100 Greatest Guitar Solos: No. 14 "Layla" (Eric Clapton, Duane Allman)

by Guitar World Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2013 at 4:40pm

Seven minutes of pure, quivering passion, “Layla” was Eric Clapton’s magnificent scream of unrequited love for Patti Boyd, wife of his best friend—George Harrison.

“He grabbed one of my chicks,” said Clapton of Harrison, “and so I thought I’d get even with him one day, on a petty level, and it grew from that.

She was trying to attract his attention and so she used me, and I fell madly in love with her. [Just] listen to the words of ‘Layla’: ‘I tried to give you consolation/When your old man had let you down/Like a fool, I fell in love with you/You turned my whole world upside down.”

Clapton poured all of himself into the intense, majestic “Layla,” which he named after the classical Persian love poem, “The Story of Layla and the Majnun.” The song began as a ballad, but quickly became a rocker, with Duane Allman reportedly coming up with the opening riff which would alter the tune. With Allman’s majestic slide guitar prodding him on, Clapton unleashed some of his most focused, emotive playing.

“The song and the whole album is definitely equal parts Eric and Duane,” says producer Tom Dowd, who introduced the two guitar titans, then sat back and watched them soar together.

“There had to be some sort of telepathy going on because I’ve never seen spontaneous inspiration happen at that rate and level. One of them would play something, and the other reacted instantaneously. Never once did either of them have to say, ‘Could you play that again, please?’ It was like two hands in a glove. And they got tremendously off on playing with each other.”

Nowhere was the interplay between Clapton and Allman more sublime than on “Layla,” which, says Dowd, features six tracks of overlapping guitar: “There’s an Eric rhythm part; three tracks of Eric playing harmony with himself on the main riff; one of Duane playing that beautiful bottleneck; and one of Duane and Eric locked up, playing countermelodies.”

The tension of the main song finds release in a surging, majestic coda, which was recorded three weeks after the first part and masterfully spliced together by Dowd. The section begins with drummer Jim Gordon’s piano part, echoed at various times by Clapton on the acoustic.

Allman takes over with a celestial slide solo, beneath which Clapton plays a subtle countermelody. As the song fades out after a blissful climax, Allman has the last word, playing his signature “bird call” lick.

Next: 13) "Texas Flood"


Add a Comment
0 Comments

Similar Guitar News

The Rolling Stones Premiere "Brown Sugar" Outtake Featuring Eric Clapton on Slide Guitar (6/3/2015)
The Rolling Stones have released a mesmerizing outtake of "Brown Sugar," featuring none other than Eric Clapton on slide guitar. It will appear on the upcoming reissue of the band's legendary 1971 album, Sticky Fingers. The outtake was recorded...
John Lennon and Eric Clapton Perform The Beatles' "Yer Blues" in Toronto — Video (9/14/2015)
This week in 1969—September 13, 1969, in fact—John Lennon performed at Varsity Stadium in Toronto, Canada, with a hastily assembled backing band. The band, which performed under the "Plastic Ono Band" moniker, included Eric Clapton on lead guita...
George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr Reunite to Play The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" in 1987 — Video (7/29/2015)
As any rock fan knows, the Beatles never got back together. What you might not know is that even partial Beatles reunions and "near misses" were frustratingly rare back when such things mattered (prior to George Harrison's death in 2001). Which ...
Essential Guitar Licks: Slippery Duane Allman-Style Mixolydian Slide Lick (9/25/2015)
We all know a great lick when we hear one—Jimmy Page’s solo breaks in “Whole Lotta Love” and Mark Knopfler’s blistering triads in “Sultans of Swing,” for example. Moments like these grab your attention and aurally brand your ears forever. Or, ...
Eric Clapton's 10 Best Guitar Moments (8/14/2015)
There was a time when the name Eric Clapton meant one thing and one thing only: guitar god. His six-string exploits with the Yardbirds, followed by a pair of mind-blowing 1966 albums—Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton and Fresh Cream—briefly put ...
Eric Clapton Plays “Cocaine” at Royal Albert Hall in a Preview from 'Slowhand at 70' — Video (9/10/2015)
Eric Clapton has just posted the first full-length clip from his upcoming concert film, Eric Clapton: Live at the Royal Albert Hall—Slowhand at 70. It shows him and his band playing the JJ Cale classic “Cocaine,” and you can watch it below. Slow...
Eric Clapton Borrows The Beatles' "Day Tripper" Riff in Cover of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" (9/22/2015)
The late Ray Charles—the great American singer, songwriter, musician and composer—was born on this date (September 23) in 1930. No, this factoid doesn't have a lot to do with guitars. It does, however, remind me of John Mayall and the Bluesbrea...
Dear Guitar Hero: Todd Rundgren Talks Eric Clapton's Psychedelic Gibson SG, Changing Influences and More (6/16/2015)
He’s a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer who’s had his own hits and worked with such artists as Cheap Trick, Sean Cassidy and Meat Loaf, but what Guitar World readers really want to know is… A lot of what I’ve heard of your new albu...
Cream-Era Eric Clapton Explains How His Gibson 'The Fool' SG Works — Video (9/17/2015)
Did you know "the electronic guitar is often dismissed as nothing but a jangling noise machine incapable of subtlety or delicacy"? Neither did I—until I saw this 1968 video of Eric Clapton sitting peacefully on stage prior to a Cream show as bas...
Eric Clapton and Duane Allman's Isolated Guitar Tracks from "Layla" (4/13/2015)
We recently shared our story about Eric Clapton's isolated lead guitar track from the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." This, of course, reminded us of the equally fascinating lead guitar and vocal track from Derek and the Dominos' classi...
‘A Fool to Care’: Boz Scaggs Discusses His New Album, Working with Duane Allman and More (4/3/2015)
For his new album, A Fool to Care, Boz Scaggs once again teams up with producer Steve Jordan and puts his distinctive spin on a host of classic songs—plus a handful of new originals. The album, the follow-up to 2013's Memphis, features a guest a...
Eric Clapton to Be Inducted in the Blues Hall of Fame (2/19/2015)
Eric Clapton has been tapped for induction in the Blues Hall of Fame. He joins Fifties rock and roller Little Richard and Atlanta blues singer Tommy Brown as a 2015 inductee. In selecting Clapton, the Blues Foundation noted not only his many mus...
The Yardbirds Announce New Lineup — Including Pre-Eric Clapton Guitarist Top Topham — and 2015 Tour Dates (2/10/2015)
They've had Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page in their ranks—and let's not forget the late Gypie Mayo and Hellecasters guitarist Jerry Donahue. Now the Yardbirds are back in action, with a set of tour dates and a new lineup that features th...
Duane Allman’s Three Beloved Les Pauls Are Reunited Onstage for the Allman Brothers’ Final Stand (12/10/2014)
Duane Allman had three primary Les Pauls during his time with the Allman Brothers Band. The 1957 goldtop he played on the band’s first two albums as well as most of the Derek and the Dominos Layla sessions has been on display at the Big House M...
Eric Clapton Premieres Jack Bruce Tribute Song, "For Jack" (10/27/2014)
As we reported over the weekend, former Cream bassist Jack Bruce died Saturday, October 25, at age 71. Earlier today, his former Bluesbreakers, Powerhouse and Cream bandmate, Eric Clapton, shared a brief instrumental track in honor of Bruce. You...