Live Aid 1985: Eric Clapton Performs “Layla” In Front Of 100,000 People
Eric Clapton in Live Aid 1985 - Live Aid / Youtube
Eric “Slowhand” Clapton wrote the song “Layla” with Jim Gordon for Derek and the Dominos’ only studio album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. The song was inspired by a 7th-century Arabian love story that later formed the roots of The Story of Layla and Manjun in the 12th-century by Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi.
The opening riff was taken from Albert King’s As The Years Go Passing By but in a much slower form. Bobby Whitlock, the keyboardist and co-writer of the album, said, “Eric took the song to Miami with him. We’d gone through it before. Eric brought that seven-note lick with him to the recording sessions. And then Duane stirred ’em up.”
Duane Allman and the Allman Brothers Band were instrumental in kicking the Layla sessions to full gear, as Clapton was introduced to them by producer Tom Dowd. The band was invited to the studio where they jammed for about 18 hours, and within days, had Duane play in the sessions altogether, rejuvenating Clapton’s drive in the sessions.
Allman improved the song’s run by suggesting to speed up the main riff, and Dowd also says it was complemented by layering six guitar parts on the song. “There’s an Eric rhythm part, three tracks of Eric playing harmony and the main riff, one of Duane playing that beautiful bottleneck, and one of Duane and Eric locked up, playing counter melodies. There had to be some kind 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 would react instantaneously. Not once did either of them have to say: ‘Could you play that again, please?’. It was like two hands in a glove,” the producer said.
Watch Eric Clapton perform “Layla” in 1985 with Phil Collins on drums in Live Aid, where he dished it out in front of over 100,000 people.