My Top 1000 Posts #205: Layla

Yeah, I know, there are a couple strikes against the 1970 Derek And The Dominos chestnut. First, Eric Clapton is kind of a dick (ranging from his documented racism to his more recent anti-vax inanity). Second, this song is right up there with "Stairway To Heaven" in the beaten-to-death-by-classic-rock-radio category, making it something I rarely crave hearing.

But, still, it's a song I won't turn off on the rare occasions when I'm listening to the radio, or when I dust off the Dominos' sole LP every few years. Of course, the best parts are those that Clapton happened to be least involved with. There's the killer riff, which was apparently composed by Duane Allman--and, frankly, I spend most of the first half of the song waiting for Clapton to finish his vocal bits so we can get back to the riff and those wailing paired guitars.

And then, of course, there's the extended piano coda--the truly breathtaking part of the song that's ultimately responsible for the song making this list. And that portion of the song has its own sordid saga. Clapton heard drummer Jim Gordon playing it, and demanded it be appended to the song, supposedly over Gordon's objections. (Gordon's tragic backstory is a thing unto itself.) And then there's the fact that apparently Gordon didn't even write the damn thing--he'd "borrowed" it from his ex-girlfriend, singer Rita Coolidge, without giving her credit. (Coolidge's sister Patricia, married to R&B legend Booker T. Jones, recorded a version of the piano melody as part of their song "Time" a few years later--a gorgeous tune that's inexplicably out of print.)

These days, it's hard to hear the Gordon/Coolidge part of the song without immediately associating it with Goodfellas, where Martin Scorsese repurposed it into perhaps the single greatest needle-drop moments in cinematic history.

Still, for all the song's drama and baggage and mental associations--and let's not even get into Clapton's horrific slow, acoustic version that we'll be stuck hearing in elevators and supermarkets for eternity--it's still an absolute banger, one of the obligatory classic rock dinosaurs I almost begrudgingly love.

Nifty cast-of-all-stars live version from '84:
That incredible Goodfellas segment:
Priscilla and Booker T. Jones' song "Time" (off 1973's Chronicles LP):