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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The group Eric Clapton called his “make-believe band”

Throughout the 1960s, Eric Clapton had a difficult time staying in any band for a prolonged period of time. His stint with The Yardbirds lasted roughly a year and a half, after which time he spent a year on and off with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. Cream would last around two years, while Blind Faith would only be around for the 1969 calendar year.

As Clapton was descending to one of his lowest personal points in 1970, he decided to give another band a try. Derek & the Dominos came together after Clapton had met Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle, and Jim Gordon while touring with Delaney & Bonnie. The quartet were drawn together musically, but also because no one turned their nose up at the hard drugs that were a major part of Clapton’s lifestyle at the time.

“We didn’t have little bits of anything. There were no grams around, let’s just put it like that. [Layla producer] Tom [Doyd] couldn’t believe it, the way we had these big bags laying out everywhere,” Whitlock remembered. “I’m almost ashamed to tell it, but it’s the truth. It was scary, what we were doing, but we were just young and dumb and didn’t know. Cocaine and heroin, that’s all and Johnny Walker.”

The recording of Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs proved to be a haze of music and drugs. “We were staying in this hotel on the beach, and whatever drug you wanted, you could get it at the newsstand,” Clapton would later detail about the album’s recording. “The girl would just take your orders.”

Due to the unstable nature of all four members’ drug habits, plus the critical and commercial failure of Layla, Derek & the Dominos were done by 1971. An attempt to record a second album quickly dissolved as Clapton spiralled into intense heroin addiction. Ultimately, Clapton believed that the band weren’t a solid enough unit to have been able to survive.

“We were a make-believe band. We were all hiding inside it. Derek and the Dominos – the whole thing,” Clapton claimed in 1985. “So it couldn’t last. I had to come out and admit that I was being me. I mean, being Derek was a cover for the fact that I was trying to steal someone else’s wife. That was one of the reasons for doing it, so that I could write the song, and even use another name for Pattie. So Derek and Layla – it wasn’t real at all.”

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