Eric Clapton Surprises Fans With First Electric “Layla” Performance In 6 Years
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Clapton Goes Electric Once Again For “Layla”
There’s nothing in the world quite like an Eric Clapton show. You’re not just getting music from wherever he is at any point in his career – you’re getting the best he has to offer dating all the way back to his earliest projects, but for the past 6 years there’s been one crucial part of Clapton’s musical past that’s been missing.
Yep, we’re talking about “Layla”.
Not the stripped down acoustic jam that’s been played for the last few years, we’re talking about the fast and furious electric version from Derek and the Dominos, featuring late Allman Brothers Band virtuoso Duane Allman. For nearly a decade that version’s been missing from Clapton’s live shows to the disappointment of fans hoping to hear it again, and with no real explanation as to why he hasn’t switched out his acoustic version in exchange for the original electric version, it’s been a bit of a mystery as to when it would make an appearance again.
This week, fans had to wonder no more. For the first time in 6 years, Eric Clapton picked up his electric guitar at Tokyo’s Budokan and at long last, played “Layla” the way it was always meant to be played.
A Look Back At “Layla”
Of all of rock and roll’s most famous collaborations, the one between Eric Clapton and the late Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers Band is one of our favorites. The two worked together on 1970’s “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos, with Clapton providing lead vocals and Allman working his magic on the slide guitar; looking back, Clapton calls his late friend’s role in “Layla” ‘instrumental to the development to the song’ and hearing the story behind the magic they created in the studio together, we’re inclined to agree.
Featuring six tracks of overlapping guitar – Eric’s rhythm part; three tracks of Eric playing harmony with himself; one of Duane playing slide guitar; and one of Duane and Eric together, playing countermelodies – “Layla” was originally slated to be a ballad reflecting Clapton’s unrequited love for George Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd until Duane got ahold of it, coming up with a guitar riff that Eric says was ‘pretty much a direct lift’ from an Albert King blues standard:
“He came up with this riff that was pretty much a direct lift from an Albert King song, ‘As The Years Go Passing By,’ from the Stax album Born Under a Bad Sign.
It’s a slow blues and there’s a line that goes, ‘There is nothing I can do, if you leave me here to cry,’ and we used that.”
Once Duane worked it out, “Layla” went from a mournful ballad to a blues soaked rock and roll classic, incorporating that gorgeous Southern rock sound with Clapton’s own blues oriented sound for one hell of a rock and roll classic. Sure, Eric absolutely crushed it years later when he turned “Layla” into an acoustic jam, but there’s nothing like the magical guitar interplay – or Duane’s iconic guitar solo – between these two friends that crafted the magic of the original!
Thankfully, one fan had the foresight to film the performance as it happened (and given how excited he was, we’ll forgive him for not flipping his phone to landscape mode…this time, anyway). You can hear the excitement as the crowd realizes what’s happening, and it’s apparent to everyone in the room that they’re witnessing something incredibly special.
Check it out in the video just below this article.
What’s more, this was the only time so far that Clapton played “Layla” properly during his 5 night run at Budokan. There’s still one more night to go before Clapton’s Budokan residency ends on Saturday, April 20th, so here’s hoping he brings the original “Layla” one last time!