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Bell Bottom Blues by Derek & the Dominos

Album: Layla And Other Assorted Love SongsReleased: 1970
  • Bell Bottoms are pants that are very tight in the top but flare out at the bottom. They were popular in the '60s.
  • Derek and the Dominos formed after Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle and Jim Gordon worked on George Harrison's solo album, All Things Must Pass. They went to England and played a bunch of small clubs all over Europe, with Clapton and Whitlock writing songs along the way. The band was in France when the inspiration for this song hit. Says Whitlock: "Eric met this girl, she was like a Persian princess or something, and she wore bell bottoms. She was all hung up on him - he gave her a slide that Duane (Allman) had given him and he wrapped it in leather and she wore it around her neck. She didn't speak a word of English and they had to date through an interpreter. That relationship did not last but a week. He started the song over there, then when we got back to England, we finished it up in his TV room in Heartwood Edge."
  • This was released as the B-side of "Layla." The song "Layla" is about Clapton's love for Pattie Harrison, who at the time was married to George Harrison. The entire album is about unrequited love, but this song is not about Pattie.
  • This is the only studio album Derek and the Dominos recorded. They attempted another, but the sessions imploded over what Whitlock describes as "Ego Problems."
  • Whitlock did not get a songwriting credit for this, but has no hard feelings: "That's part of the ego thing. Had I been credited on 'Bell Bottom Blues,' that would have meant I had more songs on the Layla album than Eric. At that time he had a massive ego trip going. In 2000, Eric played with me on a show. We did 'Bell Bottom Blues' and a couple of other songs. We actually played with all the other bands that night; Giants is the DVD that's out of that show. I didn't say anything to anyone about me having written 'Bell Bottom Blues,' I think it's just something everybody knows. They did an interview at the piano and Jools Holland said, "How did you and Eric come about writing 'Bell Bottom Blues?' In front of like 50 million people, I told the story. I said, 'The rest of it, you'll have to ask Eric,' and the camera pans over to Eric and he's shaking his head like I'm absolutely right. Eric wasn't looking after his business back then. He had management to do that. He was playing. It was no business stuff - nobody was into publishing or that whole thing. It was more of an ego trip with that thing."
  • The entire album was recorded in 10 days. They recorded this early in the sessions, a week before "Layla." There were some very talented people in the studio that made it work. Says Whitlock, "When you let a horse run a race, it will run its finest race on its own. When you get some musicians and you get some creative people, you give them the opportunity to do what they're supposed to do, and they'll do just that. Given the right circumstances, they'll perform at their peak. They'll draw from the source. These songs don't come out of your head. They're not something you sit down and figure out. They're things that flow through you - we were just instruments, just like the instruments in our laps. We were provided an opportunity to lock ourselves away and let the creative principle of the universe flow through us."
  • Clapton recorded most of this while lying on the floor and strung out on drugs. The band did a lot of drugs at this time, but Clapton feels it did not hurt the recording process.
  • Frandsen De Schonberg is the French artist who painted the picture used for the album cover. The band was staying with his son, Emile, when Clapton met the bell bottom princess.
  • Hal David wrote a different song with the same title in the '50s. He would later team up with Burt Bacharach and write many famous songs, including "Walk On By" and "Do You Know The Way To San Jose?"
  • Clapton performed an acoustic version of this on his 2001 Reptile tour.
  • Along with his wife Kim Carmel, Bobby Whitlock recorded a new version of this for their album Other Assorted Love Songs. For more on Derek and the Dominos, check out our Bobby Whitlock interview.
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Comments: 27

Fantastic song & album from 1970. I bought the album (vinyl) and wore it out! I found the photos on the album very interesting. Most seemed as though the band was stoned on a variety of substances. Faces were shiny with perspiration & eyes were blood-shot and half-open. How did these legendary young artists make such a historic album while smashed?? It must've been blessed recording sessions. Or luck. Or maybe someone's MOJO was really working overtime?? Like "Bell Bottom Blues" and "Layla", so many of the other songs I could never get out of my mind for years. Too bad there wasn't a follow-up album.Babbling Babette - Tulsa Ok
the piano bit on layla is credited to gordon, who's a drummer..so is that a mistake or was it bobby?
bell bottom blues is eric at his best for sure so is the whole album in my top 5 best album of all time.
Bernard - Paris, France
In Clapton's2007 autobio, he says that this song came about because Pattie asked him to bring her back some bell bottoms from America, and shopping for them made him sad; he missed her and knew their relationship wasn't doing well. He wrote it after a couple of decades of sobriety; and I will admit I wonder how he remembered so much detail from many long periods when he was pretty much wasted 24/7, but there it is.Katherine - Tallahassee, Fl
Great song!Jim - Long Beach, Ca
There is something about this song that makes you just want to slow dance. I think it's different, but good.Nancy - Baltimore, Md
Eric Clapton himself covered the song as a solo artst in 1973, it peaked at No. 78!!!Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Seems to me that most of these songfacts come straight out of a Bobby Whitlock interview. Could they be more opinion than fact? Also Duane was not present for this particular song despite already planning to do the album.Anderw - Philadelphia, Pa
The drums are backwards, as Greg from Tennessee pointed out. Snare drum hits on 1 and 3 in the verses. It drives me nuts! It certainly is not bluesy, even though all the rest of the recording is soulful as can be. Why did they do this?

Note that the drums are correct in the choruses and other parts, including the guitar break. Why did they do backwards drums? Anybody know?

Please note also, that Ginger Baker did backwards drums (1 and 3) on "Sunshine of your Love." Why? Anybody know?

This shows up nowhere else in in Eric Clapton's music, almost nowhere else in recorded music. This is the way white people clap sometimes, in very white parts of the USA, but it is not right.
Tom - West Michigan, Mi
Most underrated song of all timeIan - St. Joseph, Mi
This song is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. It also has one of my favorite guitar solos of all time in it, played by Clapton (Allman was in fact not involved in the first three songs on the album. Thus, all guitar on those tracks is pure Clapton).

P.S. I've never heard anything ever about Lennon being involved with "Layla..." I feel like that's too good to be true and/or a ridiculous lie. If anyone has anything to say to prove me wrong, I'd like to hear it.
Roy - Granbania, Ma
This is my faveourite Eric Clapton song and it is my friend and mine's song.Sunshine - Oklahoma City, Ok
This is my favorite love song of all time. It sounds so authentic and from the heart.George - Little Rock, Ar
CLAPTON MET DUANE WHILE RECORDING THE ALBUM
HE ATTENTED A ABB CONCERT AND WAS AWARE OF
DUANES SESSION WORK ; IN PARTICULAR HEY JUDE
COVERED BY WILSON PICKETT;IN ADDITION DUANE PLAYED
LEAD GUITAR FOR DELANEY AND BONNER PRIOR TO
SLOWHAND; ERIC AND DUANE PLAYING ON THIS ALBUM
IS THE GREATEST DUAL LEADS EVER. EVEN BETTER THAN ABB WITH DICKEY; LAYLA IS ABOUT PATTY HARRISON; I RATE THIS THE GREATEST ALBUM OF ALL-TIME- ALLWAYS REMEMBER THE GOOD BROTHER DUANE;
JIM FROM BOSTON IS DEAD WRONG ABOUT DUANE THE ONLY SONG DUANE IS NOT ON IS I LOOKED AWAY MAYBE ONE MORE- RENT TOM DOWD'S MOVIE THE LANGUAGE OF
MUSIC TO FURTHER YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THIS ALBUM
AND THE ALLMAN BROTHER'S BAND- BE WELL FLV NYC
Francis L. Vena - New York City,, Ny
How do I get this Giants DVD? I checked on-line and cannot find it. Thanks.Dave - Yonkers, Ny
I've been a Clapton fan from his start. Bell Bottom Blues is his best in my opinion.

I can relate to his "...crawl across the floor to you" and "...if you find me with another lover" lyrics.

Brilliant strong, yet tender lyrics that never fail to stir emotion. One of my top 5 favorite songs of all time.
Tonk - Ringgold, Ga
In his autobiography, Clapton says he wrote this song for Pattie Boyd (Clapton, Broadway, 2007, pg 127).Martin - Cincinnati, Oh
When Eric met Duane Allman and asked him to play on the Derek and the Dominos record, they had already recorded the first 3 tracks, I looked Away, Bell Bottom Blues, and Keep on Growing. Thats why Duane's slide guitar only comes in from the 4th track on.Mike - Queens, Ny
The drum beat to this song is unique in that the snare and bass drum beats are swapped with the snare on 1 and 3 and the bass drum on 2 and 4.Greg - Manchester, Tn
Eric Clapton is credited for the words and music to Bell Bottom Blues. I don't know how anyone else could royalties for a song they haven't been given credit for writing. There's also 3 guitars in the song, but none of them are played with a slide.Jim - Troy, Ny
All in A matter Of Time GuyGuy - Detroit, Mi
Here's the deal with Duane Allman concerning "I Looked Away" and "Bell Bottom Blues". Tom Dowd took Clapton to the Allman Bros. concert in Miami and introduced him to Duane after the show. Clapton invited the entire band back to Criteria Studios for an all night jam session. Eric and Duane of course hit it off. Eric invited Duane to participate in the Dominoes recording sessions but Duane had a few more concerts to play on the Allman Bros. tour. In the meantime the Dominoes recorded "I Looked Away" and "Bell Bottom Blues". Duane came back when the Allmans tour was over and they proceeded to record the rest of "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs".Sam - Chicago, Il
I'm sorry Patrick, but Jim is right; The sequence of events has been attested to by Duane himself, the Allmans and the rest of the Dominoes, among others. Duane is also not on "I looked away". (When "Duane Allman: An Anthology" was released, Rock Critic Lester Bangs bemoaned the fact that they chose "Layla" to include, and not something he considered to be more substantial - Bell Bottom Blues. Guess Lester should have checked the liner notes.....)Steve - Washington, Dc
Are you sure about the Princess and the Slide story? On the DVD Tom Dowd and the Language of Music, (Tom produced most of the Allman's albums and the Layla album. Tom mentions that Eric didn't know Duane but the he, Tom, had told Eric that the Brothers were playing in Miami, while the Dominoes were in the studio there. He told Eric who Duane was and they got front row passes and went to the Allman's show. Tom tell's it the during a song Duane looked down and saw Eric and Duane just stopped cold. Anyway they got together after the show...etc.
So, i'm not sure if that story could be true.

J
Julien - Cartersville, Ga
I didn't know any of the details behind the song, and strangely, I had known of the song for many many years, but never really took the time to listen to the beauty of that particular song. I think Bell Bottom Blues is a fantastic song, but if Mr. Whitlock was as much or more responsible for the song, then he should be recognized for that, which it seems to some extent has been rectified, although I am sure it's not common knowledge. I am a music enthusiest, and love triva based on all the varied music I have listened to, and have read many many rock biographies, although not a Clapton or Whitlock one, but had never come across it in any book, as you may know a lot of the early bands from england knew each other and hung out together, so their stories are very intertwined and you always read stuff about other artists other than the one the book is named after. Carry onDave - Oshawa, Canada
Memphian Bobby Whitlock was an integral and important member of Derek and the Dominoes. Clapton sang this song on the album, but it is Bobby's - I've seen the royalty checks. Bobby also sang on all of the songs in this album - his voice is the soul in the background and his two solo songs on the album are "Thorn tree in a Garden" which is about a lost pet (long story) and "Keep on growin", which was covered by Sheryl Crow for the "Boy's on the Side" soundtrack. If you listen to "Let it Rain", Bobby is the background singer singing along with Eric - Eric met him when Bobby was with Delaney and Bonnie. He also was dating Patti Boyd's sisten when Eric was trying to lure Patti from George Harrison. Check out his website at www.bobbywhitlock.com. When Layla was used in "Goodfella's", it was a big resurface for the song > the piano part at the end is Bobby and Jim Gordon playing head-to-head and it was composed by Bobby.Ben - Memphis, Tn
You are wrong sorry Jim. ;) He was actually planned to be on the album long before it was started and was present on every song playing slide.Patrick - Durham, Nc
One of a couple of songs that was recorded by the band before Duane joined them. So he's not on it at all.Jim - Boston, Ma