Posts Tagged ‘Jim Gordon’

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Between their formation in 1967 and implosion seven years later, Traffic was as mercurial as their music was mesmerizing, thanks to the members’ unstable chemistry. What had begun as an on-trend exercise in post-Sgt. Pepper psychedelia turned toward a darker, more idiosyncratic synthesis of jazz, blues, world music and English folk elements as the band’s founders—Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason—fluctuated from quartet to trio and back. Mason quit and then rejoined (twice) in revolt over his partners’ more esoteric instincts. Winwood, meanwhile, scuttled the band in late ’68 to join Blind Faith, the short-lived supergroup he fronted with Eric Clapton.

Traffic’s subsequent return was less conscious relaunch than casual reunion. At 21, Winwood was already a veteran of three successful bands, a precocious multi-instrumentalist who landed as the de facto star of the Spencer Davis Group in his mid-teens. He began work on a solo debut in February 1970, but after tracking two songs as a virtual one-man band, he longed to interact with other players, enlisting Capaldi (drums, percussion, vocals) and Wood (reeds). The resulting album, John Barleycorn Must Die, pared the group’s ensemble sound to a sturdy spine of Winwood’s keyboards and guitar, and added a more pronounced British accent in its title song, a traditional English ballad that moved the band toward British folk-rock spearheaded by Pentangle, Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span.

On their fifth full-length studio album, “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”Traffic cast aside commercial wisdom to build the album around an epic title track that looms as their creative apogee. At just under 12 minutes, the tune draws from the full range of the British band’s influences and then steps beyond them with an exploratory intensity that nearly eclipses the set’s other originals, yet its power was sufficient to bring them the strongest sales of their career without a competitive single hit.

That reconciliation reaped Traffic’s highest U.S. album chart performance ever, along with a gold record, as they reinforced the line-up with bassist Ric Grech (Family, Blind Faith), drummer Jim Gordon (Derek and the Dominos) and Ghanaian percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah. Entering Island’s London studios in September 1971, the newly aligned sextet leaned into its more layered rhythm section as it tracked new songs.

Where Traffic’s earlier albums teed up with radio-ready singles candidates, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boyopened quietly. “Hidden Treasure” points back to “John Barleycorn” in its modal melody and spacious acoustic arrangement, interweaving Winwood’s acoustic guitar with Wood’s delicate flute lines. Punctuated with spare percussion, the song is one degree removed from Pentangle’s intersection of folk and jazz, with Capaldi’s pensive lyrics invoking water imagery and evoking a pastoral atmosphere.

That song’s languid close leaves the listener in a silence that lingers beyond the usual between-tracks interval, as the title song doesn’t so much begin as lay in ambush. After 13 seconds, a faint pulse begins to surface, distant percussion setting a glacial pace as a five-note piano figure anchors the arrangement in D minor. Hand percussion and tolling piano march slowly forward, as if moving from darkness into a half light. At 1:21, a vibraslap strikes, ominous as a rattlesnake’s lunge, jolting us fully awake.

Having taken so slow and deliberate a path to capture the listener, “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” has us in its grip as soon as Winwood begins crooning Jim Capaldi’s feverish lyrics:

If you see something that looks like a star, and it’s shooting up out of the ground
And your head is spinning from a loud guitar
And you just can’t escape from the sound
Don’t worry too much, it will happen to you
We were children once, playing with toys…

The lyrics’ sense of dislocation and distraction, set against the hypnotic languor of the rhythm section’s deliberate pace, suggests nothing so much as a drugged torpor that quickens as Winwood’s piano and Wood’s saxophone shift into double-time figures between the sung lines.

The gauzy euphoria teased in early Traffic songs from the late ’60s was by now a distant memory; Winwood and Capaldi would be all too familiar with the harder drugs clouding rock’s early ’70s demi-monde, while Wood would struggle with drugs and alcohol for much of his adult life. Capaldi’s wistful allusion to childhood reveries leads inevitably to a sense of lost innocence and even betrayal as the song swells into the chorus, modulating to D major:

The percentage you’re paying is too high a price, while you’re living beyond all your means
And the man in the suit has just bought a new car with the profits he’s made on your dreams…
And the sound that you’re hearing is only the sound of the low spark of high heeled boys

Who those “boys” are remains a mystery beyond the certainty that they’re no longer children. (Capaldi reportedly took the phrase from a casual remark by a friend, actor Michael J. Pollard.)

With the band members stretching out on solos, clocking in at 11:41, “Low Spark” can stand favourably beside those fusion standard-bearers. Winwood adds keening synthesizer lines that diverge from more familiar chordal and arpeggiated synth voicings of the era. Instead, he shapes monophonic riffs answering Wood’s sax, moving Traffic’s ensemble sound closer to the contemporary fusion of Miles Davis’ electric bands and Weather Report’s next jazz-rock wave.

From that point onward, Traffic lightens the tone with “Light Up or Leave Me Alone,” an atypically uptempo rocker featuring a lead vocal from Capaldi, who has sole writer credit. Usually content to add baritone harmonies below Winwood’s soulful tenor, Capaldi offers a good-humoured takedown of a lover that teases the title’s easy implication of something other than tobacco, aided by Winwood’s mocking electric guitar figures. That the track would find FM airplay more easily than the album’s title song is no surprise.

“Rock & Roll Stew” likewise hews to more familiar rock tropes as a mid-tempo ode to life on the road, written by new members Grech and Gordon, with Capaldi’s lead vocal and Winwood’s electric guitar again grounding the band in foursquare rock in another track more readily added to radio playlists. The album’s two remaining songs, “Many a Mile to Freedom” and “Rainmaker,” were deep cuts that worked within the atmospheric terrain familiar to fans, yet, on balance, Low Spark would ultimately remain defined by its risk-taking title track. With FM rock radio stations still on the cusp of more freewheeling playlists, “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” would earn significant airplay from savvy stations despite its extended length.

Even as the November 1971 release went gold, personnel changes once more roiled Traffic as Grech and Gordon left and Winwood was sidelined with peritonitis. Capaldi recruited Muscle Shoals Sound house band aces Roger Hawkins (drums) and David Hood (bass) to the line-up that tracked their next studio album and a live set captured during the band’s 1973 tour before a final studio album, When the Eagle Flies, was recorded by Winwood, Capaldi (back on the drum stool), Wood and bassist Rosko Gee. The original trio’s core sound survived, yet none of those later recordings would surpass the high bar set by Low Spark on its defining performance.

Traffic Sessions: The Low Spark of High Heeled 1971 Recorded at Olympic Studios, London

00:00 The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys – Alternate Take – 2/9/71 11.46 11:41 Rock And Roll Stew – Different Take – 5/19/71 3.20 14:57 Rainmaker – Different Take – 5/19/71 7.29 22:22 Rock And Roll Stew – Different Mix – 8/25/71 6.19 28:35 Light Up Or Leave Me Alone – Different Mix – 8/25/71 5.03 33:34 Command Performance – Traffic Jam #1 Take 2 5.04 38:26 Crispy Duck – Traffic Jam #2 W/ Muscle Shoals Horns 3.34 41:55 Steal From A King – Traffic Jam #3 W/ Muscle Shoals Horns 5.19 47:10 It’s So Hard – Demo #1 – Capaldi And Gordon 7.41 54:48 It’s So Hard – Demo #2 – Capaldi And Gordon 9.42 1:04:26 Easter Weekend – Demo #1 – Capaldi 3.26 1:07:55 Easter Weekend – Demo #2 – Capaldi 3.46

Derek and The Dominos‘ 1970 album “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” is being reissued for its 50th Anniversary as a deluxe 4LP vinyl set and across two CDs.

The original album has been half-speed mastered by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios and, being a double, is pressed on two LPs. Two further records of bonus material (not half-speed mastered) make up this 4LP deluxe box set.

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs was celebrated back in 2011 with a deluxe, cross-format box set that featured the remastered original album (on CD, vinyl and in a 5.1 surround mix on DVD), 1973’s In Concert, and a disc of 13 bonus tracks, including new mixes of outtakes from the supergroup’s unfinished second album and a live set from The Johnny Cash Show. This new box strips things back somewhat, offering the half-speed mastered album and the 13 bonus cuts across four LPs along with the 12″ x 12″ book from the 40th anniversary set and a certificate of authenticity.  (The 2CD 40th anniversary edition will also go back into print as well, ostensibly for the 50th anniversary.) Alongside this is a further 2LPs of bonus material some of which has previously been unreleased on vinyl. All the bonus material across all of LP3 & LP4 is mastered normally (so is not half-speed mastered).

Layla was the end result of four members of Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett’s touring group – guitarist Eric Clapton (already well-known for work with Blind Faith, The Beatles and many more), singer Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jim Gordon – coming together for a brief but fruitful series of sessions. (Their earliest session produced the briefly issued single “Tell the Truth,” produced by Phil Spector and featuring guitar work from Dave Mason and George Harrison.) The Layla sessions also featured scintillating guitar contributions from Duane Allman. Despite the album’s pedigree, the album never performed to expectations, and tragedy followed the group: Allman was killed in a motorcycle crash in 1971, Radle died in 1980 after years of drug abuse, and Gordon remains institutionalized after killing his mother during a schizophrenic episode in 1983.

But gradually, Layla‘s title track took hold as one of Clapton’s crowning achievements: written about his insatiable infatuation with Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd (who indeed had a decade-long marriage with the guitarist after divorcing the Beatle), “Layla” became a Top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1972; in 1990, its Gordon-led piano outro scored a pivotal scene in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas – and three years later, a striking acoustic performance for MTV’s Unplugged won a Grammy Award.

“That thing was like lightning in a bottle,” begins Bobby Whitlock talking about his short-lived band time with Eric Clapton, Derek and the Dominos. “We did one club tour, we did one photo session, then we did a tour of a bit larger venues. Then we did one studio album in Miami. We did one American tour. Then we did one failed attempt at a second album.” And all within about a year’s time in 1970.

So in this case, the oft-overused flash of lightning description is right on the money. And Whitlock was a key part of the kinetic energy behind what’s considered a genuine landmark in not just Clapton’s career but the entire classic rock genre: the 1970 album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, co-writing six of the double album’s 10 original songs, and bringing his soul-soaked Deep South keyboard skills to the musical mix, taking the vocal lead on two tracks and doubling/trading off with Clapton throughout the rest of the album.

Now, five decades later, he is the keeper of the Dominos legacy. And the dedicated survivor of a star-crossed band if there ever was one. After the band’s short flash as a working act, he descended into some three years of heroin adduction and seclusion. Duane Allman, who played on most of Layla, was killed in a motorcycle crash on October 29th, 1971. Bassist Carl Radle recorded and played with Clapton later in the ’70s and died of a kidney infection, exacerbated by his alcohol and drug abuse, in 1980. Drummer Jim Gordon as well continued to engage in substance abuse, damaging his career with behavioural issues. In 1983, he murdered his mother, claiming a voice in his head had told him to do so. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and has remained incarcerated ever since.

Whitlock stresses “We were better than anybody.” One of the key elements that made them what he feels were the Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band for that all-too-brief time was Whitlock’s deep Southern musical soul. Growing up a preacher’s kid in a family poor as a church mouse, he was weaned on spiritual music (and did some cotton picking in his youth). Coming of age in Memphis, Whitlock was steeped in R&B in the city where white rock ‘n’ roll was born at Sun Studio.

Although Whitlock, only 22 years old at the time, helped Clapton all but define anguished unrequited love in the most profound rock ‘n’ roll terms and tunes on songs like “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad,” “Tell the Truth” and “I Looked Away,” his own ultimate love story is something quite different, and a rather delightful one at that. Though his post-Domino years were not without their struggles, today he’s blissfully married and in musical partnership with singer, bassist, guitarist, sax player, songwriter, recording engineer and producer CoCo Carmel.

Whitlock, Clapton, Radle and Gordon became part of the core crew on the sessions for Harrison’s post-Beatles debut, All Things Must PassWhen Harrison had business elsewhere for a few days, he told the four to use the studio time with producer Phil Spector to cut some tracks, which yielded the debut Dominos 45, “Tell the Truth” b/w “Roll It Over.”

Whitlock says of Clapton, “He wanted to be Derek not Eric. He wasn’t ready to step into his role of as a solo artist at that time.” The four musicians did a show at London’s Lyceum Theatre, and then set off on a tour of small English venues as Derek & the Dominos where the admission was £1, and Clapton’s name was forbidden to be used in any advertising. In late August of ’70, the Dominos arrived at Criteria Studios in Miami to record with producer Tom Dowd. He took them to see the Allman Brothers Band, Clapton and Duane Allman bonded, and the latter joined the Layla sessions to help create some of the most incendiary dual guitar rock ever recorded. The album was suffused with Clapton’s passionate longing for his best friend Harrison’s wife Patti Boyd – interestingly, while in England Whitlock dated her sister Paula – and even though it was only a middling hit on its release, over time its stature grew to become considered a rock ‘n’ roll masterpiece.

The vinyl box comes with a 12×12″ book of sleeve notes taken from the 40th-anniversary edition. A 2CD edition will also be made available which is effectively identical to the double-CD edition issued in 2011.

The big 40th anniversary box set (which was 4CD+DVD+2LP) featured a surround sound mix on the DVD. Since that is now very hard to get hold of, it’s disappointing that the DVD hasn’t been included as with the two CDs to make a triple disc package.

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs will be reissued on 13th November 2020.

 

 

 

       

Hindsight may be less than favorable concerning the super-group phenomenon, but Delaney and Bonnie’s efforts represent the most complementary and productive examples of the communal creativity at the heart of this approach, one which crystallized in the brief roadwork captured. On Tour with Eric Clapton recently released in an expanded edition; it’s little wonder this group, headed primarily by Delaney, went on to supervisor EC’s eponymous solo debut (see Bracelet’s mix, markedly different and arguably superior to, than official producer Tom Dowd’s, included in the Deluxe Edition CD set of that album).

   

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On Tour with Eric Clapton-Expanded Edition The four CDs in this set originally comprised a Very high-priced, limited edition package, the design of which replicated an equipment road-case. The cover artwork here mirrors that and, presumably, a pristine sound mix courtesy Bill Inglot and Dan Hersch that pulses with no small measure of the excitement in those moments.Including extensive historical notes by Bud Scoppa taken from perspectives as varied as Bonnie Bramlett herself and engineer Glyn Johns, as well as technical notes, the newly-issued set turns into a true labor of love that’s worth the dramatically reduced price. The complete concert from the Royal Albert Hall in London accompanies composites and further complete later shows on the seven-day tour; and while not surprisingly, there’s more than a little overlap, the ostensible redundancy really serves to further illustrate how infectious are these performances. And while Eric Clapton’s participation is limited to the sideman role he preferred at that time, he does take a lead vocal on “I Don’t Know Why” and there’s no mistaking what his guitar work adds to this roiling eclectic mix of vocals, keyboards, horns (trumpeter Jim Price and saxophonist Bobby Keys who went on to play with the Rolling Stones) and a redoubtable rhythm section.Given the durability and spirit of the setlist, including The Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’,” “Only You Know and I Know,” (composed by ex-Traffic member Dave Mason, whose presence in the band is given short shrift) and most conspicuously “Coming Home” with its clarion call guitar figure, it really no surprise it didn’t change much night tonight.

As no pictures of Delaney and Bonnie were deemed good enough for the album cover, a photo was used instead of a Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn in a desert, reportedly taken by manager Barry Feinstein while working as a photographer covering a Bob Dylan tour in 1966. Dylan’s feet are those hanging from the car window.

On Tour was re-issued in 2010 as four-disc box set, packaged in a mock road case containing the complete performance from the Royal Albert Hall, plus a composite of the next night’s performances at Colston Hall in Bristol, and both the early and late shows from the tour’s final stop at Fairfield Halls in Croydon. George Harrison played slide guitar on the English leg of the tour that followed the Albert Hall performance, as well as in Scandinavia, therefore he doesn’t appear on the first disc but does on the other three.

On Tour with Eric Clapton is a 1970 album by Delaney & Bonnie with Eric Clapton, recorded live at the Fairfield Halls, England. Released on Atco Records, The album features Delaney and Bonnie’s best-known touring band, including Eric Clapton, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock, and Dave Mason. Many of the players on this album would later go on to work with George Harrison on his post-Beatles debut album All Things Must Pass and with Clapton on his solo debut. The horn players Bobby Keys and Jim Price would play on the albums Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main St by the Rolling Stones, and join them for their 1972 STP Tour. Whitlock, Radle, and Gordon would form with Clapton his band Derek and the Dominos for Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.

The album has received highly positive reviews, with many critics suggesting the album is superior to Clapton’s prior project (Blind Faith) . In the Rolling Stone Album Guide, the album is described as “a triumph”, which is attributed to the fact the band was “one of the best” in “rock and roll”. Writing for Rolling Stone, Mark Kemp said the album contained “wicked performances of the kind of country and boogie that would define Southern rock”.Mojo described the album as “one of the two Rosetta Stones of roots rock’n’roll”.

The Band:
Bonnie Bramlett — vocals
Delaney Bramlett — guitars, vocals
Eric Clapton — lead guitars, vocals
Rita Coolidge — backing vocals
Jim Gordon — drums, percussion
George Harrison (under the pseudonym L’Angelo Misterioso) – guitars (discs two — four of box set only)
Tex Johnson – percussion
Bobby Keys — saxophone
Dave Mason — guitars
Carl Radle — bass guitar
Jim Price — trombone, trumpet
Bobby Whitlock — organ, keyboards, vocals

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Jim Gordon has played drums on hundreds of hit records, with artists ranging from the Beach Boys to Tom Petty, George Harrison to Hall & Oates to Linda Ronstadt. But you won’t find any gold records hanging in his place of residence: For more than three decades now, Jim Gordon has been locked up, for the crime of fatally stabbing his own mother. His story is one of the great tragedies of the rock world.

It happened on June 3rd, 1983. Gordon attacked his mother, Osa Marie Gordon, first with a hammer before grabbing the butcher knife. He later claimed that voices in his head told him to kill her. Sentenced to 16 years to life in prison, he has repeatedly been denied parole; at one hearing he reportedly refused to admit that his mother was even dead. Diagnosed with schizophrenia after his conviction, he remains, according to prison authorities, a threat. He currently spends his days and nights in the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, California.

It didn’t start out that way for Jim Gordon, of course. Born in July 1945, and raised in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, Gordon was awarded a music scholarship at age 17 and began his professional drumming career backing the Everly Brothers. His credits quickly mounted: the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman, Van Dyke Parks’ Song Cycle, John Lennon’s Imagine, CSN’s debut and recordings by Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, B.B. King, Carly Simon, Alice Cooper, Traffic, the Monkees, Barbra Streisand, Jackson Browne, Merle Haggard, on and on and on.  At the height of his career Gordon was reportedly so busy as a studio musician that he flew back to Los Angeles from Las Vegas every day to do two or three recording sessions and then returned in time to play the evening show at Caesars Palace.

You can hear him on Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” Nilsson’s “Jump Into the Fire” (that drum solo!), Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” and Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas.” He was, by any measure, a first-call drummer. it’s fairly amazing list of tracks.

Listen to George Harrison’s “What Is Life,” with Jim Gordon on drums. His greatest fame came via his involvement with Eric Clapton, who hired Gordon as a member of Derek and the Dominos, the supergroup put together by the guitar great in 1970, basically purloining the musicians who’d been working with soul-rockers Delaney and Bonnie. Gordon can be heard on the Dominos’ mega-popular album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs and performed with the band in concert during its brief time together. He is credited as the co-author (with Clapton) of the classic title track “Layla” and created the song’s familiar piano coda.  In later years, Bobby Whitlock claimed that the coda was not written by Gordon: “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.

(The group’s members also appear on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, also from 1970.)

That same busy year of 1970, Gordon toured with Joe Cocker’s heralded Mad Dogs & Englishmen troupe and played on Dave Mason’s Alone Together album and much more. But it didn’t take long for things to unravel for him once that decade kicked in; when he wasn’t in the studio or onstage, Gordon’s demons got the better of him. While on tour with Cocker, Gordon allegedly beat his then-girlfriend, singer Rita Coolidge, in a hotel.

Gordon was also part of Frank Zappa’s 20-piece ‘Grand Wazoo’ big band and the subsequent 10-piece ‘Petit Wazoo’ band. Perhaps his best-known recording with Zappa is the title track of the 1974 album Apostrophe (‘), a jam with Zappa and Tony Duran on guitar and Jack Bruce on bass guitar, for which both Bruce and Gordon received a writing credit (Zappa, when introducing Gordon onstage, frequently referred to him as “Skippy”, because of his youthful appearance).

Although Gordon continued to find work as the ’70s rolled on, with Johnny Rivers, Frank Zappa, Chris Hillman (Gordon was a charter member of the Souther-Hillman-Furay supergroup) and others, his erratic behavior was becoming well known among music business regulars. Misdiagnosed by his doctors, who treated him for alcoholism and missed the schizophrenia altogether, Gordon became increasingly violent as his mental illness took hold of him. By the middle of the decade, it had begun to affect his playing and he lost work.

Prior to his murder of his mother, Gordon reportedly heard her voice in his head, and on that horrible 1983 day he finally let the voices take him to that very dark place. His lawyers tried an insanity defense but the court wouldn’t allow it. He was convicted of murder and sentenced in July 1984. As of this writing he is 73, his future prospects looking dim. As recently as 2018, still diagnosed with schizophrenia, Gordon was denied parole again. He will have another chance in 2021.

Whatever might happen to the man, though, his contribution to rock music should be forever cherished. With but a dim possibility for parole, Jim Gordon is the man rock- and-roll forgot. Except, perhaps, for one brief moment on February. 24th, 1993, when, along with Eric Clapton, he was awarded the rock songwriting Grammy for ”Layla”.

Derek & The Dominos: Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs: 50th Anniversary Edition Box Set

From The Roosters to the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, CreamBlind Faith and Delaney and Bonnie; Eric Clapton had certainly been around over the previous 8 years, prior to forming his new band in early summer 1970. When this new band played their first gig at London’s Lyceum in the Strand on Sunday 14 June they hadn’t quite got around to giving themselves a name, that is until just before being introduced on stage but Derek and the Dominoes it all had a certain ring to it.

The other three members of the band, Bobby Whitlock on keyboards, guitar and vocals, bass player, Carl Radle and drummer and occasional pianist, Jim Gordon had all played together in Delaney and Bonnie’s band and all are on the album, Delaney and Bonnie On Tour With Eric Clapton that was recorded in South London in December 1969 and released in March 1970.

All four musicians also worked with George Harrison on his All Things Must Pass album and earlier in the day of their debut concert they were at Abbey Road for a Harrison session when they cut ‘Tell The Truth’ that became Derek and The Dominoes first single release in September 1970. The b-side of this single was ‘Roll It Over’, another recorded at an ATMP session and this included the former Beatle and Dave Mason of Traffic on guitar and vocals.

Following their London debut the band spent time rehearsing before embarking on a U.K. tour that opened at The Village Blues club in Dagenham Essex, not one of Britain’s most prestigious venues. For the next 22 days they criss-crossed the country playing 18 gigs, ranging from London’s Speakeasy Club to The Black Prince Pub in Bexley Kent and The Penthouse in Scarborough in Yorkshire; there was even a side trip to Biot in France for a lone cross-channel gig.

During July and while the band was touring, Robert Stigwood, the band’s manager, was busy arranging the band’s recording for their debut album. He called Tom Dowd who was working on The Allman Brothers sessions for Idlewild South and told him that the band wanted to come to Florida to record at Criteria Studios in Miami.

Less than a week after their last gig in Plymouth’s Van Dike Club, Clapton, Radle, Whitlock and Gordon were in studio A at Criteria ready to get down to business. On the evening of 26 August Clapton and the others had been invited to an Allman Brothers concert at Miami Beach Convention Center; as Clapton watched Duane play for the first time was hooked. After the gig the two bands headed back to Criteria and jammed for hours.

On Friday 28 August the sessions for Layla and Other Assorted Love songs began in earnest, joining the other four musicians for the next week or so of recording was Duane Allman who was thrilled to be playing with Clapton. The first song they recorded was Clapton and Whitlock’s, ‘Tell The Truth’ – a far more assured version than their earlier effort; it became the opening track of the first side of the second record on the double album that came out in November 1970.

There was no recording on Saturday, but on Sunday and for the next five nights there was some intense activity, intense because on 4th September Duane had a gig in Milwaukee with the Allmans. On Sunday night the session was under way, and despite Tom Dowd’s orders to keep the tapes running at all times, someone had screwed up and it was only Dowd rushing back into the control booth from the men’s room shouting, “Turn the faders up” that preserved the brilliance of the cover on Big Bill Broonzy’s, ‘Key to The Highway’. If anyone asks you if white men can play the blues, point them in the direction of this track.

Monday produced ‘Nobody Knows When You’re Down and Out’ and ‘Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad’. On Tuesday Clapton and Whitlock’s, ‘Keep On Growing’ was laid down. Wednesday, I’ Looked Away’, ‘Bell Bottom Blues’ and a cover of a Billy Myles song, made famous by Freddie King, ‘Have You Ever Loved A Woman’; King was one of Clapton’s favourite blues guitarists.
Layla
Thursday was the last day of Duane Allman being available and the band nailed, ‘I Am Yours’, ‘Anyday’ and another by the man they called, ‘The King of the Stroll’, Chuck Wills’s, ‘It’s Too Late’. On Friday and Saturday, with Duane away, the rest of the guys concentrated on overdubs for everything they had so far recorded, barring ‘Key to The Highway’ and ‘Nobody Knows When You’re Down and Out’.

After the Allman Brothers Milwaukee gig they played another at Jolly’s Place in Des Moines on 6th September after which Duane flew back to Miami so that the last few songs could be completed. On Wednesday 9th September there was also overdubs to be done and the five musicians, who by this time were all in the proverbial zone, together tackled ‘Little Wing’ and ‘Layla’.

‘Little Wing’ is the band’s tribute to Jimi Hendrix who recorded it on his Axis: Bold Is Love album in 1967. It is a monumental; record, the playing so tight, which belies the fact that Whitlock later recalled he had never heard the song before they cut it and had the words laid out on top of his organ so he could sing them. Nine days later Hendrix died at the Samarkand Hotel, in London’s Notting Hill.

And then there’s ‘Layla’. Clapton was inspired to write the first part of the song having been given a copy of the Persian classical poet, Nizami Ganjavi’s book, The Story of Layla and Majnun. As we now know it is Clapton’s love song to Pattie Boyd, who at that time was married to George Harrison; she later married Clapton in 1979. It is also a song of two halves.

The first half recorded by the band on sixteen tracks including multi layered guitars by Clapton and a single track of Allman’s solos. After laying down his song Clapton returned to the studio to hear Jim Gordon playing a piano piece that he immediately loved and decided he wanted to add it to ‘Layla’ to complete the track; it proved to be an inspired decision of a happy coincidence. The composing credits on the song are Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon, but Gordon had in fact borrowed the melody from his former girlfriend.

According to Bobby 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 guesthouse with an upright piano in it. Rita and Jim were up there in the guesthouse 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.”

For the last session for the album it seems somehow appropriate that it should be the delicate, ‘Thorn Tree In The Garden’ a Bobby Whitlock song, which he also sings, that is poignant and such a fitting closer. It’s like the morning after the party when there is peace and quiet imbued with a reflective air that is perfection.

After wrapping up the sessions Clapton, Whitlock, Radle and Gordon headed back to the UK to begin an extensive bout of touring beginning at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls, in South London on 20th September. Between then and 28th September they played eight UK dates and another in Paris. However, according to the tape boxes for the Layla sessions there were sessions in Miami at Criteria on 1 October where they overdubbed ‘Layla’ and ‘It’s Too Late’ and on the following day Clapton, Allman and Gordoncut a version of little Walter Jacob’s ‘Mean Old World’. October 1st was a Thursday and on that day Derek and The Dominos, were 4,400 odd miles away from Florida in the south of England playing a gig at Swindon Town Hall. So what is the story here? Could it be that they flew to Miami during their two days off on 29th and 30th September and the boxes were labelled a day or so later?

We are continuing our investigations with the help of Bill Levenson who produced the 40th anniversary reissue of Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs.   

Thanks to UDiscover.