Bell Bottom Blues (Derek and the Dominos song)
|"Bell Bottom Blues"|
|Single by Derek and the Dominos|
|from the album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs|
|Recorded||Criteria Studios, Miami, 1970|
"Bell Bottom Blues" is a song written by Bobby Whitlock and Eric Clapton and performed by Derek and the Dominos. It deals with unrequited love and appears on the album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. As a single, backed with "Keep on Growing," the song reached #91 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971. A re-release backed with "Little Wing" reached #78.
Background and recording
"Bell Bottom Blues" was recorded before Duane Allman joined the recording sessions, so Clapton is the only guitarist on the song. Clapton compensates for this by playing multiple guitar parts, including a sensitive, George Harrison-style guitar solo and chime-like harmonics . The other musicians are Bobby Whitlock on Hammond organ, Carl Radle on bass and percussion and Jim Gordon on drums, including tabla and backwards snare. Whitlock also sings occasional harmony vocals.
Bell-bottoms are a style of trousers that were popular at the time. According to Clapton, the song was written for Pattie Boyd after she requested him to get her a pair of bell bottom blue jeans from the United States. Clapton wrote the song for her, along with many others on the album such as "I Looked Away" and "Layla". The lyrics describe a lovers' quarrel. Bill Janovitz of Allmusic notes the raw anguish in Clapton's voice in the pre-chorus and chorus:
- Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you
- Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back
- I'd gladly do it because I don't want to fade away
contrasted with the somber longing expressed in Clapton's voice in the verses:
- Bell bottom blues
- You made me cry
- I don't want to lose this feeling
- If I could choose a place to die
- It would be in your arms.
Author Jan Reid also praised Clapton's singing on the song, noting that his phrasing manages to suggest that despite the pain he is feeling, the woman's antics remind him of the "joy of just being alive."
While Bobby Whitlock contributed to the composition of the song, he was not credited or rewarded as joint author. Jools Holland pursued this in an interview with Clapton and Whitlock when they performed the song live on his BBC TV show in 2000. In an interview with Mike Dow, Whitlock spoke of Clapton's integrity and admitted 'I didn't know (Jools Holland) was going to ask that question. That was a bridge Eric and I had never crossed. We never discussed it. I was always told it was a clerical error. I do remember finishing that song. Eric started the song ....... He played me the first two verses at his house and I helped with the last verse'.
In a review upon the album's release, Rolling Stone writer Ed Leimacher called "Bell Bottom Blues" (as well as "Have You Ever Loved a Woman") filler. A retrospective of the album in Rolling Stone praised the song as an epic that "feels as if it's going to shatter from the heat of its romantic agony." Bill Janovitz of Allmusic praised both Clapton's guitar playing and his anguished vocal performance. In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, J. D. Considine cites the song as an example of how Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is "about the transformation of the blues, a process Clapton and his band mates manage through a variety of means", writing that the song "distills the pop-blues approach of Blind Faith and Cream into a memorable chorus and exquisite metaphor".
Cher recorded "Bell Bottom Blues" on her critically acclaimed 1975 album "Stars". Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs covered "Bell Bottom Blues" on their 2009 album Under the Covers, Vol. 2. Bruce Springsteen borrowed the line "I don't wanna fade away" for his 1980 song "Fade Away" from "Bell Bottom Blues." Lady Gaga referenced the title in her song "Dope", where she sings "I'm sorry and I love you, sing with me "Bell Bottom Blue".
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