Maybe someday soon, somewhere
Derek & the Dominos - 'Thorn Tree in the Garden' (Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs - 1971)
Eric Clapton had burnt through "supergroups" Cream and Blind Faith by the end of the sixties and wanted something more low-key for the 1970s. Derek and The Dominoes allowed him to play smaller clubs without the baggage of 'Clapton is God' he'd accrued over the preceding years.
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is the group's only album, formed after working on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass. It is hard to think of a more appropriate title for an album; 'Layla' looms large over the album as much as Patti Boyd looms over 'Layla', and I don't think anyone begrudges downplaying the rest of the album as other assorted love songs.
The album is a double album full of blues-rock licks and interpretations of other blues songs, old and contemporary. Some consider it to be a blues-rock masterpiece. I think it is one of the flabbier double LPs of the 'classic rock' era. While it probably didn't deserve to be a commercial and critical flop on release, the pendulum of reassessment may have swung too far in the other direction.
'Thorn Tree In The Garden' owes its existence to producer Tom Dowd noting that even after the extended piano refrain of Laya, now of course closely associated with Goodfellas, there would be a few minutes of room on the record.
Step forward keyboard player Bobby Whitlock with this song, which Clapton doesn't even sing on. The track is a comedown from the raucousness of the album and the title track that precedes it. Despite being one step removed from Clapton himself, it ties in with the other songs on the album and their theme of unrequited love. Or at least it seems like it does.
Whitlock has said that song was about a landlord who asked him to get rid of his dog and then did it himself; it started with the landlord as a “snake in the grass” and ended up as a thorn tree in the "perfect garden" he had created in his life at the time.
The band recorded the song the round, Whitlock told Songfacts.
"Eric and Duane and Jim and Carl and myself all got around one microphone. Tom Dowd came out and placed us just so; everybody was a certain distance in and out, and we did it just like that. I was sitting on a bar stool - Eric was to my left, Duane was directly across from me, Carl was to my right and Jim was between Duane and Eric with a little bell. Carl was playing a pedal bass, Duane was on dobro and Eric was playing acoustic guitar with a pick next to me. I was picking with my fingers."
The result was a song that Tom Dowd told an interview in Producer magazine where he called the track "The Perfect Stereo Recording."
After an album of virtuosity and showmanship, it is almost jarring to hear each member adding subtle, quiet and melancholic acoustic contributions. Some might have preferred the coda to Layla to continue and finish the album for a couple of extra minutes, but we would miss this quiet little gem that outshines many other assorted love songs on the record.