Saturday, July 19, 2008
An iconic figure of the 1960s and '70s, Pattie Boyd breaks a forty-year silence in Wonderful Tonight, and tells the story of how she found herself bound to two of the most addictive, promiscuous musical geniuses of the twentieth century and became the most famous muse in the history of rock and roll.
She met the Beatles in 1964 when she was cast as a schoolgirl in A Hard Day's Night. Ten days later a smitten George Harrison proposed. For twenty-year-old Pattie Boyd, it was the beginning of an unimaginably rich and complex life as she was welcomed into the Beatles inner circle - a circle that included Mick Jagger, Ron Wood, Jeff Beck, and a veritable who's who of rock musicians. She describes the dynamics of the group, the friendships, the tensions, the musicmaking, and the weird and wonderful memories she has of Paul and Linda, Cynthia and John, Ringo and Maureen, and especially the years with her husband, George.
It was a sweet, turbulent life, but one that would take an unexpected turn, starting with a simple note that began "dearest l."
I read it quickly and assumed that it was from some weirdo; I did get fan mail from time to time.... I thought no more about it until that evening when the phone rang. It was Eric [Clapton]. "Did you get my letter?"... And then the penny dropped. "Was that from you?" I said....It was the most passionate letter anyone had ever written me.
For the first time Pattie Boyd, former wife of both George Harrison and Eric Clapton, a high-profile model whose face epitomized the swinging London scene of the 1960s, a woman who inspired Harrison's song "Something" and Clapton's anthem "Layla," has decided to write a book that is rich and raw, funny and heartbreaking - and totally honest and open and breathtaking. Here is the truth, here is what happened, here is the story you've been waiting for.
I've always been fascinated about the story between these three, and ever since I heard about this book it's been on my TBR list. I have a guilty pleasure in reading these sort of biographies, and anyone who knows me, knows I'm a huge Beatles fan. This book has no huge revelations or accounts of Beatles and rock star sexual orgies, it's more of an account of who she knew and where she traveled to. Considering the amazing love songs written for her, she didn't come across as all that remarkable (as she admits herself), but she does appear to be a genuinely nice person, but without a lot of gumption. She had a tendency to go along with everything and makes excuses for those who abused her over her lifetime. She's a bit wishy washy.
Beginning with her background, which was upper middle class, she was sent off to boarding schools at age 8, her parents had affairs and unhappy marriages and re-marriages. She's close to her siblings (6 in all, including half-siblings) and has a good, kind heart. She meets George when they're both incredibly young and it's love at first sight. They are immediately an item and get married before long. Since I've already read a lot about the Beatles, there were no new revelations for me here, but I was really interested in how the whole Eric Clapton thing came about. Interesting how she barely talked about Paul and Linda, I suspect she wasn't all that crazy about Paul. She mostly socialized and vacationed with John and his first wife, Cynthia and Ringo and his two wives, Maureen (who had an affair with George that ended her friendship with Pattie, understandably) and Barbara Bach, the actress.
Her life with Eric was really kind of tragic. He had this passionate love for her, but he was at first a drug addict and then after he kicked the heroine he became an alcoholic. He told her if she didn't leave George he'd start taking heroine - which he did! Imagine the guilt and pressure he put on her! Eventually over time, she did leave George for him and she had to deal with all of his addictions and really became a doormat and went along with it for a long time, drinking alot too, though never becoming addicted herself. She had to put up with his alcoholic tantrums and moods, his infidelities and unexpected and irrational behavior. He didn't even propose to her directly, he got someone else to do it for him long distance and then found it was from a bet he made! Yet, she still said yes. At the time just before, she had left him, since they'd been living together and she found out that he was sleeping with a friend of hers! George was no saint when she was married to him, yet, apart from a few infidelities, most of his neglect was due to his spiritualism and chanting and preoccupation with the giant estate he bought - Friar's Park (it's on his "All Things Must Pass" album.) Eric, in my opinion was worse to her than George. He was always so messed up and drunk. They both cared for her and loved her, as is indicated in the love songs they wrote with her in mind (she recounts how Clapton wrote the song, "Wonderful Tonight", which I think any woman would find endearing), but after her modeling career ended (while married to George) she didn't really have anything to do with her life. She was a wifey that became a neglected wifey - for both of them! I felt badly for her that she was never able to conceive, what an ordeal, especially while married to Clapton and undergoing in vitro, she finds out that an affair of his in Italy produces a child, his son Conor, who is tragically killed falling out of a NYC window years later.
Still, it's amazing that she went straight from George to Eric without missing a beat (no pun intended) - how many women can say that? A lot of this book is more of a catalog of who she knew and hung out with in the 60's and '70's in the London fashion and rock scene. She has also traveled extensively and now has a career as a photographer. She seems happy with her life now (unmarried), though always regrets that she left George and feels she should have stuck it out with him and tried harder to make their marriage work - yet it's always easier to say in hindsight, "shoulda, coulda, woulda".