singles]] [[Category:1972 singles]] [[Category:1982 singles]] [[Category:1992 singles]] [[Category:1970 songs]] [[Category:1992 songs]] [[Category:Derek and the Dominos songs]] [[Category:Eric Clapton songs]] [[Category:Grammy Award for Best Rock Song]] [[Category:Grammy Hall of Fame Award recipients]] [[Category:Live singles]] [[Category:Number-one singles in France]] [[Category:Oricon International Singles Chart number-one singles]] [[Category:Rock ballads]] [[Category:RPM Top Singles number-one singles]] [[Category:Song recordings produced by Russ Titelman]] [[Category:Song recordings produced by Tom Dowd]] [[Category:Songs written by Eric Clapton]] [[Category:Atco Records singles]] [[Category:RSO Records singles]] [[Category:Polydor Records singles]] [[Category:Reprise Records singles]]

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