December 17, 2009
George Harrison, Eric Clapton. And Me
Review by R.E. Prindle
Boyd, Pattie: Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, And Me. Three Rivers Press, 2007
The darkest hour is just before dawn.
There’s one thing I want you to do
Especially for me.
And it’s something everybody needs…
Whisper a little prayer for me.
–Bass, Ralph. Pauling, Lawson
One needs a little encouragement in the black night of the soul. One needs a little encouragement amidst the trials and tribulations of life. The way is dark, the night is long and who knows what is waiting at the end of the road. All the mythological heroes went through a period of madness. Most likely at the mid-life crisis. The greater the stresses the more difficult to avoid errors. Why judge others so harshly when neither you nor I could have done better in the same circumstances. If a person is of good will and not ill why not be a little forgiving? Especially if no crimes are committed.
As Pattie points out, when manager Brian Epstein died the Beatles were suddenly on their own. To that time Brian had managed all the details, business as well as personal leaving the Beatles to do what they did best, write, record and perform songs. The relationship had been perfect of its kind. Given that the Beatles were now major successes rather than fledglings it would have been nearly impossible for them to put together a management team.
Of course, the Beatles were no businessmen. In the attempt their musical skills were compromised while the business end could not prosper. Cares such as they had not known descended on them. Nor, did they understand that the smallest action or word of theirs would reverberate around the world. They were no longer able to say or do what they pleased. Millions of vulnerable young people and unstable adults hung on every word giving them whatever interpretation suited them best. McCartney’s song Maxwell’s Silver Hammer did uncalculable damage.
When the Beatles closed their boutique waves of reaction crossed the world. It was said they opened the doors and invited anyone to take what they wanted. Away off in Keseyland on the West Coast of the US where I owned a record store a wave of kids descended on my store asking if everything was free. These were zany times where everything was possible so, mystified, I asked why they would think that. I was told the Beatles had just given away everything in their store and why wouldn’t I? I became a bastard for not following the Beatles lead.
So, when Pattie noticed a change in George when they came back from India it was probably caused by business cares, a new reality that neither he nor the others knew exactly how to deal with, nor was there time to learn. Those stresses, in the way of the human mind, are converted to sexual expressions. In George’s case he began to mumble about having a lot of concubines. A pretty normal reaction that he may never have acted upon. I’m sure that when he showed up with Chris O’ Dell in tow it may have seemed like the first step. (See Chris O’ Dell’s auto for a fuller description.) Chris became Pattie’s friend denying any relations with George, at least during her extended stay with the Harrisons, although after Pattie’s divorce the two came to terms. But, for now she and Pattie became bosom buddies shopping and cavorting together.
What a wonderful time to have unlimited money and a huge mansion to furnish.
While the sixties are primarily thought of for the groups and records that was only one component of that truly wonderful and amazing time, at least looking at the bright side of the penny.
P.F. Sloan, who penned Eve Of Destruction, titled one of his own LPs Raised On Records. The title explained the generation. Starting with perhaps Johnnie Ray leading on to Elvis the history of our generation was written by recording artists rather than novelists or even movies. You might question starting with Johnnie Ray but he was the first mind blowing departure from the norm. Mind blowing explains the whole period. Rock’s John the Baptist preceding the Jesus of Elvis. A trail of great records led up to the British Invasion when the world tipped on its axis. It was one mind blowing act after another.
First the Beatles upset the elders, long hair but clean cut. Then came the not so clean cut Rolling Stones with the weirdest thing you ever saw on stage, Brian Jones. You couldn’t take your eyes off him. Fantastic hair and the strangest clothes. Mick probably had to get rid of the competition. If the Stones weren’t bad enough they were followed by the appropriately named Animals. The name said it all sending the old folks wild with gnashing teeth. But backed up by Dylan and Peter, Paul And Mary the group mind was conditioned to move in the same direction in unison.
As Pattie says, she found the most wonderful art nouveau artefacts. Indeed, Aubrey Beardsley, Alphone Mucha, Toulouse Lautrec, god, even the names, whoever heard of anyone named Aubrey? The art focus shifted from that NY art junk. Travel posters had been a staple for several years but now other posters began to augment them, Peter Max, East Totem West, the Fillmore and Avalon posters and the most spectacular of all- the giant personality posters. Originally the posters were blown up real grainy so that if you stood close the picture wasn’t visible but stepping back and then back further the portrait emerged. Drove the old folks wild, mytified the less hip; minds weren’t prepared. Although by that time Telstar was old hat, and men had walked on the moon. The impossible was no longer impossible, anything was possible and it kept happening. Andy Warhol and his Campbell Soup can. Good god. Remember the Robert Indiana LOVE poster with the lopsided O?
In the US the tax laws were such that you could make money on records and books without turning a profit. Publishing exploded. Nifty expensive art books of the strangest and most outre artists were available. Virtual toys like the works of Victor Vaserelly. It was incredible, it was magnificent, it was mind candy as never seen before.
I hope Pattie with all that coin took advantage of it. There was a canchre in wonderland though. Pattie didn’t keep her hand on the throttle but let her attention be diverted by sex. Some reviewer said that Pattie wasn’t the brightest bulb. Hmm. I do wonder what she was thinking.
Now comes the part difficult of analysis. Pattie, like all women portrays herself as an innocent, the helpless beauty in the clutches of two beasts who refuse to turn into princes when kissed. I defend n o one but like a clear picture. It was clear that Pattie is haunted by her parents relationships as she always mentions them at critical points. She perceives her mother as a victim so it is possible that she was seeking revenge for her.
The time sequence Pattie presents is inadequate to follow the actual course of the relationship’s deterioration. It is possible that Pattie decided to turn the tables and become polyandrous first. She did conduct herself in that manner or, at least, try to. The information is insufficient to determine the actual sequence of events. She appears to always have been flirtatious with other men. In reference to Clapton she says she allowed him to seduce her. This implies volition and that she encouraged his attentions. One might say she almost solicited the famous letter from Clapton she showed George. It wouldn’t have taken a genius to figure out the small e it was signed with referred to Clapton. George was no dummy. Pattie blithely passed it off as from an unknown fan. Then she innocently expresses surprise when Clapton called that evening and asked if she had gotten his letter. Oh please, Pattie.
George unable to take it anymore invites Clapton over, gives him one guitar, takes another engaging in a guitar duel with the prize being the fair lady. Well, George found her, raised her up to where she was and then let Clapton take her.
Now, this is fairly reprehensible I think, Pattie left, but rather than seeking a divorce she lived with Clapton for two years while married to Harrison. Affairs of the heart are beyond me so all I can say is that Harrison was too kind hearted, Pattie callous and cruel and Clapton a simple cad. George always did the honorable by Pattie and she should have done the same by him.
One questions Clapton’s motivations. Clapton had a housefull of women when he professed his great love for Pattie; a nice girl I’m sure, but not to die for. Pattie cagily put Clapton off so his threat was to become a heroin addict unless she came with him. He was only snorting the heroin not shooting it. Pattie let him, she says, for three years.
The only reason I can see for Clapton’s wanting her is emasculation games. George was a Beatle with a guitar reputation therefore above him. When the two had their guitar duel, by consensus, George lost thereby losing status. Clapton then took the woman thereby emasculationg the man he had made his rival. But now he was stuck with this woman he didn’t really want.
In an interesting twist in the contest for supremacy both Clapton and Pattie were put down by the redoubtable Mick Jagger. Pattie and Clapton had been married and threw a huge bash with mega fireworks, everything.
Mick Jagger came with Jerry Hall, who had been engaged to Brian Ferry but had left him for Mick.
So Jagger is leaving no stone unturned in his quest for supremacy even putting down a weak rival like Brian Ferry.
The party started in the afternoon and ended in the dawn.
By the time Eric and I went upstairs to bed it was daylight. We were ready to drop- but Mick and Jerry were tucked up and fast asleep in our bed, with little Jade, his daughter with Bianca Jagger sleeping sweetly beside them. Trust Mick to have found the best bed in the house.
So Jagger put down both Clapton and Pattie. Childless herself she saw Mick’s child. They could have turned Jagger out of the bed appearing boorish but if they had, dog tired, they would have had to change the sheets then crawling into a bed warmed by Jagger. Mick aced them both demonstrating his supremacy. Ah, those emasculation games.
Now, Pattie left George, supposedly because, or after, Clapton wrote Layla, but she didn’t divorce him for two years. Thus as another man’s wife she was living as Clapton’s concubine. Call me old fashioned but I can’t endorse such behavior. Amazingly George didn’t press for a divorce letting Pattie divorce him on the grounds of lack of cohabitation for two years.
Perhaps she was avenging her mother’s treatment when her father carried on with the wife of an intimate friend for some time, perhaps two years, before divorcing the mother. Obviously some psychological end is being served.
Clapton was no where near as generous monetarily as Harrison. Pattie describes it as keeping her on a tight leash. Nor did this man who professed to love his Layla so deeply then marry her. No, they shambled along in his loose situation.
When they did marry it was under the most humiliating situation for Pattie. We have only her side here but she says that Clapton and his manager had a bet that the manager couldn’t get a story about Clapton in the papers. The manager without Clapton’s knowledge invented a story which was printed that Clapton would marry Pattie the next Tuesday.
Pattie had just walked out on Clapton and was in LA. On the Friday before Clapton called her and said he needed an immediate answer. Marry him by Tuesday or forget it. Pattie folded. After the I do-s Clapton left on an extended tour leaving Pattie to find her way home.
Amazingly she stayed with him for some time. Even so she had not severed emotional ties with Harrison who remained unmarried.
Clapton was still playing money games with her. One Christmas she went shopping running up a 5,000 pound tab at Harrod’s expecting to charge it to her Harrison account. Surprise! The account had been closed. Not having enough money in her checking account which Clapton apprently wouldn’t let her have she had the effrontery to ask Harrison who gave her a five thousand pound check. Apparently Pattie misunderstood the meaning of the word divorce.
For whatever reason she showed the check to Clapton who, realizing he had been aced in the emasculation game, refused to let her cash it.
Now tiring of the games with Clapton Pattie sought a divorce. More money games.
With Harrison, as a divorce settlement after abandoning him and cohabiting with another man, Pattie received 120,000 pounds. In the circumstances I would see that as very generous. She doesn’t say exactly what she received from Clapton but it was enough to provide her with a very sufficient investment income.
Not content with that while apparently assuming divorce or no that Clapton owed her more she demanded he buy her a million pound house as he had spent that much on one for himself. She was denied but it was agreed to buy her a 300,000 pound house although title would remain with Clapton. She found one for approx. 350,000 pounds and was allowed to live in that.
Subseqently Clapton remarried. The canny Pattie realizing that if Clapton died his wife would turn her out attempted some successful maneuvers. She asked for 40,000 pounds for some remodeling. Clapton refused but replying that he wasn’t aware that he was her landlord he deeded the house to her so she came out very well indeed.
During this time she was living with her third man named Rod. He was nine years her junior. Tiring of him she cruelly told him that his life as a ‘toy boy’ was up and to move on.
The inevitable conclusion is that Pattie viewed her mother’s relationships with men as she was growing up and came to some conclusions. Although neither Harrison or Clapton were perfect men I am convinced that whatever their shortcomings Pattie was not an innocent victim. She actively encouraged Clapton while married to Harrison, abandoning George for Clapton. She knew Clapton’s attitude toward women and stimulants, both drugs and alcohol before she ‘allowed herself to be seduced’ so his addictions came as no surprise. She has no complaint on that score.
Pattie made the remark in closing that if the right man came along she would snap him up in a minute. Having lived every groupie’s dream of snaring a Beatle and Clapton the only eligible rock star to complete her trifecta would be the Man himself- Mick Jagger.
I would be interested to see that combination. The odysseys of this simple Kenyan girl from Harrison to Clapton to Jagger would certainly equal the odyssey of her fellow Kenyan, Barack Obama.
December 9, 2009
George Harrison, Eric Clapton, And Me
I of II
Review by R.E. Prindle
Boyd, Pattie: Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, And Me, Three Rivers Press, 2007
I don’t believe in boogie bars,
Macro biotics or souped up cars.
I don’t believe the price of gold;
The certainty of growing old,
But, I believe in you.
Perhaps it’s because I lived through the era experiencing what I did and vicariously the rest that I was thoroughly charmed by Pattie’s autobiography. I hope I will be excused for calling Pattie by her first name throughout but Boyd sounds so brutally unisexual eliminating amything but female sexual aspects that it doesn’t seem fitting and I don’t wish to sound formal otherwise.
This part of the review will cover pretty much Chapter 3: Modeling, 4: George and 5: Mrs Harrison. The chapters brought back the glittering memories of the sixties, memories created more by magazines and television shows than reality for most people but perhaps more or less real for some. If it wasn’t real for Pattie than it probably wasn’t real for anyone. But then it’s hard to tell where you are at any given moment in time.
She was there in what was called ‘Swinging London’ at the time. From a distance it was just dazzling. We were entranced by the possibility. As the late great Roger Miller put it: London swings like a pendulum do. By the time I got there in the seventies the pendulum was stationary. Pattie herself began life as a hair stylist but in a top notch salon. While there she was given an intro to a modeling firm and was lucky enough to catch on. From the looks of the photos whe was in the Twiggy line. She could have become a high fashion queen.
And London was a place where staying on top of fashion was a full time job. The scene was perhaps best captured by Ray Davies and the Kinks in their song: Dedicated Follower Of Fashion. If memory serves it was written about Marc Bolan.
…his clothes are loud but never square
It will make him or break him
So he’s got to buy the best
‘Cos He’s a dedicated follower of fashion.
He does his little rounds
Amongst the boutiques of London Town
Eagerly pursuing all the lates fads and fashions.
Pattie was in the thick of it mentioning the people she associated with, mere names to us, like Ossie Clarke, Twiggy, Mary Quant, David Hockley, photographers, artists, fashion designers who were realities to her although the glitter is brighter than the shabby fabric beneath. But then, how else could it be?
One feels envy at her luck. I was on the West Coast viewing it all from a distance with wonder, but owning a record store. By the time I got to London in the early seventies the swing had swung. Carnaby St. was deserted when I strolled down it all alone past the shops empty of customers. What sounded so good in song looked effete in reality. Of course I was straight Beverly Hills, dressed completely Eric Ross, quite a standout, but strange and exotic to Londoners.
Oh well, there were always the great book stores.
Pattie had begun her career as a fashion mdoel when she received a call to appear on the set of the Beatles movie in progress, A Hard Day’s Night. I suspect that George Harrison had seen her about town and requested her by name, only a guess, but he certainly glommed on to her when she arrived. Honorable intentions too. The couple got together and it was on. Thus she entered the charmed circle of the Beatles. You couldn’t get no higher.
The Beatles? Who cared really? other than the millions. Whatever was happening there passed me flatter than the Grateful Dead, and that’s flat. I was cool to both the Beatles and the Stones. I wasn’t really a dedicated fan of anybody; I liked certain records- Superlungs by Terry Reid. The first Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart when he still had intact pipes, the second with Bob Tench wasn’t bad either, lousy cover. Beck apparently hated vocalists because he played so loud, on purpose, I was backstage once and watched him do it, that he blew out their pipes. Donovan’s Sunshine Superman was tops, Procol Harum’s first, Alan Price’s This Price Is Right, stuff like that. Dillard and Clark, Flying Burrito Brothers’ White Line Fever, some Johnny Rivers. Nice stuff. Two or three Byrds.
But, the Beatles were gods and here were George Harrison and Pattie Boyd trying to fashion a normal lower middle class life in a hundred room mansion. The Beverly Hillbillies in London. Good luck boy and girl. And that was not taking into account drugs. Pattie’s story of the maniac dentist sends a chill through the marrow; a real demon dentist, the Sweeny Todd of the profession. Lord, deliver us from evil. It was he who introduced Pattie and Harrison to LSD, surreptitiously of course. Spiked their coffee just as they were about to leave his house.
Then the stuff came on, a little like the Airplane’s song, White Rabbitt- one side makes you larger, one side makes you smaller. Pardon me for writing myself into the story but the pen is in my hand:
Happened to me once. I was down in Berkeley at what was supposed to be a party. Pot parties in that time and place meant everyone sat around self-absorbed looking out vaguely at what could possibly have been you, or possibly just empty space. This particular set played draggy jazz so possibly they weren’t even looking out, their eyes were just open. As I was to learn it wasn’t pot. I had never smoked before anyway. Nobody could have ever been busted for whatever it was I smoked. Nothing was happening except the draggy jazz, maybe John Coltrane going around in fifths, and I was getting bored so I said I was leaving. As with the dentist of Pattie’s experience I was abjured not to leave. I never knew really what it was until I read Pattie’s story. It hit me a couple blocks down the street. The ’tobacco’ must have been laced with acid.
Getting out of the maze of streets of Berkeley always required a little concentration on my part anyway and now I didn’t have any. I didn’t even know where I was or where I was going. Fortunately for me the car drove itself. I did have to keep my hands on the wheel though it wasn’t always uppermost in my mind. The car did strange things when I took my hands off the wheel, wandering here and there. A voice spoke saying: Keep your hands on the wheel.
The car found its way to the MacArthur Freeway which, although it was a road I knew by heart I couldn’t recognize. Plus everything had turned a shiny patent leather black, the highway just glittered and shown so. Colors had disappeared; the lights of the cars shot through my eyes to the back of my brain. They were all driving very slowly it seemed but passed me going very fast. Of course I was driving about twenty-five per which was as much as I could handle. I got in the slow lane. A good thing because it seemed like I was going around this curve for twenty-five minutes. Everytime I looked it seemed like I was in the same place. I decided to put my foot back on the gas.
The next problem was that the sky and highway were bonded together. Fortunately the car was able to separate them and they moved apart before us- the car and me.
My next big problem, after a seeming eternity, was that in order to make a left exit to Castro Valley I had to cross three lanes dotted with cars moving at varying speeds in different lanes. I had to time it just right to get in between cars in two different lanes. Sort of a Rubiks Cube kind of problem. While I was dithering my car changed lanes for me and I was on the off ramp with a smile.
An underpass lay before me where the most miraculous event in my life took place. As I began to enter the underpass this set of ram’s horns, you know, like a male sheep, began to grow from my forehead. Great white curling things they were, magnificent. It was at that moment I realized I was Master Of The World. Just as I was about to assume the mantle I came out the other side losing my spectacular rack and my crown. While I was pondering the imponderable my car finding its way back gliding noiselessly up the street into the driveway where it pertly came to a halt. Heaving a sigh of relief I got out and entered the house.
I don’t know what I looked like, perhaps fierce because of the loss of my horns, but my wife and mother-in-law seemed to run from me. Entering the kitchen I saw my brother-in-law about to have some tacos he’d cooked up. The guy was a wizard with hamburger; he could do things with hamburger than no chef had ever done. I had issues with him which I won’t go into. When I saw the tacos I became ravenous and wanted them. He was experienced. He took one look at me and realized the situation his hand stopping before his open mouth.
I didn’t hesitate, I remembered being Master Of The World. I snatched his tacos from his hands saying: I want those. He was knowing. He made no resistance, just said, sure. Smart move because I wouldn’t have taken no for an answer while still feeling superhuman. I wolfed those suckers down; best tacos I ever ate. But now there were fireworks going off in my head. I got in bed and watched the light show going off behind my closed eyes for a couple hours. I woke up grouchy and ragged. I took care in the future to make sure that never happened again. Wherever I had been I didn’t want to go back. I sure missed those horns though.
Apparently Harrison and his band mates liked it going back repeatedly. But then Pattie discovered that old fraud the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his Transcendental Meditation. What a fraud. She turned Harrison on and the band followed. First it was Bangor, Wales and then on to the big temple in the Himalayas of India.
There are many wondrous stories of their Indian sojourn at the ashram. The upshot was that the holy man liked girls as much, perhaps more, than the rest of the fellows. This tore a rent in his spirituality and disillusioned the group who left in a huff.
Pattie does tell a good story about Ringo who was wary of spicy Indian food having had digestive problems as a youth. He took along a suitcase full of Heinz Baked Beans. Imagine going through customs with that. Imagine watching the guy in front of you opening a suitcase full of cans of Heinz Baked Beans. US Customs would have made him open each can on the spot. I’d be laughing yet.
After their marriage George wanted her to give up the job of modeling. she had regrets but as far as modeling went she was getting old. Younger women were pushing up. The Twiggy look was dated from the start anyway. She might have been near the end of her career whether she liked it or not.
Couple intesting points before this idylic phase of her life and life with George Harrison ended. Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull came to their house one night. Jagger wrote on the Harrison’s wall: Mick and Marianne were here. Strange action for guests. The only thing I can figure is that Mick was marking out the limits of his territory like one of the big cats who go around peeing on bushes to set up their territory. As a Beatle and tops of the pop world it was incumbent on each Beatle to establish their priority, their dominance over the lesser princes. When Mick wrote that on Harrison’s wall without demurrer he was establishing dominance over his superior. Eric Clapton would later do the same when he took Harrison’s wife while defeating him, as some say, in a guitar duel.
If you watched the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame show you saw Jagger and Bono dueling it out for the crown. A very haughty Jagger beat Bono into absolute submission having him groveling before himself worse than Obama before the Emperor of Japan. Jagger was so taut that after he flipped off Bono he almost dismissed the audience but then caught himself and gave a dismissive back hand wave in acknowledgment. That was somethin’ else man.
Jagger as leader of the Rolling Stones also foisted Allen Klein on the Beatles also demonstrating the priority of the Stones over the Beatles. And lastly Jagger, how shall I say, induced Bob Dylan to open a show for the Stones placing Dylan therefore beneath the Stones. I would have to say that the Stones have finished as the undisputed Kings of Rock of Roll. There’s always more going on than you think.
And then Pattie and Harrison were in attendance at the famous first drug bust of Jagger, Richards and Marianne Faithfull. As Pattie tells it she and her husband left the party at 3:00 AM. Immediately after they left the police raided. She believes the fuzz waited until they left as they were Beatles. The Beatles were thought of as clean at that time while the Stones and Marianne were monsters. She may be right. If the type of glamour achieved by the Beatles and Stones was new to them and difficult to manage perhaps the same was true of society. The Phenomenon of the British Invasion was so spectacular that you just had to stand back and ask: What’s this? So maybe the cops did honor The Top Of The Pops.
Whether she was slapping back at Mick for writing on her wall by the observation I can’t tell although both stories found a prominent place in her narrative. High school never ends.
The contest for her favors by Harrison and Clapton is very complex, a lot of psychology involved. I’ll have to work on it some but that will be covered in my review of the second half of the book to follow.