Hi everyone. Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing. But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?
(Image found online. Original source unknown.)
I know we are in a serious situation, but I need a break from the gloom, doom and bullying by way of hoarding. Music has always been my refuge and watching those beautiful Italians singing to each other from their balconies reaffirmed my belief that music is the answer. So until the old normal returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day. And if this helps anyone else, even better.
Today is a huge milestone, both in my world and the music world as a whole. Fifty years ago today-August 22, 1970-the recording sessions for the album, “Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs”, by Derek & The Dominos began in Miami, FL. Four days later, August 26, engineer Tom Dowd took the group to see an Allman Brothers Band concert. According to drummer Butch Trucks, that was the one time he saw his bandmate, guitarist Duane Allman, nervous when he spotted the Dominos’ Eric Clapton in the front row. After the show Dowd introduced the two guitarists and an all night jam session ensued. When it ended, Allman asked if he could stay to listen to the recording work. Clapton agreed on one condition: that Allman play on the album. He did and that is how two of the most brilliant guitar players in the world teamed up to bring us one of the most unforgettable and iconic riffs ever on the album’s title track. Sa-woon.
I would not discover this album, namely the title track at first, until nearly a decade later, when I was about 14 years old. But I will never forget the first time I heard it (see Day 86) because it completely changed my life and what I thought music should sound like from that point on. But when I went to buy this masterpiece, I could not find it. My local record store guy told me it was out of print!!! I had no idea that could even happen!!! Since this was years before I could drive to other stores in search of this gem, and decades before the world had the internet & ebay, I was relegated to trying to record the song from the radio. I mostly ended up with a dozen clips of the piano coda.
A few months later, I started babysitting for a couple around my neighborhood. The wife knew I loved music and encouraged me to bring my records over to listen to after the kids were in bed. The first time I went there, her husband showed me how to use the stereo system and told me to feel free to listen to any of his records. His collection consisted of 237 albums. It was like a record store right there in the living room. When the kids were asleep, I put my copy of “Born To Run” (BTR) on the stereo & began looking through the records which were not in any particular order. I put several aside I wanted to listen to before coming across an album with an abstract painting of a blonde haired woman on it. There was something covering half her face which turned out to be a bouquet of flowers. It was very pretty but it did not have a name or title on it.
The album opened up but there were not any identifying names inside either, just a collage of pictures of people I did not recognize. When I turned it over, I saw a picture of a guitar in the middle of the floor surrounded by an array of several other objects, but I still did not see a name. What I did see were the album song listings below the picture. It was a double album and when I got to side 4 track 3 & read the title, “Layla”, I said it over and over as if I was trying to convince myself it was real. I remember thinking could there be another song with the same name other than the one I could not find because there is no way the actual “Layla” album could just fall into my lap like this, right? Then my eye went up to the top of the back cover where I finally saw the title of the album:
Top (L) The front and back covers of the “Layla” album. The picture on the front,”La Jeune Fille au Bouquet” (Young Girl with Bouquet) is by Émile Théodore Frandsen. Top (R) is the inside of the album. The bottom picture is my framed copy of the iconic album. (Images found online. Original sources unknown.)
I do not remember what happened immediately after that. I might have passed out for several minutes, I might have let out a huge internal scream, I cannot really recall. But I do recollect that my hands were shaking and I did not know what day it was. When I regained my clarity, I was in complete denial that I had found the actual “Layla” album. I opened it up to look at the pictures of the band again but I did not see anyone that looked like Clapton from photos I saw of him previously, so I still refused to believe my luck. Then I took the albums out to read the song titles and saw his name credited under several of them. Finally I decided the only way to know for sure was to put the record on and listen to it. So I took BTR off the turntable (sorry Bruce) and put on side 4. As I held the needle over track 3, I said a prayer that if this was indeed the real “Layla” song I had been searching for, I would never ask for anything again. Ever. I put the needle down, closed my eyes and held my breath. Then I heard that unsurpassable delicious opening riff and I swooned. And said thank you for the gift of such a sublime song, for stumbling upon this album and for everyone involved with making this musical paragon.
I stood there and listened to that one track for the next 90 minutes or so until the parents came home. When the wife walked in she asked if I was alright because she said I was completely flushed. I picked up the album to show her what I was listening to when her husband walked in as well. He just looked at me, nodded and said “Clapton”. And I nodded right back.
I asked if I could come back the next day to tape the album but he told me to take it home and bring it back next week when they wanted me to babysit again. He also gave me his copy of “Slowhand” to take as well so I could have a Clapton double play party. I had a new hero helping me learn more about one of my musical heroes. It was exhilarating to find another kindred spirit who got music & all its wonder the way I did, the way the first cool autumn wind feels after the endless humid days of summer.
Once I listened to the whole “Layla” album I discovered other gems like “Bell Bottom Blues” (See Day 81), “It’s Too Late” and “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad“. On that last one, Allman’s solo segues into “Joy To The World” (yes, the Christmas carol. Give it a listen. You hear it at the 3:45 mark of the song and it is stupendous).
The last time I babysat for that couple before I left for college, the husband gave me that album as a going away gift. I still have it, in a frame on a wall next to the two other albums that changed my life, BTR and “Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul”. Aside from a handful of family heirlooms, those three records would be the things I would save in the event of a catastrophe. It’s only right. After all, they saved me. How could I not do the same for them?
L-R: Allman with Derek & The Dominos in Miami, FL 1970 (L-R): Duane Allman, Jim Gordon (drums), Carl Radle (bass), Bobby Whitlock (piano & vocals) & Eric Clapton, center (guitar & vocals).. (Image found online. Original source unknown.)
Clapton & Allman in Miami, FL 1970. (Image found online. Original source unknown.)
Derek & The Dominos: “Layla” (1970, written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon).
I do not own the rights to anything. I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.