Time Found and Lost

(Happy Thanksgiving to all amongst the readership. Given that this post is about leftovers, it’s seasonally appropriate.)

Writers often start things they don’t finish. And they take things that they thought were finished, tear them down, and build something new out of the parts. A good example involves something Eric Clapton worked up with Bonnie Bramlett while he was touring with Delaney and Bonnie. When “She Rides” was finished, however, Clapton and Bramlett decided that the backing track deserved better. So Clapton wrote new lyrics and recorded them over the existing track. The new song, “Let it Rain,” appeared on Clapton’s self-titled debut album in 1970. “She Rides” disappeared into the record company vault until 2006, when it was included on an expanded edition of Eric Clapton.

Here’s another: the magnificent “piano coda” that makes up the last half of “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos is one of the most beautiful pieces of music in rock. It was written by Dominos drummer Jim Gordon as a separate piece, and Eric Clapton was never supposed to hear it. He told a journalist that Gordon would sneak back into the studio when the band’s sessions were done, poaching time to make his own album. When Clapton heard Gordon’s piano piece, he said he’d continue to let Gordon use the studio on the band’s time if he could have that song as the ending for “Layla.” But that’s not the end of the story.

I have several Derek and the Dominos bootlegs in my collection, including a set called Into the Mystic: the Layla Sessions and More, which features alternates, jams, and other audio ephemera recorded about the time the band was making Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. The Internet is not very forthcoming with the provenance of the stuff. About all we know is that some of it was recorded during the formal sessions for Layla during the summer of 1970, some was recorded at other sessions in Miami (where Layla was recorded), some at Clapton’s house, some at Olympic Studios in London, and some heaven only knows where. Some of it is specifically dated to the spring of 1971, but much of it is undated. A few of the tracks got an official release on the 20th anniversary edition of Layla, and some appear in a different form on later Clapton projects; others don’t even have titles.

Tucked away on one of the six discs that make up Into the Mystic is a completed version of Jim Gordon’s song, the one that became the coda of “Layla.” “Time” is sung by an uncredited vocal group, none of whom sound like either Eric Clapton or Bobby Whitlock, with a very busy vocal arrangement that threatens to swamp the song entirely. It has little guitar at all that I can hear, but there’s a string section and some lovely piano. Clapton told the reporter he didn’t think Gordon ever finished his solo project, but I suspect “Time” might be a remnant of it. Although it’s billed to Derek & the Dominos thanks to its inclusion on Into the Mystic, it doesn’t sound like them at all. If you know anything more about it, help a brother out.

BTW, Jim Gordon’s story has one of the saddest endings in all of rock history. A student of the great drummer Hal Blaine, Gordon played on dozens of famous sessions from the early 60s to the late 70s, after which he became incapacitated by mental illness. In 1983, the voices in his head told him to murder his mother, which he did. Under California law at the time, he wasn’t permitted an insanity defense, and he remains in jail to this day. He was denied parole this past spring.

“Time”/Derek & the Dominos [?]

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2 responses

  1. I can pretty much do without any Clapton (“Layla” included) but “Let it Rain” is essential.

  2. our local FM classic rock station only plays the long version of “Layla” on their “no commercials” midday segment, when losing airtime is a moot point. Otherwise they play a version that sounds like it was edited with garden shears.

    As an aside, there is a progression in the piano backing of Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful” that is a direct cop from Gordon’s “Layla” coda.

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