Derek & The Dominos – Nightclubbing (MVR 525-527)

Nightclubbing (Mid Valley MVR 525-527)
Marquee Club, London, UK – August 11, 1970
Winter Gardens, Great Malvern, UK – August 14, 1970
Pavilion, Bournemouth, UK – August 18, 1970

Derek & The Dominos first appearance in public takes place on June 14, 1970 at London’s Lyceum Ballroom for a one-off charity show. At this time, the band consists of Jim Gordon on drums, Carl Radle on bass, Bobby Whitlock on keyboards & vocals, Dave Mason on guitar (but he is to quit soon to pursue a solo career) and EC on guitar & vocals.

It is not until August that the band go out on a small tour in England. Dave Mason is no longer part of the band by now and they play 13 dates in small clubs before they fly out to Miami to record the masterpiece album “Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs”. After that, they would play a second leg in England for some further 14 dates. “Nightclubbing” brings evidence of three of the shows from the first leg in an audience quality that is very listenable for the era they were recorded in.

Disc1. (55:23) Marquee Club, London, UK – August 11, 1970

Setlist. (First show) Introduction – Roll It Over – Blues Power – Have You Ever Loved A Woman – Anyday – Bad Boy – (Second show) Introduction – Bottle Of Red Wine – Little Wing – Tell The Truth – Country Life – Don’t Know Why.

EC is the last musician to be introduced to the audience and it is funny to hear the speaker say “on lead guitar: Eric Clapton!“. With just one guitar player in a four- piece band, it is so obvious he is to play lead!

I find it very interesting to hear what Anyday, Little Wing or Tell The Truth sound like one month before the band enter the studio.  Roll It Over is the opener and has got to be a favourite with good vocal work and great fiery guitar playing too. Blues Power features a solid,  extended  solo on the outro before it abruptly ends to give way to the blues sounds of  a fantastic version of Have You Ever Loved A Woman. The tape is cut at this point but no music is  lost. Next comes a nice rendition of Anyday, a highlight for me if only because of EC’s vocals on the verse “just for a little while” at 02:37 into the song.  A rare performance of Bad Boy from EC’s first solo album closes the first set. Stretched out to 5+ minutes from the original 3:30, it is a shame this song never survived this tour.

The second set begins with another song from EC’s selftitled album: a rocker version of Bottle Of Red Wine. A flawless Little Wing follows and again I can’t help but love EC’s vocals and guitar work on this one. Tell The Truth is played in speedlight mode, as it was played for the first time in studio during the sessions for George Harrison’s  “All Things Must Pass” album in May with Phil Spector at the controls… Quite different from the version that would be recorded just a few days later in Miami, then under Tom Dowd’s supervision. I was not familiar with the next song – Country Life – a song co-written by Delaney Bramlett and Bobby Whitlock and which would appear in his selftitled album that would be released in July 1971.  Never recorded in the studio by the Dominos, Country Life shows that Whitlock is a great songwriter and always had good material in store. Having listened to the album version now, I have to say I prefer the EC-enhanced , live one. Don’t Know Why – again from EC’s first solo album – closes the show but it is cut at the end of a very enjoyable outro, this being the only downside of the tape, in my opinion. Like Bad Boy, neither Country Life nor Don’t Know Why survived this first leg of the tour.

 Disc2. (55:00) Winter Gardens, Great Malvern, UK – August 14, 1970

Setlist. Introduction – Country Life – Anyday – Bottle Of Red Wine – Don’t Know Why – Roll It Over – Blues Power – Have You Ever Loved A Woman – Bad Boy.

Same setlist as the previous show, just different running order. A very different one, by the way! This time Country Life is the show opener. It just took it a couple of listens to become a favourite of mine!  Anyday unleashes a great deal of energy, but the audience seems to be asleep or something because it takes them a few seconds to applaud after the song is over!! Bottle Of Red Wine is very energetic too and it is preferred over London’s. At this point EC heads to  church for a great rendition of the soulful Don’t Know Why, now in uncut mode.

Roll It Over – identical to what it would sound like on the US Tour months later –  features a nice extended outro that  segues into a more restful Blues Power. EC’s excellent relationship with the blues is clear to see on the impressive rendition of Have You Ever Loved A Woman that we are treated to. Unlike in London, Bad Boy features a very extended intro tonight and is played in slow tempo, taking the song up to 7:30 minutes.

This tape is of a worse quality than London’s or Bournemouth’s, harder to listen to, but if you listen to it at night with the gift of silence,  you will still be able to enjoy it. At least, I did!

 Disc3. (63:51) The Pavilion, Bournemouth, UK – August 18 , 1970

Setlist. Introduction – Roll It Over – Blues Power – Have You Ever Loved A Woman – Bad Boy – Country Life – Anyday – Lonesome And A Long Way From Home – Bottle Of Red Wine – Let It Rain.

After some seconds where you can hear the band tuning their instruments, the show begins with a great Roll It Over which features a  very enjoyable three-minute outro. Along with the enduring Blues Power, both are the perfect vehicles for the band to warm up. The band then slows the pace with a terrific version of Have You Ever loved A Woman  that has got to be a winner once again. A lengthy downtempo version of Bad Boy follows. Clocking at 5 minutes on the first show, then at 7 on the second, this is the most extended version of all surpassing the 9-minute mark. I celebrate the third delivery of Country Life. The fact that this is sung by Whitlock lets EC concentrate more on the guitar duties, throwing in the odd great lick here and there. EC acknowledges Bobby Whitlock after the song.

EC rocks on Anyday, where Whitlock’s work on the organ deserves to be mentioned too. Making its debut on “Nightclubbing”, Lonesome And A Long Way From Home comes next. This is another song appearing on EC’s first solo album. While horns are evident on the album track, you won’t miss them on this powerful live version that sees EC on slide guitar.

According to the back cover the next song should be Bottle Of Red Wine…..  which it is if only for 55 seconds. At this point there is a cut in the tape that takes us to the last 90 seconds of the outro to Tell The Truth. At least we get the encore in its entirety, which is another debutant song in this 3CD set: Let It Rain. It is a great guitar tour de force and the perfect icing on the cake.

“Nightclubbing”  comes with nice goodies such as four inserts featuring b/w pictures of the tour and information on each particular gig and a “Derek & The Dominos – RSO” coaster (!) that is very nice. Not featuring the best audience quality ever – after all, we are talking about tapes recorded nearly 40 years ago –  it is likely the best that is available.  Once your ears are adjusted to the sound the tapes are quite enjoyable but it’s true that you won’t find yourself listening to them on a regular basis. The range of songs appearing also adds to the significance of this recommended release.

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