pattie boyd, eric clapton, george harrison: a love story?

as luck would have it, the library came through with two books for me simultaneously: wonderful tonight by pattie boyd and eric clapton’s autobiography clapton. it was quite a treat to read them in close succession; in some respects, it felt like i got at least two sides of part of a fascinating story.

pattie boyd, for those of you living under a rock (or perhaps for those of you under the age of, i dunno, 40), is a very famous muse. know the beatles song something? or eric clapton’s layla? wonderful tonight? yep. those, and many, many other wonderful songs were inspired by and written for her. (in my more passive moments, one of my life goals is to be a muse. thus, i am in complete and total awe of pattie boyd harrison clapton boyd-all-over-again.) pattie writes a sweet account of her life. in spite of a very broken and screwed up upbringing, she lands on her feet, thanks to her beauty, and ends up married to a beatle. sadly, george harrison is not exactly the epitome of fidelity. he all but ignores her, particularly once he starts his indian period. and still, she stays faithful.

enter eric clapton, AKA G-d. clapton covets her from afar, then up close. his initially futile pursuit of her pushes him down a nasty trail of heroin snorting (with another woman, who ultimately dies from addiction) until the unrequited love becomes requited.

ultimately, it’s so sad reading the two accounts. they shared a great passion, dimmed by drug abuse, alcoholism and infidelity. it’s absolutely boring reading about clapton between about 1977 and somewhere in the 1980s; and this boredom in some way translates through to his musical output. he at one points notes that a major part of the attraction to boyd is that pattie was married to a very powerful man. caveman eric apparently wanted that for himself. gimme the trophy wife, it seems.  the wonder is that boyd stayed with clapton for much time — they were married thanks to a publicity stunt/joke — and it appears that he is pretty horrible to her — from his account as well as hers.

finally, of course, clapton gets help. clapton gets clean. clapton has an affair and a son from another woman, which ultimately ends the relationship with boyd. the son tragically falls from a highrise and dies. clapton writes an incredibly beautiful song for the boy.  incredibly, clapton does not drown his sorrows in alcohol. and ultimately, clapton finds a new soulmate, has babies, and is a happy guy who loves his hunting, his fishing, and his designer clothes. (there’s a very strange passage about all of his old rocker friends from the 1960s, like steve winwood and folks from cream, getting together and hunting together. like, would it be too hard to just get together and jam instead?) meanwhile, boyd has found a life for herself, alone.

and of course, sadly, george harrison died after finding love and family again.

a few things come clear to me after this:

1) clapton doesn’t really talk about the major impetus of his existence to my liking; that is to say, i really wish i knew more about his MUSIC from this book. you know, the whole reason for your being? it’s nice that he seems to remember every single guitar he has ever had, but it would be great if he would share more about how he created certain pieces. i loved hearing about duane allman and his contributions to Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. and i enjoyed reading the genesis of wonderful tonight. but there’s so very much more that is lacking here. maybe it is lacking because the man was out of it so much of the time. pity.

2) maybe being a muse isn’t a good career move. clapton helps boyd keep a roof over her head (nice of him considering i don’t think alimony was terribly generous), and she is at peace with harrison when he dies, but in general, i think she is the one who ultimately had a wild ride with two extremely bumpy endings. in many ways, she fared the worst.

3) now that he’s a daddy of young children, there’s a point where clapton starts praising certain baby products in the book. creepy.

4)  the perspective of one person is particular is missing; and we cannot ever have it. george harrison’s views on all these goings on would have been quite enlightening. how on earth does one react when one’s good friend tells him that he is in love with his wife? and then they stay friends until death do them part? odd.

anyway, both are quick reads. i’m exceptionally pleased that he became and continues to be sober, but i’m embarrassed to report that clapton’s book gets less interesting once he is sober — unless you are really interested in recovery and rehab and 12 step thingies.  boyd’s book goes by far too quickly. and i wish both delved further into their lives in the 1960s.

but definitely some fun reads. can’t wait for ronnie wood’s and keith richard’s autobiographies, although i cannot imagine what on earth either man would remember from, oh, say, 1965 through about 2000.

maybe that coconut conked some memory back into keith?

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8 Responses to “pattie boyd, eric clapton, george harrison: a love story?”

  1. I always thought of “Wonderful Tonight” as the ultimate enabler song. Eric and Patti go to a party; he gets unspeakably drunk and no doubt embarrasses them both; then she takes the car keys, and as she pulls onto the highway, he gurgles “yes, you were wonderful tonight” before (I’m guessing here) throwing up again in the back seat. And people use it as their wedding song! That’s like hearing “Born In The USA” as a patriotic anthem…

  2. yes, in spite of the fact that it’s a pretty song, i always wondered the same thing. oh gee, i have a beautiful wife. but i’m going to end up sloppy drunk. and then tell her i love you. and be effing glad that she didn’t let me drive home for fear i would have ended up in someone’s swimming pool. i’m sure it’s meaningful when i tell her i love her after i have had two bottles of bourbon.

  3. Great recaps of the books. I’ll have to track those down through ye ole library. You have peaked my interest, oh great wise one. (3-time Jeopardy winner, ohmygod!) 🙂

    And, yes, being a muse really puts a damper on your life. 😉

  4. […] no, not the chickenmaster’s lady. not lay lady lay (which makes me want to vomit — what the hell was dylan thinking? was this recorded pre- or post-motorcycle incident?) not even layla, a fantastic ode to patti boyd harrison clapton boyd-again. […]

  5. […] if anyone was paying attention a few months ago to my clapton/harrison binge, they’ll know that if i wondered whether it was true before, i know it’s true now. […]

  6. janeAsherr Says:

    beatles my baby foeveer aaand my love foreveer

  7. Eric Clapton = ROCK & ROLL

  8. just saw the Martin Scorsese film IN A MATERIAL WORLD which was all about George’s life, but somehow, a lot of it does not get told. We loved them all, but the truth may be so painful in all their cases that it would reduce them from eternal icons to human beings. They all got into sex and drugs and there were some serious consequences, but not everyone contributes to the film, and I left with the feeling that a lot of it does not get told.

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