In the early '70s, after the breakup of Blind Faith and his departure from Delaney & Bonnie, Eric Clapton made a last attempt at being "just one of the boys in the band" with Derek and the Dominos. It was his most inspired of those efforts, although the band only managed one studio album and a tour before falling apart. Powered by the dual guitars of Clapton and Duane Allman, the band created a raw, emotional sound. In tandem with Duane Allman, the two guitars wailed with pure, naked emotion, notably on the album's evergreen "Layla," which became a classic-rock evergreen.
The band initially formed in the spring of 1970 with Clapton on guitar and vocals, plus three other former members of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends: Bobby Whitlock on keyboards, Carl Radle on bass, and Jim Gordon on drums. (The quartet had formed the basic band for Clapton's solo debut Eric Clapton, recorded from late 1969 to early 1970 but not released until August 1970.) The group debuted live at the Lyceum Ballroom in London on June 14 and undertook a summer tour of England. From late August to early October, they recorded the celebrated double album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs with guitarist Duane Allman sitting in. They then returned to touring in England and the U.S., playing their final date on December 6.
The Layla album was successful in the U.S., where "Bell Bottom Blues" and the title song charted as singles in abbreviated versions, but it did not chart in the U.K. The Dominos reconvened to record a second album in May 1971, but split up without completing it. Clapton then retired from the music business, nursing a heroin addiction.
In his absence, and in the wake of Allman's death in a motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971, the Dominos and Layla gained in stature. Re-released in 1972 as a single at its full seven-minute length in connection with the compilation album History of Eric Clapton, "Layla" hit the Top Ten in the U.S. and the U.K. (It would return to the U.K. Top Ten in 1982.) A live album, In Concert, taken from the 1970 U.S. tour, was also a strong seller.
Time has only added to the renown of the group, which is now rated among Eric Clapton's most outstanding achievements. The 1988 Eric Clapton box set retrospective Crossroads featured material from the abortive second album sessions. The Layla Sessions was a 1990 box set expanding that album across three full-lengths, and Live at the Fillmore (1994) offered an expanded version of the In Concert album. ~ William Ruhlmann