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Classic Rock

Bell Bottom Blues Eric Clapton

Derek And The Dominos - Bell Bottom Blues ( studio version)


Bell bottom blues, you made me cry. I don't want to lose this feeling. And if I could choose a place to die It would be in your arms. Do you want to see me c...

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.
Great tune for me i wouldnt say all his stuff is good ,lay down sally ,swing low sweet chariot ,for example , but all a personal prefence  really ,but Bell bottom is a good un
Yeah that period where he knocked out those quasi reggae tunes like I shot the sheriff and made a total balls up of after midnight and those you mention were not good. Not a consistent dude, but laced with brilliance