Two Classic Albums -“Layla” and “All Things Must Pass” at 50
Is it we who are getting old, or rock music itself?
November marks the 50th anniversary of the release of two landmark rock albums, Eric Clapton’s Layla and other assorted love songs (released under the name Derek and the Dominos), released on November 9, and George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, released on November 27 (November 30 in the U.K.) These albums, and their creators, were inextricably linked in 1970, and have remained so via their legendary status in the half-century since.
To put things in the context of that year for Clapton and Harrison, it was a tumultuous time for each. The story is well-known that Clapton was not only trying to shed the superstar status he had earned with the highly-praised but now defunct group Cream, but he was also going through the anguish of being in love with Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd. His failed attempts to win her away from George — his best friend — was a major (but not only) factor in Clapton’s downward spiral into heavy drug use.
As for George Harrison, April of 1970 saw the official break-up of history’s greatest rock group, the Beatles, which, while it caused much grief for the rest of the world, allowed him to more fully pursue his songwriting and recording without dealing with the approval and cooperation — or lack thereof — by the other Beatles. He had been writing a great number of songs in the previous few years, dating back to White Album days, but couldn’t get most of them onto Beatles albums. By the end of May, soon after the Beatles’ breakup, he was at Abbey Road studios to begin recording tracks for All Things Must Pass (although there are outtakes of the Beatles helping George rehearse numbers that would appear on the album,including the title cut). “I was really a bit paranoid,” he said of the time. “There was a lot of negativism going down. I felt that whatever happened to my solo album, whether it was a flop or a success, I was going out on my own just to have a bit of peace of mind.” Phil Spector was on hand as producer, with Ringo present on drums, along with a number of top studio musicians of the day, including Beatle friends Klaus Voorman, Billy Preston, Gary Wright, and the Apple band Badfinger.
At the same time, Clapton received a phone call from Carl Radle, bass player for folk/blues singers Delaney & Bonnie and their band, which had recently disbanded. The group also included keyboardist Bobby Whitlock and drummer Jim Gordon. Clapton…