On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)
We’re heading to the UK today, dear reader, and we are back in the company of Eric Clapton. He’s had a busy career so far having been in The Yardbirds, Cream and Blind Faith as well as collaborations with other groups. In 1970 Clapton joined with Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle and Jim Gordon to form Derek & The Dominos. Their career was brief with the group disbanding just a year later but 1001 Songs has still dug up an absolute gem from their few recordings.
There are two elements that inspired Layla. The first was The Story of Layla and Majnum by 12th century Persian poet, Nizami Ganjavi. The story of a man who falls for a princess and goes mad when she is married to someone else resonated strongly with Eric Clapton. He was good friends with George Harrison from The Beatles but had fallen in love with Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd. Layla was born out of Clapton’s desire for Boyd. In the song, the narrator is addressing Layla of the title and beseeching her to reciprocate his love before he goes insane. She doesn’t seem forthcoming and the narrator is increasingly desperate, on his knees pleading with her. The second half of the track is a long instrumental outro, memorably used to great effect in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 masterpiece, Goodfellas.
The opening guitar riff to Layla is one of the most famous in music history and it sounds stunning to this day. Clapton’s vocal work is fabulous here, capturing the tortured narrator perfectly. He was clearly singing from the heart here and it all came pouring out. The instrumental second half is just as good as you can sit back and savour the whole track which is sublime rock. Layla wouldn’t gain acclaim until Derek & The Dominos had separated in 1971. Clapton dealt with drug addiction for a time but he and Pattie Boyd later married in 1979. They would separate in 1988 but the legacy of their union would be not just Layla but Wonderful Tonight, not to mention the songs George Harrison wrote for her such as Something. An inspiring woman.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (1968)
The Kinks – Days (1968)
King Crimson – The Court of the Crimson King (1969)
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)