[10 August 2012]
PopMatters Comics Editor
It’s not the kind of thing you want to hear from a friend. But it’s exactly what ex-Cream band member Eric Clapton found himself needing to confess to his friend, ex-Beatle George Harrison. “George, I’m in love with your wife”.
Clapton’s confession of love for Pattie Boyd, and the depression at (what he believed would be) breaking his friendship with Harrison, are both coded deeply in the DNA of “Layla”, a song written by Clapton and performed by Derek and the Dominos.
It was a weird time for Clapton. Cream had just broken up, and Clapton himself was in a funk. Attempting to break through this, he found himself spending more and more time with Harrison and Boyd. And, beyond his own control, began to fall in love with Boyd. When Clapton discovered a Persian epic poem “Layla and Majnun”, wherein the heroine is forced into leaving her love unrequited and her suitor goes mad as a consequence, something clicked into place. Clapton realized that he would need to confess his love for Boyd to her husband and his close friend, if he was to survive this psychic torment.
Surprisingly, the friendship held. Even after Boyd and Harrison eventually split. Even after Clapton eventually married Boyd. It seems surprising, unimaginable even. But it’s no surprise if you understand the tempo of the song.
Clapton’s “Layla” (co-written, and I’m not kidding here, google it to check and make sure, Jim Gordon), is a song that happens in two movements, at two very different tempos. There’s the madness of the first act. There’s the spellbinding Layla herself and the crazy, powerful guitarwork. Although, Layla’s more an idea than anything. And the riffs and the licks will simply not let you go. Through the frenzy of the music, you can feel a madness stalking you.
And then, some three minutes somesuch into the song—redemption. The guitar fades and soothing piano enters. The keys do their work by elevating you far above the pain and the crazy and the heartache. Like the promise of a golden future. A not-yet that you yourself may yet live to see.
In the opening pages of next week’s Legion of Super-Heroes, we see exactly that moment play out again. Paul writes this sublimely sinister trap, where Legionnaires are bound, and placed on trays as food before the Prime Dominator.
You begin to read, but you cannot begin to fathom the danger. You cannot imagine a way for our heroes to be able to extricate themselves. Just as Clapton couldn’t imagine no longer loving Boyd, and still having a friendship with Harrison. Just as Layla has her suitor on his knees, as Clapton croons in the love song.
And then the power of the comics medium kicks in. It’s as if by the very act of your reading, our heroes are imbued with the skill to extricate themselves. And live in that bliss that the second movement of “Layla” predicts, and that Clapton, Harrison and Boyd themselves lived to see.
Please, please, enjoy your exclusive preview of Legion of Super-Heroes #12, released this Wednesday, 8/15.