Bell Bottom Blues

Album: Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs (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. Whitlock told us: "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 Hurtwood 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."
  • 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.'"
  • 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 Coco 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.

Comments: 29

  • Romilla from IndiaI thought Duane Allman was an integral part of this album. Didn't he play on "Bell Bottom Blues"?
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 21st 1971, "Bell Bottom Blues" by Derek and the Dominos entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #91; and the following weeks it was once again at #91 and then it fell off the Top 100...
    And one month later on March 21st, 1971 the record's A-side, "Layla", entered the Top 100 at position #98.
  • Babbling Babette from Tulsa OkFantastic 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.
  • Bernard from Paris, Francethe piano bit on layla is credited to gordon, who's a 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.
  • Katherine from Tallahassee, FlIn 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.
  • Jim from Long Beach, CaGreat song!
  • Nancy from Baltimore, MdThere is something about this song that makes you just want to slow dance. I think it's different, but good.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyEric Clapton himself covered the song as a solo artst in 1973, it peaked at No. 78!!!
  • Anderw from Philadelphia, PaSeems 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.
  • Tom from West Michigan, MiThe 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.
  • Ian from St. Joseph, MiMost underrated song of all time
  • Roy from Granbania, MaThis 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.
  • Sunshine from Oklahoma City, OkThis is my faveourite Eric Clapton song and it is my friend and mine's song.
  • George from Little Rock, ArThis is my favorite love song of all time. It sounds so authentic and from the heart.
  • Dave from Yonkers, NyHow do I get this Giants DVD? I checked on-line and cannot find it. Thanks.
  • Tonk from Ringgold, GaI'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.
  • Martin from Cincinnati, OhIn his autobiography, Clapton says he wrote this song for Pattie Boyd (Clapton, Broadway, 2007, pg 127).
  • Mike from Queens, NyWhen 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.
  • Greg from Manchester, TnThe 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.
  • Jim from Troy, NyEric 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.
  • Guy from Detroit, MiAll in A matter Of Time Guy
  • Sam from Chicago, IlHere'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".
  • Steve from Washington, DcI'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.....)
  • Julien from Cartersville, GaAre 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.

  • Dave from Oshawa, CanadaI 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 on
  • Ben from Memphis, TnMemphian 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 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.
  • Patrick from Durham, NcYou 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.
  • Jim from Boston, MaOne of a couple of songs that was recorded by the band before Duane joined them. So he's not on it at all.
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