A Review: II of II Wonderful Tonight by Pattie Boyd
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.