Sunday, December 10, 2017

George Harrison and Pattie Boyd

Pattie Boyd has been called music's Helen of Troy. George Harrison, who she met on the set of A Hard Day's Night, immortalized the way she moved in The Beatles' "Something," and Eric Clapton, her second husband, professed his obsession with her in "Layla," "Bell-Bottom Blues" and "You Look Wonderful Tonight." When one looks at photos of a young Pattie, it's easy to tell why the two guitarists were so smitten. Jagger in the 60s had Marianne Faithfull, Harrison had Boyd.

Many credit Boyd with introducing mysticism to the Beatles' music, if only through Harrison. She regularly meditated, and says George was compelled by her practice. "And then amazingly, Paul called and said the Maharishi was giving a talk in London and asked if we wanted to go," she says. "And usually when one of the Beatles went somewhere, we all went." She recalls that all four Beatles were fascinated by the guru. "At the time it was also really appropriate, because the dear manager Brian Epstein had just died, and everybody was in total shock," she says. "The Maharishi suggested we go to India for some calm and peace, while they decided what their next step would be."

Now here's a Harrison/Beatles fable; whether it's true or not, no one seems to know, but as the story goes (imagine one of those Scooby-Doo fades): it was another night of chaos and excess at Friar Park, George Harrison's immense Victorian home, all ablur through a haze of weed, cocaine and alcohol. It was 1973. At some point in the evening, Harrison's friend and houseguest Ronnie Wood took him aside and told him that he intended to sleep with the former Beatle's wife that evening. Harrison's response was to point to the room, which Wood shared with his wife Krissie, and say: "And I shall be sleeping there." These are rock stars, after all, so Wood slept with Pattie, and Harrison slept with the Stone's wife - and even took her off to Spain to meet Salvador Dali a few weeks later. The rumor abounds as well that George also slept with Ringo Starr's wife Maureen, who would pop by unexpectedly, having announced during a dinner party - and in front of Pattie - that he wanted her.

All of this leads to the photo below. Though Boyd explains the photo differently, and of course we will all probably read to much into it, here is where photo-journalism, in its ability to capture time better than words, brings a moment to life. Boyd, who took the picture (and not Henry Diltz, who was erroneously identified as the photographer in an earlier post) states that she set the camera on a tripod, hit the timer and quickly entered the frame. The timer was taking to long, so George, as Pattie tells it, was getting bored and looked away. She stated that "It was perfect, and he looked so beautiful, too." But from the time period and a journalist's eye, maybe there was more going on that simply a little boredom. While both George and Pattie indeed look beautiful, the boredom in Harrison's demeanor and the sad intensity in Boyd's face tell a different story; maybe one in which Harrison is bored of Pattie. Or is it that Pattie is in love with Eric Clapton? Whatever the real stories are, there is no softening the tale a photograph tells. In this picture, this writer sees a melancholy of discontent, but a couple who at one time loved one another. To me, it is as sad as photos can get.