“Layla,” of course, gets the most love. “Bell Bottom Blues” is another well-known one, and “Keep On Growing” has its famous fans. But in my opinion, “Anyday” is the secret best song of Derek and The Dominos’ Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs, a record that combines the strengths of Eric Clapton and Duane Allman. Clapton had a handful of short-lived bands, but Derek and The Dominos have always been my favorite.
In 1970, Clapton was fresh off two of those short-lived bands, Cream and Blind Faith. All of Derek and the Dominos had been in a band with husband-and-wife rock/soul duo Delaney & Bonnie, and they all defected to do their own thing. There are a few stories about how the name “Derek and the Dominos” came to be, but the best one is that someone misheard the suggestion “Eric and the Dynamos.” (I’m going to take a wild guess and say that more than one person in that interaction was high.)
This song is a classic example of tension and release. The verses, all about rejection and anger, are sung to chords that are going down, down, down. The pre-chorus, with its slightly optimistic “If you believed in me,” opens the door a little bit, and the chorus, sunny and weightless, kicks it open. It’s pure hope, but only, as the chorus states, for a little while.
Derek and the Dominos is also one of Duane Allman’s finest hours. I have a hard time picking him out of each song, but I think that’s the band’s best feature: Clapton and Allman are obviously amazing guitarists, but the Dominos were a true group effort. Unlike Cream, which featured three musicians playing spare, distinct parts (and brilliantly so), Derek and the Dominos were all about cacophony. Not chaos, but a flurry of music. I love it.
It’s hard to claim that a world-famous musician can be underrated, but here it goes: Duane Allman was a brilliant guitarist who doesn’t get enough credit. He wasn’t the fastest guitarist in the world, but he didn’t need to be. His solos were songs in themselves, with melodies you could hum after hearing them a few times. “Blue Sky” is my favorite Allman Brothers Band song, off the excellent record Eat A Peach. The album was named after Allman, who died in a motorcycle accident shortly before the record’s release, and who, when asked by a journalist how he was helping the revolution, replied that every time he was in Georgia, he ate a peach for peace.
Allman didn’t mean “peace” in the political, anti-war sense (when the same journalist mentioned revolution, Allman replied, “There’s only evolution”). This song is especially about emotional peace, about finding solace in moments and people. The lengthy solo near the one-minute mark of “Blue Sky” (which gradually integrates Dickey Betts’s equally fluid playing) seems to follow the path of the song’s protagonist, ambling along, meandering thoughts grounded by surroundings. I think it’s a gorgeous piece of work. I didn’t really notice until today that the solo is so damn long: it lasts three minutes over the course of a five-minute song. Yet it breezes by.
The Allman Brothers Band, even when at their fiercest and darkest, always sound so pretty, so weightless. Unlike many bands at the time, they weren’t out to prove they could rock; they seemed like they only wanted to prove to themselves that they could play. The rock was incidental.