Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bobby Whitlock: Crucial piece in Derek and The Dominos

When you read Bobby Whitlock's autobiography, he talks about some very good times that were shared when he was a member of Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett's groundbreaking band in the late 1960s.  At the same time, it almost seems like a bit of fate that his association with Delaney & Bonnie would end, and a grand new association would grow out of it.

That association was with Eric Clapton.  With Clapton on guitar, Whitlock on keyboards and gutsy backing vocals (and sharing songwriting credits with Clapton on a number of tunes), Carl Radle on steady bass, and Jim Gordon on drums, they would play with George Harrison on the "quiet Beatle's" historic solo album "All Things Must Pass."

That was all seemingly a warmup to Clapton, Whitlock, Radle and Gordon coming out with Derek and The Dominos' landmark album, "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs" around the same time -- along with a monster slide guitarist named Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers Band, which helped add to the legend of this one album.

Whitlock himself talks about how crucial Allman was to the success of the album, and how much of a natural leader Allman was.

It makes the mind wonder what could have been had Derek and The Dominos lasted beyond one studio release.  But history can't be rewritten.  It plays out the way it is meant to play out.

Harrison had someone that his good friend Clapton wanted ... badly.  That someone was Pattie Boyd.  When you read Whitlock's autobiography, you read about the time the band was in France.  They engaged in a very playful egg fight when they were staying at a farmhouse owned by French artist Emile Théodore Frandsen de Schomberg.  Whitlock talks about the mess that was left in every room, and how cool the artist's son Emile was when he saw what was left throughout the house, which led in to him inviting the band to the art studio and getting to choose any of his father's artwork in the studio.

Whitlock talks about Clapton walking right over to the oil painting, "La Fille au Bouquet," which looked so much like Pattie Boyd and would become the cover art for the album, "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs."  He talks about how millions of people would come to know that painting as "Layla."

Of course, there are the lyrics to the song "Layla," telling the painful feelings behind one of the most famous true love stories in rock music history.

It ends with some of the most memorable lines out of the whole song, which has become a classic rock anthem.

"Let's make the best of the situation
Before I finally go insane.
Please don't say we'll never find a way
And tell me all my love's in vain."

But the album was more than that one song.  It would become known as -- even in Clapton's own words -- the greatest thing he had ever done, and he wondered out loud to Whitlock how he could top it.

Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle
It was Clapton and Allman trading fiery licks.  It was Radle and Gordon laying down a rock-solid beat for everyone to follow.  It was Whitlock playing some righteous keyboards and matching Clapton's vocals perfectly with some forever-memorable soulful singing that came straight from the gut.

And it all ended so beautifully with a Whitlock song that seems to mean the most to him out of anything Whitlock's ever written:  "Thorn Tree in The Garden," a song about a dog of Whitlock's that went missing.

There are all kinds of stories in Whitlock's autobiography about those days when he and his bandmates put together an album of songs that would rock the world for decades to come -- from appearing on The Johnny Cash Show to seeing the group come to a sad and sudden end.

It all came down to just "letting it flow."

MONDAY:  The introduction, music through Delaney & Bonnie and Friends
TODAY:  Moving on to Derek and The Dominos with "Layla"
WEDNESDAY:  The email interview with Bobby Whitlock
THURSDAY:  Bobby Whitlock, post-Dominos
FRIDAY:  Bobby Whitlock, "The Time Is Now"

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