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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.

"The basic concept of Derek and the Dominos was that we didn't want any horns, we didn't want no chicks - we wanted a rock 'n' roll band."
Bobby Whitlock

"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."
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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.

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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, killed his mother with a hammer and remains institutionalized to this day. 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.

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Principal Members (Founding members in bold):

  • Eric Clapton - lead guitar, vocals (1970-1971)
  • Jim Gordon - drums, percussion, piano, tabla, snare (1970-1971)
  • Dave Mason - guitar (1970)
  • Carl Radle - bass, percussion (1970-1971, died 1980)
  • Bobby Whitlock - keyboards, vocals, organ, piano, guitar (1970-1971)


Studio and Live Discography:


Tropes:

  • 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. And Jim Gordon, an undiagnosed schizophrenic, murdered his mother with a hammer and remains in psychiatric care to this day.
  • Dream Team: The band functioned as one on its own (especially Clapton and Allman playing together), but the one-off addition of Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins on Cash's television show especially counts.
  • 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.


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