Album I can't live without: Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs
The album I can't live without
My love for Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs was a culmination of my interest in Eric Clapton's personal life and musical virtuosity.
My love of music in general was probably something that I was born with, but it was my older brother (and his amazing record collection) that really ignited my passion for great tunes.
It was the mid 1970s, I was about 13 or 14 and my brother was seven years older and someone who I looked up to in every respect.
He had the most incredible record collection; all the classics were there, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John and Led Zeppelin to name a few.
I played them all to death, I loved the thrill of pulling that black disc out of the wrapper and delicately placing it on the platter and lowering the needle, waiting for that slight hiss that signalled touchdown!
I would play certain albums more than others; particular favourites were the first four Led Zeppelin albums, anything by Rory Gallagher and David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust.
Those were filled with amazing songs, virtuoso performances and unforgettable lyrics but as I was hitting puberty, life was changing and things called "emotions" were starting to appear.
These emotions centered on belonging, fitting in, being someone, and of course the main one, love.
I was familiar with the story of Eric Clapton's love for George Harrison's wife, Pattie Boyd.
It took on a whole new meaning to me when I started to fall in love with girls, it made me realise the intensity he must have felt, the frustration, the heartache.
These were all feelings that the "blues" seemed to be full of in so many ways.
There was black blues, white blues, country blues, jazz blues, rock 'n roll blues...
The album that "Layla" comes from was, for me, a culmination of Eric's training as a blues guitar player with The Yardbirds, John Mayall and Cream.
But even more than that he seemed to "be" the music, like the guitar became an extension of his own pysche.
It seemed like not only was he playing the incredible riffs and chords but what I was hearing was his "soul" in musical form; I could relate to what he was playing (saying).
I always felt that the Layla album brought blues to a larger white audience but that it also created a kind of "new" white blues in a way too.
As strange as it might seem, "Layla" isn't actually my favourite song on the album, even though I love it to bits.
When I first learned to play guitar (around the age of 15) I learned to play "Layla" and it was such a thrill.
But I always loved "Key To The Highway" and "Have You Ever Loved A Woman" the most .
The first one because it was largely a live studio recording, faded in because the engineer didn't start the recorder in time and the second one because the lyrics were more accurately a portrayal of Eric's love for Pattie and the frustration of the situation he was in, and his amazing guitar solo and the slide solo from Duane Allman.
Even after 40 years I still get shivers when I hear that album, any of the songs.
As a guitar player I possibly hear more than the average listener as I'm listening to all the intricacies of the playing and the recording techniques etc. but sometimes
I just lie back with earphones and just appreciate the beauty of the music - the melody, the beat, the vocals, all the bits and pieces that go into a masterpiece like that.
There will always be a nostalgia aspect to it of course - the sound of the "Layla" riff will always remind me of my brother and his record collection and living in Whangarei as a young boy and growing up in a far less complicated New Zealand.
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