Derek & the Dominos

Layla

Composed by Eric Clapton / Jim Gordon

Song Review by

Derek & the Dominos' album Layla was Eric Clapton's dark night of the soul, and the title song was its masterpiece -- an anguished plea to a forbidden love that was Clapton's barely disguised letter to Patti Boyd, the wife of his best friend, George Harrison. Clapton had never sounded as pained as he did here, and he never sounded as tortured again -- not even on "Tears in Heaven," written after the tragic death of his young son. "Layla" is pure catharsis, followed by a coda written by Jim Gordon that is nothing less than bliss, the sound of love fulfilled. Even though that coda was used to terrific effect in Martin Scorsese's 1990 masterpiece Goodfellas, most listeners remember "Layla" for the incendiary, fiery riff that fuels the first section of the song. Easily one of the best-known guitar licks in rock history, the riff was ironically borrowed from a T-Bone Walker vocal riff, which may be the reason Clapton phased it out in his acoustic shuffle reworking in 1991. As pleasant as that version is -- and it is quite nice -- it excised the pain that surges through the original recording, while eliminating the masterful coda that ends the song on a grace note. In other words, he changed the very meaning of the song -- the juxtaposition of the intense blues of the body of the song and the sweetness of the coda was at the heart of the song. Nobody else could figure out a way around that juxtaposition until Clapton reinterpreted it for his Unplugged recording. It was an admirable reworking, but Derek & the Dominos' original recording remains one of the towering moments in rock & roll history.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs 1970 Polydor / Universal 7:06
No Image 1972
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution
No Image 1974
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution
Reelin' in the Years, Vol. 5 1977
Various Artists
Sandstone 7:08
Freedom Rock 1987
Various Artists
Sessions Records
Sounds of the Seventies: 1972 1989
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 7:06
Goodfellas [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] 1990
Original Soundtrack
Atlantic 3:53
Classic Rock: 1966-1988 1991
Various Artists
Atlantic
Rock of the 70's, Vol. 5 1992
Various Artists
DCC Compact Classics 7:08
The Marquee: 30 Legendary Years 1993
Various Artists
Alex 2:44
British Rock [Original Sound] 1995
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 7:02
The No. 1 70's Rock Album 1995
Various Artists
Alex 2:47
No Image 1995
Various Artists
Polygram
Every Song Tells a Story 1995
Various Artists
Shock Media 7:02
No Image 1996
Various Artists
Pro
The Ultimate Rock Collection Gold and Platinum, Vol. 2: 1971-1973 1997
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 7:08
Atlantic Records 50 Years: The Gold Anniversary 1998
Various Artists
Atlantic 7:06
The Best of the Best [Insight] 1998
Various Artists
Insight (3)
Now: 1982 [2 CD] 1999
Various Artists
Virgin/EMI 7:11
Guitar Rock [Time-Life Box Set] 1999
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 7:05
Music of the Millennium, Vol. 1 [Universal] 1999
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Music of the Millennium, Vol. 1 [Disc One] 1999
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 2:49
Top of the Pops, Vol. 2: 70's Rock 2001
Various Artists
Universal International 7:13
Air Guitar 2002
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution
Legends: Do It Again 2003
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 7:08
50 Years of the Greatest Hit Singles 2004
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution
Legends Informercial Set 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 7:08
While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Very Best Of 2008
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 2:43
Atlantic Records: The Time Capsule 2009
Various Artists
Atlantic 7:10
Rock Anthems [Universal 2010] 2010
Various Artists
EMI TV / Universal Music TV 7:04
Gods of Guitar [Universal] 2011
Various Artists
Universal AB / Universal Music Group International 2:43
No Image 2011
Various Artists
Universal 2:45
Now That's What I Call Classic Rock [2015] 2015
Various Artists
Sony Music 2:42
No Image Universal
No Image
Various Artists
Sire 7:04
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