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Beatle’s muse comes clean.

There are few women in rock and roll that can lay claim to the title of true muse. Pattie Boyd happens to be the quintessential rock muse. This woman was the inspiration of not one, but two of the most famous love songs of the rock and roll generation.

Thwarted obsession ... Pattie Boyd now.

Her story would be much different if it didn’t happen between two masters of their craft. Two giants in the public eye. I try to imagine Pattie Boyd leaving George Harrison for some unknown English gent and leading a quiet life in seclusion, but we all know that was not the case. Instead she fell in love with George Harrison’s best friend and fellow rock luminary Eric Clapton. It is a story of rock legend, and it has always been the white elephant in the room that no one wants to identify. Now, it seems, Pattie is talking about the loves of her life in a hotly anticipated book. We cannot wait for it to hit the shelves. The story is too juicy to pass up, and I look forward to hearing her account of life with both Harrison and Clapton. We can’t wait for this one to come out.

Here’s what we’ve read.

The inspiration behind two of music’s greatest songwriters tells her story, writes Steve Meacham. She wasn’t the most successful model, nor was she the most beautiful Englishwoman of her generation.

So what made Pattie Boyd the lover and wife of two of the greatest musicians of rock history? And the inspiration for three of the greatest love songs to a single woman man has ever recorded?

If you’re too young to remember the name Pattie Boyd, perhaps the names George Harrison and Eric Clapton might resonate. One a Beatle. The other la creme de la Cream. Both gods of the guitar.

And the songs they wrote about their muse? Something. As in “Something in the way she moves, attracts me like no other lover”. Then Layla, written by Clapton when he was Derek of the Dominos and passionately in love with, as Elvis might have sung, “the girl of my best friend”. And finally, Wonderful Tonight – the anthem of the errant husband, intoxicated by drugs, alcohol or a mistress, who suddenly remembers where his real affections lie.

For the best part of four decades people have tried coaxing Boyd into “dishing the dirt”. Now, apparently, she has. Next month “the iconic muse to musical icons George Harrison and Eric Clapton speaks out in a compelling and moving autobiography illustrated with her own breathtaking and intimate photographs”, to quote the publicity from the publisher, Headline Review.

According to London’s Daily Mail, which has obviously seen a sneak preview of the book she’s written with the journalist Penny Junor, there’s quite a lot of salacious tittle-tattle – as one might expect for a reputed £950,000 ($2.2 million) advance.

The 63-year-old Boyd lives in a 17th-century cottage in West Sussex and is said to be enjoying the prospect of her account going head-to-head with Clapton’s autobiography, for which he has apparently been paid £3.5 million.

According to the Mail, “she intends to lay bare the bizarre details of how the singer agreed to swap his own girlfriend for Pattie as a trade-off with Harrison”.

“She is also said to be planning to tell the full story about dark rumours that during their nine-year marriage, Clapton, battling an addiction to drink and drugs, was an abusive and violent husband who cheated on her with a string of women because she couldn’t bear him children.”

Boyd was a 20-year-old model in 1964 when she met the youngest Beatle during filming for A Hard Day’s Night. She married Harrison in 1966 and is said to have introduced the Beatles to the Indian mystic the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi four years later.

According to the Mail, while married to Harrison, she may have had a fling with John Lennon, who documented his sexual obsession with her in graphic diary entries.

When Boyd and Harrison met Clapton at a party in Chelsea in 1968, the guitarist fell for her immediately. They began an affair, but Boyd refused to leave Harrison – prompting Clapton to write Layla about thwarted obsession.

When Clapton finally confessed to Harrison, according to the Mail, Harrison is said to have told him: “Whatever you like, man. You can have her and I’ll have your girlfriend.”

Living with Clapton, however, was not easy. His addictions and affairs contributed to Boyd’s battle with the bottle. In fact, Clapton wrote another, less well-known, song about her called The Shape You’re In, documenting her alcoholism.

So much for rock’s most famous muse. But what about the other women who have inspired unforgettable songs? Who was Sting’s Roxanne? Van Morrison’s Gloria? Chuck Berry’s Maybellene? Noel Gallagher’s Wonderwall? Ray Davies’s Lola?

We may not know all the muses, but we do know some of the most important. Women (and why are men so seldom considered muses?) who have inspired songs which have survived for the best part of half a century.

Take Suzanne Verdal. Puzzled? What about these opening lines to Leonard Cohen’s most famous song? “Suzanne takes you down/ to her place near the river/ You can hear the boats go by/ You can spend the night beside her.”

Did they do it? Or didn’t they? Last year Verdal, speaking to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in her new home, California’s Venice Beach, denied those poetic phrases and seductive tones had ever had their desired effect.

Back in the 1960s, she was married to the Canadian sculptor Armand Vaillancourt, and yes, they lived in a place by the St Lawrence River in Montreal. Cohen has admitted this much on film: “There was a woman named Suzanne who was the wife of a friend of mine, Armand Vaillancourt, who is a great Montreal sculptor, still a friend of mine, and his wife was Suzanne Vaillancourt. She invited me down to her place near the river, and she did serve me Constant tea filled with little pieces of orange.”

Both deny their lyrical encounter was, in Cohen’s phrase, “compromised by carnality”.

But Suzanne didn’t sound all that convincing in her interview. “I was the one that put the boundaries on that because Leonard is actually a very sexual man and very attractive and very charismatic. And I was very attracted to him, but somehow I didn’t want to spoil that preciousness, that infinite respect that I had for him, for our relationship, and I felt that a sexual encounter might demean it somehow.”

Bob Dylan, for once, was less elliptical. Yes, he wrote songs about Joan Baez. But the hymn he has described as his best song (and the one he has, reputedly, never sung in concert) is Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands – the 11-minute finale to the double album Blonde on Blonde, released in 1966.

It was written – as innumerable Dylan websites attest – for the woman he married in 1965, his now ex-wife, Sara, born Shirley Noznisky. By the time they met she had married and become Sara Lownds – which more than one Dylan scribe has noted sounds suspiciously like Lowlands.

Ten years later, on Desire, Dylan acknowledged his muse in Sara with the lines, “Stayin’ up for days in the Chelsea Hotel/ Writin’ Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands for you”. They divorced in July 1977.

Sydney has a bit part in this story. According to Rolling Stones legend, Marianne Faithfull’s first words in St Vincent’s Hospital on coming out of her suicide attempt in the Chevron Hotel in 1969, were: “Wild horses wouldn’t drag me away.” And so Mick Jagger wrote the Rolling Stones ballad.

That’s Faithfull’s version, anyway. Others say Keith Richards wrote the song about his newborn son Marlon, whom he was leaving to go on tour, and that Jagger rewrote the lyric except for the opening line.

But surely Jagger wrote Angie, about his dalliance with David Bowie’s ex-wife, Angela? That’s what Angie Bowie has always claimed. The truth, according to Jagger is, that Richards wrote the title, inspired by his daughter, “and I wrote the rest of it”.

Of course, the most famous rock muse of all is Yoko Ono. Apart from the obvious – The Ballad of John and Yoko, written when John Lennon was still a Beatle, and Oh Yoko, the

closing song on his solo album Imagine – Lennon is said to

have written half a dozen songs about Ono. Yet, arguably, the finest love song ever written by a Beatle about his wife wasn’t written by Lennon or Harrison

Paul McCartney wrote several love songs for Linda (strangely, none for Heather). Among them are I Will, The Lovely Linda and My Love. But the best, undoubtedly, is Maybe I’m Amazed, written in 1969 as the Beatles were breaking up and Linda was proving his anchor.

Even George Harrison – who knew a thing or two about love songs – admitted it was one of the greatest songs McCartney wrote.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald


15 Responses

  1. this is a very interesting article, i like it a lot.

    and I think that george harrison’s love songs were better than most of pauls. maybe im amazed is undoubtedly one of my favorite songs, but I think that George, to me, had a way of capturing love and putting it into a song. He could write a heart, he could write a soul.

  2. it’s funny how who has written this article could denying that Pattie is and was the most beautiful woman!it’s so strange!i would really like for who has written this article,which is the most beautiful woman…….i would really like……,well,this triangle of love,always makes you think not just about people feelings involved in this story,but how a woman could inspire such beautiful songs like these:”Something”,”Wonderful tonight”,”Layla”………it’s really awesome!i love :”Something”,i even listened to some covers but the original version it’s the only one,the best!about Clapton songs “Wonderful tonight”is so soft,so slow,but not bad,i prefer:”Layla”and if you listening well the words you could know how much Eric suffered and how much loved Pattie……in George song,then there is really quite a description,a romantic description about Pattie,but in front of these two declarations of love i would really like to know if Pattie could choose just one men……who she would choose………difficult choice!

  3. What a wonderful, wonderful article. I can’t wait to get this book. My favorite Beatles songs have always and will always be the love songs.

  4. I’ll take Astrid over Patti as the most intriging and beautiful of the Beatle women. But Patti is a close second. I can’t wait for the book!

  5. i thought paul wrote the song, “heather” for heather….and isn’t there a song on memory for heather too……buddy holly had a girl friend named peggy sue…ol buddy…how i wish he were here…….and jim morrison…writing queen of the highway for his pam….pam and jim……

  6. awc..john you like me, veronica your baby…danni…….damn…you..shit.


  8. ulla, you will always be my princess.


  10. I’m not sure what’s going on with the Ulla Veronica comments, but c’mon guys….please keep things tame.

    I am open to everyone being able to post their comments here in a free and open way. All that I ask is that you all keep things nice for everyone.

    I would hate to have to shut comments on articles off completely. Let’s not be nasty please.


  12. I always heard Layla was a true murder story but worded to sound like a love song, that Eric ask his teenage girlfriend who he named Layla in 1970 to write him a song. Eric paid to have her album put out in 1971 “Dressed In Love” by Layla Cries. At the same time the papers in England were calling her Claptons girlfriend, there is an article someplace of the true story behind the song and the girlfriend that wrote it. And there old films were she gives the song to Eric and shows him how to sing and play it. The rumer is she was a musical genius. Eric bought her a crown so shes got some royal blood, and it goes to thier oldest daughter name Layla; but she wouldn’t marry him. She also has children with Carlos Santana.
    Carlos, Eric and Layla made a romantic comedy in July 1984 in Arlington, Texas that hasn’t been made public yet, the cast was all stars from the world of music and Hollywood. Thats all I know.

  13. this soap opera must end now, i am sorry for all the silly posts that i did here. it is all over now. the facts are this: 1. ulla is miss prym. 2. i pretended to be ulla on some posts here. 3. ulla also posted as me, she said all the bad things about him. 4. i posted as awc1967 to embarrass him, most of his posts are me. 5.ulla and awc1967 are only internet friends, but ulla wants more from him, but he is happily married and ulla has to accept that. 6. i was hoping he and i could be internet friends but he and ulla are that., so i will give them their space. 7. we all have sent angry emails to one another, but it has stopped a while back. 8. i am sorry for all this mess and from now on, i will post nice, thank you .

  14. I hadn’t thought of Pattie in awhile, but I always perceived her as having a sort of classiness and a little graciousness about her. I have since changed my mind.

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