Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, “Mean Old World”

The blazing harmonica work of Chicago blues legend Marion “Little Walter” Jacobs influenced a generation of harp players, from Mick Jagger to Magic Dick. Little Walter also sang, wrote and played guitar, working as a sideman while scoring hit records in the 1950s. One of those hits that was credited to him as the writer is “Mean Old World,” which was covered by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman during the Derek and the Dominos sessions for the album Layla and Assorted Love Songs.

Even though “Mean Old World” was recorded during the Layla sessions, the song stayed in the can until the release of the compilation album Duane Allman: An Anthology in 1972, about a year after Allman died in a motorcycle accident. Clapton and Allman both played acoustic slide in open G tuning on the song, with Clapton singing. Lyrically, Clapton stayed true to Little Walter’s words, singing the song practically verbatim, at least until he got to the last line. Where Clapton sang:

Sometime I wonder why can your love be so cold Sometime I wonder why can your love be so cold

Guess you don’t want me, have to pack my things and go

Little Walter sang:

Sometime I wonder why can your love be so cold Sometime I wonder why can your love be so cold Seem like to me you don't want me I'm just an unlucky so-and-so

This is one more example of how blues lyrics change over time, modified from version to version by what a singer remembers or thinks he heard in his... Sign In to Keep Reading

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