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Music / Derek and the Dominos

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Derek And The Dominos in 1970. From left to right: Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock and Eric Clapton.

"We were a make-believe band. We were all hiding inside it. Derek and the Dominos—the whole thing ... assumed. So it couldn't last. I had to come out and admit that I was being me. I mean, being Derek was a cover for the fact that I was trying to steal someone else's wife. That was one of the reasons for doing it, so that I could write the song, and even use another name for Pattie. So Derek and Layla—it wasn't real at all."

After a successful tour backing soul-rock duo Delaney & Bonnie, sidemen Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle, and Jim Gordon joined Eric Clapton in the studio for his solo debut, Eric Clapton, eventually teaming up to form a then-unnamed band. Word of God on the origin of the final name Derek and the Dominos variesnote , with Clapton and Whitlock giving entirely different stories, but whatever the reason, they embarked on an unheralded UK tour before heading for the US to record a debut album. Dave Mason of Traffic and later Fleetwood Mac joined shortly after formation, though he didn't last long. With Duane Allman guesting, the Dominos recorded Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs in Miami during the fall of 1970, releasing the album to lukewarm critical and commercial success before embarking on a successful stateside tour.

The title track's appearance on 1972 The History of Eric Clapton led to skyrocketing sales for Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs and a critical reappraisal as one of the great albums in rock history, but by that point the Dominos had already fallen. Constant cocaine and heroin use took a toll on all of the members, none more so than Radle, who died from kidney complications as a direct result. Clapton was driven into early retirement, the man once considered a god for his playing ability robbed of his skill from heroin abuse (although he eventually recovered and resumed his career). Gordon, suffering from undiagnosed schizophrenia, fatally beat and stabbed his mother and remained institutionalized until his death in 2023. Even Duane Allman, never officially a member of the band, lost his life in a motorcycle accident. Only Whitlock remained mostly unscathed (aside from a decade-long feud with Clapton), attempting an abortive solo career early in the decade before rebounding in the late nineties.

Principal Members (Founding members in bold):

  • Eric Clapton - lead guitar, vocals (1970–71)
  • Jim Gordon - drums, percussion, piano, tabla, snare (1970–71; died 2023)
  • Dave Mason - guitar (1970)
  • Carl Radle - bass, percussion (1970–71, died 1980)
  • Bobby Whitlock - keyboards, vocals, organ, piano, guitar (1970–71)

Studio and Live Discography:


  • All Drummers Are Animals: Gordon's schizophrenia made him the most destructive band member, which turned out to be far from the worst of his issues.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Much of the album is ill-hidden subtext about Clapton's love for Patti Boyd, the then-wife of his best friend.
  • Big Rock Ending: The original Derek recording of "Layla" has an ending fitting to make it a Trope Codifier.
  • Blues Rock: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is considered one of the masterpieces of this genre.
  • Cover Version: "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," "Key to the Highway," "Have You Ever Loved a Woman?," "Little Wing," "It's Too Late."
  • Downer Ending: To an extent that would be ridiculous if it wasn't all true. Clapton fell into an addiction cycle that would last for another few years before his recovery. Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle crash. Bobby Whitlock and Clapton fell out and didn't communicate for years. Carl Radle died of liver complications from drink and drugs. Jim Gordon, an undiagnosed schizophrenic, murdered his mother with a hammer and remained in psychiatric care until his passing in 2023. And the sequence of tragedies extended to Rita Coolidge, who'd written the piano coda to "Layla" while she was dating Jim; in 2014 her sister Priscilla was killed in a murder suicide by husband Michael Seibert, and to add insult to injury his ashes were delivered to Rita to dispose of.
  • Epic Rocking: The studio versions of "Layla" and "Key to the Highway" break the seven minute barrier and count on their own, but several of the live cuts carry on for over ten minutes.
  • Evolving Music: The version of "Tell the Truth" recorded during the All Things Must Pass sessions and during early touring was much faster and looser than the final studio version. Likewise, Clapton's recurring cover of "Crossroads" returned in a slowed-down style.
  • Friendly Rival: Radle, Whitlock, and Gordon had all played on All Things Must Pass with George Harrison, Clapton's best friend and the hypotenuse in his love triangle with Patti Boyd.
  • Improv: Especially prevalent on the Live Album, but the studio "Key to the Highway" is loaded with improvised soloing as well.
  • Obsession Song: Applies to nearly every selection on Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, but especially the songs "Bell Bottom Blues" and "Layla."
  • One-Book Author: Or One Album Band in this case. Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is the group's sole studio album.
  • One-Woman Song: "Layla," one of the most famous in all of rock.
  • Precision F-Strike: Supposedly the origin story of "Key To The Highway." The band were jamming in the studio, Tom Dowd walked in, realized the engineer wasn't taping a group of virtuoso players playing a classic, and told him to "roll the fucking tape!", which is why the song fades in.
  • Shout-Out: From "Got to Get Better in a Little While":
    "Just like Sly, you got to take a stand!"
  • Sixth Ranger: Duane Allman played on all but three Layla tracks and some of the concerts, but declined an "official" membership with the band.
  • Something Blues: "Bell Bottom Blues."
  • Song Style Shift: "Layla" switches from an uptempo, guitar-based blues rock torch song to a piano-centered, gospel-sounding instrumental ballad.
  • Special Guest: Duane Allman for their only album plus a couple of concerts, as he declined becoming an "official" member.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: "Thorn Tree in the Garden" is a solo vocal performance by Whitlock.