Friday, June 26, 2020

Patti Boyd, George Harrison and Eric Clapton

So, to keep it straight, it was Morrison and Pam, when it wasn't Nico; and Donovan and Sue Lyon; and Edie with Dylan and Bob Neuwirth; and Pattie Boyd with Harrison and Clapton and maybe Ron Wood. 

Working  as a model and actress while still in her teens, Patti Boyd was cast as a schoolgirl in A Hard Day's Night. It was on the set that she met George Harrison and began her journey as a rock muse. Known for her typically English looks, Pattie Boyd would herald the Carnaby Street look alongside Jean Seberg and Twiggy.

Harrison and Boyd married two years later, but George wasn't the only rock star vying for Boyd's attention, and putting pen to paper to craft songs about her. Eric Clapton, one of Harrison's best friends, also fell madly in love with Boyd, and wrote much of Derek and the Dominos' 1970 album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, about Boyd and his "forbidden love." Patti and Harrison eventually divorced in 1977, but not before she had a brief fling with future Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, and in 1979, Clapton got his Layla when he and Boyd married, though it wouldn't last.

The string of hits that Boyd inspired are some of the most iconic songs in rock history. The first was Harrison’s "I Need You" from  Help! Lyrically, “I Need You” functions as a straightforward love song. The narrator has fallen deeply in love, and begs his lover to return to him: “You don't realize how much I need you; love you all the time and never leave you," Harrison pleads. Lennon and McCartney’s backing harmonies emphasize the desperation expressed in these lines, creating a mood appropriate for downbeat sentiments such as "Please come on back to me; I’m lonely as can be."

Clapton used Derek and the Dominos' lone studio album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, as a more than 77-minute declaration of love to Pattie Boyd-Harrison. The name "Layla" came from the fifth-century Arabian poem-turned-book The Story of Layla and Majnun, adapted by Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi. A mutual friend gave copies to both Clapton and Boyd. It was about forbidden love. Clapton secretly met with Boyd one afternoon in a South Kensington flat and played the song for her. Boyd wrote that it was "the most powerful, moving song I had ever heard" and noted that Clapton had identified with Majnun and was determined to know how she felt. Boyd went home to Harrison, at least on that day.

"Mystifies Me" was on Ron Wood's solo record I've Got My Own Album to Do, while he was still a member of Faces, and released a year before he joined the Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger, along with George Harrison, helped with some of the writing and performing). Wood had "sort of a warped rock star wife swap" in which he had an affair with Boyd and Harrison had an affair with Wood's first wife, Krissie Findley. Wood wrote in his autobiography that he had actually "pinched" Findley from Eric Clapton to begin with, further complicating things, and knew full well that Clapton was in love with Boyd. Soon after, Patti married Clapton. 

Boyd recalled one incident in which she spent hours deciding which dress to wear for a night out, while Clapton waited in the other room, playing his guitar all the while. Inspired by the country singer Don Williams, who wrote "beautifully simple" lyrics about quotidian events, Clapton came up with the chorus to "Wonderful Tonight." When Boyd finally came downstairs and asked him if she looked all right, he played her what he had written. "It was such a simple song but so beautiful and for years it tore at me. To have inspired Eric, and George before him, to write such music was so flattering. Yet I came to believe that although something about me might have made them put pen to paper, it was really all about them."