WCSX Classic Cuts
Derek and the Dominos: “Layla”
The Hook: It’s not your typical rock song — they’re playing in two different keys.
Album: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
Writers: Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon
Stats: The original edited single peaked at number-51 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971. Reissued a year later, it went to number-10. Clapton’s 1992 Unplugged version reached number-12 on the Hot 100.
Background: There’s plenty to say about “Layla.” How Eric Clapton wrote the lyrics about his then-unrequited love for George Harrison’s wife, Pattie. How drummer Jim Gordon, and not keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, played its famous piano coda. Or how Gordon might have “borrowed” that melody from a song by the sister of his girlfriend at the time, Rita Coolidge. But its producer, the late Tom Dowd, had his own take on the track — and why it stands out from most other rock songs you’ve heard.
Producer Tom Dowd on why “Layla” stands out from most rock songs. OC:…this key, whoops. :22
“Most rock bands get in one key, a guitar players key or a singer’s key and they stomp on three or four chords, and once in a while they’ll give you an innovative chord. Here’s ‘Layla,’ where they’re playing in two different keys – completely. Why are they playing in two different keys? Well, you can’t play this lick on a guitar in this key, so here’s a good key for it, but I can only sing it in this key. Whoops!”