Derek & The Dominos, “Bell Bottom Blues”

Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs is Eric Clapton’s tortured love letter to the wife of his friend, George Harrison. The album has often been defined by the short-lived guitar partnership of Clapton and Duane Allman.

But in a recent interview with American Songwriter, Bobby Whitlock remembers it differently.

“Duane’s completely out of tune. I mean, they put two slide guitarists at the end of ‘Layla’ and both of ‘em are out of tune. Someone asked me the other day, they said, ‘Well, do you think it would have been a different album if Duane had not been on it?’ I said ‘Yeah, it’d be a different album. Eric’s a great slide player, and all the playing would have been exactly in tune.’”

Before Allman joined the sesssions, songs like “Bell Bottom Blues” and “I Looked Away” had been cut without him, with Clapton’s overdubbed army of guitars in place of the organic performance aspect of the later songs that feature Allman.

Clapton poured his heart into the songs on Layla. The five co-writes with Whitlock – songs like “Anyday” and the bluesy “Tell The Truth” – fuse high-energy rock with some of the most emotional electric blues of all time.

The blues covers tell a dark tale too. Clapton would never again present the blues with such urgency as on the album versions of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” and the Big Bill Broonzy staple “Key To The Highway.”

“Bell Bottom Blues,” the only song on the album Clapton wrote entirely by himself, is a portrait of a man on the brink of collapse. After the record’s release, Clapton sank into depression and addiction. As Whitlock recalls, one of the great all-time rock and roll bands “didn’t break up, it just kind of dissipated…Eric locked himself away for a couple of years, and that was that.”

“Bell Bottom Blues”

Bell bottom blues, you made me cry.
I don’t want to lose this feeling.
And if I could choose a place to die
It would be in your arms.

Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?
I’d gladly do it because
I don’t want to fade away.
Give me one more day, please.
I don’t want to fade away.
In your heart I want to stay.

It’s all wrong, but it’s all right.
The way that you treat me baby.
Once I was strong but I lost the fight.
You won’t find a better loser.

Bell bottom blues, don’t say goodbye.
I’m sure we’re gonna meet again,
And if we do, don’t you be surprised
If you find me with another lover.

I don’t want to fade away.
Give me one more day please.
I don’t want to fade away.
In your heart I long to stay.

Written by Eric Clapton