Layla: A Live Comparison

I’ve spoken to many people who consider Layla to be a great song because of Duane Allman, but the band played the song live without Duane on a number of occasions. It’s important to note that even though Duane played a huge part during the recording of the Layla album sessions, he was never a member of Derek and the Dominos. When the band came back from recording Layla in Miami they continued with their UK tour before packing up the gear and heading to America. Now it wasn’t until mid-late November that the band started to play Layla at shows. Looking back it’s hard to see why the band didn’t play Layla as soon as they finished recording the album, but at the time the band were still finding their feet and Layla was far from being the landmark recording that we all see it as today. As the Dominos embarked on their US tour, the chemistry between the members grew and grew as each show went by. By mid-late November Layla found it’s way into the setlist and would remain there for when Duane joined the band at the start of December, however it would be dropped again before the tour wound up on the 6th December in Selden, NY.

The following recordings of Layla are taken from two separate shows played two days apart, the first without Duane and the second with Duane.

Layla: Live at Painters Mill Music Fair, Owings Mills, Maryland. 29th November 1970.

Based on available recordings, this version is by far one of the best versions of Layla the band ever played live. At the time of the show, Derek and the Dominos had been touring the US for over a month as a four piece so naturally the chemistry was as good as it ever was while the band were together. Eric in particular, as you can hear from the start of the recording, takes Duane’s lick and makes it his own. The only noticable difference is the lack of the riff during the chorus sections but the solo is up there with the best Eric ever played.

Layla: Live at Curtis Hixon Hall, Tampa, Florida. 1st December 1970. Featuring Duane Allman.

Recorded in Tampa, Duane’s guitar playing turned Layla into a completely different animal as Eric was able to sit back and play the chords while allowing Duane to solo, and vice-versa. This version of Layla was the first time the band played it live with Duane outside of the studio and compared to the version the band played two days earlier, you can sense Eric and Duane getting to grips with each other. The addition of a second guitar player changes the dymanics of any band significantly. But that said, Duane’s slide playing from the Tampa performance is exquisite and shows you that his presence added more fire to an already on fire band.

One of the reasons I am writing a book on the band is to make people more aware of them as a live unit. Everyone talks about the Layla album but apart from the Fillmore East shows (and live album), Derek and the Dominos are a forgotten live band. My book will change that. A lot of people think that the Dominos couldn’t have succeeded without Duane’s inclusion, yet the recording of Layla with no Duane is proof that they were a well established band and as a four piece they had their own sound. Afterall, Duane was never a full member of Derek and the Dominos. However there’s certainly no arguing that Duane added something else to the mix whenever he played with them, whether it was in the studio or live on stage. The two versions, whilst very different in terms of dynamics, show what kind of a band Derek and the Dominos were.

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5 thoughts on “Layla: A Live Comparison

  1. Bill Bowman says:

    Eric killed Layla, as an only guitarist in 1985 at Birmingham. No, Duane is not needed for Layla to be a great song and for Eric to play his best during it.

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  2. Matt says:

    Tom, great piece here, I really enjoyed. I agree about Derek and the Dominos being great even when Duane isn’t present. Bill, I agree that Duane isn’t needed for Layla to be a great song; however I think Eric generally plays at his best when he has another great guitarist with him. I’m not trying to trivialize Eric’s ability at all because he is one of the top 3 greatest of all time (in my humble opinion, and I can’t wait to see him on May 1st) but I think when he has another great player with him it pushes him and he kills it even more than normal. You can hear it even when he plays with the Allmans in 2009 at the Beacon and whenever Steve Winwood or other great talents join him.

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  3. Tim Yaquinto says:

    Tom, as a guitarist (& then slide) for over 50 years I seem to recall a 3 piece group CREAM that layed a huge foundation for that time. I also watched The Allman Brothers many times in the park while spending my first 2 college years @ Mercer Univ in Macon GA. This was 1967 & waaay before they hit it big. I saw them right after they did The live N.Y. Filmore East Album, in Atlanta. I’ve seen much in my time but NEVER anything like that. It’s the ONLY concert I’ve ever been to where the audience was SO blown away that NO ONE could speak (literally) after they ended with Mt Jam. This went on for at least 15 minutes as everyone was leaving until I finally broke the ice in the men’s room while @ a urinal and said “well, is anybody gonna’ say a fuckin’ word “. The whole room cracked up. We were ALL in a daze.
    Also, I want to mention a quote from Eric about Duane after Layla. He was asked by a reporter what he thought of Duane Allman. He answered, “He’s the best fuckin’ rhythm player I’ve ever met”. Of course, all the untrained idiots out there took that as a horrible insult. But anyone schooled in guitar knows one must fully understand strong rhythm to then execute great lead ! I just saw and spoke w/ Greg @ his concert at The FL Theatre. We talked of those old times in Macon, GA. He was dead on his feet. After that transplant & this concert, he could barely speak. But when I left, He actually got up & hugged me. Times I’ll never forget ol’ Buddy. I later found The Hot Club of France from Paris along the way w/ Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli. I met Steph in N.Y.C. while he was playing @ Reno Sweeny’s, We became friends and I produced an album with him, Vassar Clements outta’ Nashville and incredible Jazz guitarist from Great Britain, Martin Taylor along with a fantastic rhythm section. It ended up winning a Grammy for “Best Instrumental Album of the Year”. Contact me if you wish: tyfiddler@comcast.net or 904.982.6228 Tim Yaquinto

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  4. Richard Hunt says:

    I never considered Duane a member of the band. He was a guest player. The Domino’s were a full force of their own. George Harrison had them as the house band on his solo album “All Things Must Pass.” They sounded great with Duane, and it was nice on the album, but when I saw them at the Fillmore, it didn’t even enter the equation, because the album hadn’t even been released yet. They were so powerful and tight as a unit and performing band, I thought they were the future of progressive rock. We were lucky to have them, and all credit goes to the original members, Eric, Bobby, Carl, and Jim.

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  5. Don L says:

    I think you’re right that Duane was never a full part of the band. And the four Dominos rocked–no question of that. Sky Dog took the band to a different place, a higher place in my opinion. The interplay between the two of them is transcendent. I can see why Clapton did the shuffle arrangement of Layla–so he could play the song without thinking of Duane.

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