The letters XA on the neck are the initials of a Fender employee.
Layla was inspired by a Persian love story by Nizami The Story of Layla and Majnun. At the time of writing this song Clapton's life was in turmoil, as he was in love with his best friend George Harrison's wife Pattie. In April 1970, Clapton wrote what Ray Coleman described as ...the pleading song to Pattie that would forever stand as one of rock's most intense anthems of love.. The Persian love story which influenced Clapton was about a man, Majnun, who fell deeply in love with Layla. She however, was not free to reciprocate and the hopelessness of his predicament drove him mad. Clapton wrote this song at home "The words and the music [percussionist and drummer Jim Gordon helped] came very quickly" he recalls. He planned and wrote the song with a ruthless, romantic determination that it should reach Pattie and declare, fully, that he needed her...
Layla was recorded in Miami with the famous producer Tom Dowd. Duane Allman was invited to play slide guitar on the album and the affinity between Allman and Clapton was most obvious on the title track. "...I just had the main body of the song...It needed an intro, a motif..." The result has been referred to as ..one of rock's greatest songs, and 'Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs' one of its finest albums.. Clapton has said of the title track "I had no idea what 'Layla' was going to be. It was just a ditty. When you get near to the end of it...you know you've got something really powerful...I'm incredibly proud of 'Layla'. To have ownership of something that powerful is something I'll never be able to get used to...But the funny thing was that once I'd got 'Layla' out of my system I didn't want to do any more with The Dominos. I didn't want to play another note."
Interestingly, 'Brownie' the Fender Stratocaster that Clapton used on this milestone album, is not as widely recognized by fans as 'Blackie' - the black composite Strat which Clapton has said "...has become part of me". Yet it was 'Brownie' which Clapton used for arguably his most momentous album of all, during one of the most critically acclaimed periods in his career to date. One of the first occasions in England in which Clapton was seen playing its more celebrated cousin 'Blackie' was at the Rainbow concert in 1973, six years after he purchased 'Brownie'.
In an interview with Dan Forte for Guitar World, 1989, Clapton was asked: "The Strat first became your trademark on the Eric Clapton solo album. Is that the same Strat used on 'Layla'?"
He replied: "Yeah, the brown one.."
In an interview with Fred Stuckey printed in Guitar Player, June, 1970, Stuckey commented: "When I saw you recently with Delaney & Bonnie, I noticed you weren't using the Les Paul that you used with Cream"
Clapton replied: "I still play a Les Paul. But with Delaney & Bonnie I use an old Stratocaster I've acquired which is really, really good - a great sound. It's just right for the kind of bag I was playing with them..."
Stuckey then asked Clapton: ".Have you done anything to the Stratocaster - like modify the pick-ups or have the frets shaved?"
Clapton replied: "No. I just set the switch between the first and middle pick-ups. There is a little place where you can catch it so that you can get a special sound somehow. I get much more rhythm and blues or rock kind of sound that way..."
Lee Dickson, Eric Clapton's guitar technician since 1979, thinks that Brownie is one of Clapton's greatest instruments of all time. In his opinon this Strat has "...a wonderful sound..." In a recent interview with Neville Marten for Guitarist Dickson said "...I've been very fortunate to play hundreds of Strats over the years...But that one [Brownie] for some reason, just had something..."