Bobby Whitlock didn't initially get a songwriting credit on this track, but that changed thanks to an act of kindness from Clapton. When we spoke with Bobby in 2015
, he explained how the song came together and the saga of the songwriting credits. Said Whitlock: "Just before the 40th anniversary of Layla
came out, Eric asked as they were packaging everything, 'What's Bobby going to get out of this?' And Michael [Eaton, Clapton's manager] told him, 'Nothing, because he sold all of his royalties. He sold all of his vested interest in it.' Well, unbeknownst to me, Eric and Michael took their attorneys in to the respective Warner/Chappel and Universal and all the other companies and bought back my rights to my income and restored them and gave them back to me. Out of the blue.
So all of my royalties have come back. And now it's even more so, because it hasn't been a month-and-a-half ago that I wrote him to explain how 'Bell Bottom Blues' came about, and I sent it to Eric and to Michael. Someone had come online and says something about, 'Is this true that 'Bell Bottom Blues' was written about a pair of trousers?'
And I said, Yeah, well, it was that and this girl in France that Eric was seeing for a little while while we were there. I'd forgotten about Pattie [Boyd - subject of 'Layla'] asking him about those pants. But anyway, before I would answer this and put it out publicly online, I decided, Well, I probably ought to write Eric.
I had his e-mail address, but I'd never written him. I never asked for anything. You know, I don't want anything from anybody, especially him. I wrote to him and said, 'I just want to clear this up, in case you've forgotten, this is how it came.' I said, 'You came to me at Hurtwood [Clapton's house in England where the band would rehearse], I was standing in the doorway of the TV room and you walked up to me and you said, 'What do you think of this?''
He was holding the guitar and he sang me the first two verses, all except for the last line on the second verse. And I said, 'You won't find a better loser.'
And then we went into the TV room and wrote the chorus, the bridge: '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.' And then Eric comes in: 'I don't want to fade away, give me one more day.' And then the last verse, he wrote three quarters of it, and I came in with the very last line. I said, 'That's how it goes. I hope this helps refresh your memory.' And that was the end of it.
Well, within three minutes he wrote back, 'He's right, he's absolutely right.' He was writing to Michael, saying, 'Yeah, I've been thinking about this.'
Well, they have gone to all of the PR reps, ASCAP, BMI, all of the people, Universal, all the folks that changed it around. So from now on forever, 'Bell Bottom Blues' is going to read 'Written by Eric Clapton and Bobby Whitlock.'"