Mythological rock muse Pattie Boyd gives voice to the past with a new
book and photography career.
By Dave Gil de Rubio
November 14, 2007
If ever there was an era that could be credited with the now-common
high profile hook-ups between fashion models and rock stars, it would
have to be late '60s Swinging London. Beatle Paul McCartney was
squiring around Jane Asher while Anita Pallenberg was bouncing
between three Rolling Stones paramours. But the most notable couple
was that of the lithe and lovely Pattie Boyd and Fab Four guitarist
George Harrison, who eventually wed. A fixture on the covers of Vogue
and Vanity Fair along with being a favorite subject of fashion
photographers like Terence Donovan and David Bailey, Boyd met
Harrison while working as an extra on the film set of A Hard Day's
Night. But it wasn't until the Quiet Beatle's best buddy Eric Clapton
fell for her that she became rock 'n' roll's equivalent to Helen of
Troy. Not only did this passion yield legendary songs inspired by the
love both men had for her "Something," "Layla," and "Wonderful
Tonight" but it led to incidents such as the musicians having a
two-hour guitar duel over Boyd, and Clapton threatening to ingest a
packet of heroin if Boyd didn't leave her husband and eventually
following through on said ultimatum.
Between divorcing Harrison and subsequently marrying Clapton, Boyd
has these and many more tawdry anecdotes dotting her new memoir,
Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me. While
Behind the Music-flavored drama dominates these pages such as
Harrison's and Clapton's rampant infidelity and the latter's many
struggles with drugs and drink more than anything, the former model
comes off as a survivor, albeit one in an enabler's guise. Even
though she did not see Clapton for three years after his
aforementioned threat, the duo continued corresponding via mail.
Meanwhile, her marriage worsened as Harrison began isolating himself
with Eastern religion and cheating on the side, most notably with
bandmate Ringo Starr's then-wife Maureen. In her book, Boyd not
surprisingly chalks up this personal chaos to the tenor of the times.
"The whole period was insane. Our lives were fueled by alcohol and
cocaine, and so it was with everyone who came into our sphere." That
kind of candor typifies the tone of Wonderful Tonight and Boyd is
unflinching in telling from a first-hand perspective the story at the
heart of this mythical romance that's been a long time coming.
Well-earned bitterness would be expected given the horror stories
dotting the book, ranging from how unstable familial relationships
affected later romantic decisions to coping with Clapton's substance
abuse, her struggles with infertility, and eventually becoming her
own person. But remarkably enough, Pattie Boyd is a genuinely warm
and upbeat persona with no regrets save a lost opportunity at
motherhood. Credit goes to therapy sessions which not only got Boyd's
head straight, but allowed for the penning of her memoirs. "I was
seeing a psychotherapist for years and that's an extremely difficult
thing to do because if you want to get something from it, you have to
be totally open," Boyd recalled from her cottage in the English
countryside. "Being that open was the most difficult thing to do
because by being open, my idea was that I'd been disloyal to whomever
I would talk about. So I had to get over the hurdle [of feeling] disloyal."
Nowadays, the ex-Mrs. Harrison/Clapton has been busy with a nascent
photography career that took full flight following an exhibition
dubbed Shared Memories that made its debut at Theron Kabrich's San
Francisco Art Exchange back in February 2005. Armed with a
combination of older photos taken from her years hanging around as a
Fab Four spouse and more recent travel shots, Boyd went from staging
photo exhibits in both San Francisco and London to making her New
York debut this past September at the Morrison Hotel Gallery. At the
gala kickoff party, old and new friends appeared, including legendary
promoter Sid Bernstein and ex-John Lennon mistress May Pang.
Even as Boyd enjoys her new life, the songs still remain and not
surprisingly still hold plenty of meaning for the woman once married
to a Beatle and a man his devotees called God. "I have an
overwhelming recognition and my hearing is heightened when I hear the
first notes of those songs," Boyd wistfully explained. "If I were a
mother, I suppose it would be like recognizing your child's voice.
They are so a part of me. I hadn't thought about it till now, but
it's the only way I can come near to expressing what it does to me. I
just feel so close to them."