The Life-Changing Album Series
Local musician and songwriter Doug Walters — a longtime rock singer/guitarist (currently of The Problems, Torture Town, and FunHouse) — was recently asked to write about the albums that had the most profound effect on him and changed his life. This is the first part of it. “It turned out pretty cool, and I wanted to share it with you,” he says. “I hope you enjoy it. It was a lot of fun to write about these great times and these great albums."
Number one is a two-way tie between the Allman Brothers’ At Fillmore East and Derek & The Dominoes’ Layla and Other Assorted Songs. The very first memory I have as a human being is the sound of Duane Allman’s guitar. I was two years old, maybe three. That fuzzed-out, screaming tone … those super-amped B.B. King licks — I connected to it right away. Automatically. More like I was remembering it than hearing it. I just knew in my heart and soul that this was where it was at. My parents were hippies (back then) and my old man blared the shit. Loud! Thank god. I am convinced that our souls choose everything we do, and I know that’s why my soul chose to be born then and there, to that family. In 1969, my soul knew I was going to be a blues man and I needed my old man to hip me to the real deal. Go ahead and get it in my veins. Duane was my first lesson.
Duane, as everyone knows, is all over both these albums. In fact, you could almost call them Duane Allman albums. He had that swampy fire, and that stamp made those two albums. He’d sting you hard with it. He was a wailer, boy, and he’d get to wailing with that coricidin bottle slide through his SG’s humbuckers and the fuzz face and the Marshall on 10. That sound right there — that’s my life from the time I was born until I was around six.
You know how most folks remember distinct smells from their childhood? (I can’t smell, remember?) For me, it’s Duane Allman. If you want to know what it was like for me to be a child, lay down and look at the ceiling and don’t think about anything at all and play “Statesboro Blues” or “Whippin’ Post” or “You Don’t Love Me” or “Layla” or “Little Wing” or “Key to the Highway” as loud as your speakers can handle. That’s my life. Hearing that stuff now is heavy. Mind blowing. I still love Duane just as much. I know both of those albums have many other jewels in their crowns, but to my young mind, it was pretty much all about Duane. Those albums were much more about a feeling than anything technical or specific.
Fillmore East’s album cover always made me smile. That picture had a lot of vibe. Greg laughing his ass off. It’s a feel good shot for sure. Eventually, I found out that the reason everybody is so happy is because they just copped a big bag of party from Duane’s dealer right before Ann Liebowitz snapped off that beautifully grainy black and white shot. It oozed all kind of cool, and you just knew that cast of soulful hippie characters could wail. The cover to Layla… was always a little confusing and just out of my grasp. It struck me as adult fodder and was quick to move on but I liked the colors.
The production of Layla… was pure ’70s. It had that soulful hippie depth. Clapton’s voice was profound to me — not necessarily good or bad, just profound, especially on the slower, mellower stuff, like “It’s Too Late” and “Mean Old World” and “Bell Bottom Blues.” But the thing I remember the most about Layla was Duane’s slide-induced bird chirp at the very end of the title track. I thought that was so cool. I am almost finished with an album and on a song called “Work up the Nerve” I do that myself at the very end as an homage to the man. I also named my dog Layla after that song. And the main character in my forthcoming novel, the regenerator, is named Duane. I’m pretty sure it’s okay to assume Layla and Duane Allman made a dent on my life.
Tune in next week for ALBUM #2: KISS' Destroyer.