Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me
Pattie Boyd with Penny Junor

review by C.D. Scoggins

Twenty years. That’s how long I’ve waited for Pattie Boyd to tell her story. Since I was nine years old and first fell in love with John, Paul, Ringo, and George in particular, I was fascinated by the objects of the Fab Four’s affections. What kind of female could capture a Beatle’s heart? In my preteen mind, she would have to be supernatural!

Pattie Boyd was just that. Blonde, long-limbed, and a fashion queen, Boyd epitomized the ultimate rock girlfriend, then wife—not just to George Harrison, the most handsome and mysterious Beatle, but to Eric Clapton, one of rock’s guitar gods! She inspired many Harrison compositions, including the ethereal “Something,” and, of course, Clapton’s urgent “Layla.”  This, to me, elevated her far above a guitarist’s pretty accessory, hanger-on, or groupie.

In Wonderful Tonight, Boyd is revealed as human, and—dare I say it—a little bland. Reading her memoir, however, I could totally understand the reason men loved Pattie Boyd. Besides the fact that she was a gorgeous model (they seem to go with male rock stars like chocolate goes with peanut butter), she’s kind, sweet, and classy. If anything, Boyd is too meek, too tolerant, and much too enabling in her relationships, which she readily admits. Although she’s definitely fun-loving, and has dabbled in her share of drugs and men (a night with Ron Wood comes to mind), she’s neither a dangerous femme fatale, like Marianne Faithfull or Anita Pallenberg, or a reliable starfucker, like Bebe Buell. In fact, she’s rather conservative (about her first sexual experience: “Part of me wanted to stay a virgin until I got married”) and  monogamous (she wouldn’t accept a date with Harrison until she’d broken up with her boyfriend). Even the photographs of Boyd depict a wide-eyed, trusting soul.

Boyd’s relationship with Harrison was young, romantic, and hardly the stuff of hot rock-and-roll scandal. Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager, accompanied the two on their first date; when Harrison proposed marriage in 1965, he consulted with Epstein first (“’Brian says it’s okay. Will you marry me?’”). Furthermore, the infamous Harrison-Boyd-Clapton triangle was not the glorified love story that legend makes it to be. The decision Boyd made to leave Harrison for Clapton took years of agonizing. Reluctant to leave Harrison (“I believed that marriage is forever”), Boyd finally left after many years of what she perceived to be marital neglect and infidelity, including Harrison’s blatant affair with Ringo Starr’s then-wife, Maureen. According to Boyd, her time with Clapton was far from ideal. He wasn’t the gentle, intense romantic who rescued her from a traumatizing marriage. Boyd doesn’t trash Clapton, which is indicative of her class and sensitivity; however, she makes clear that his alcoholism and infidelities defined, plagued, and eventually ruined their relationship and subsequent marriage.

Boyd’s infertility was a major issue. During one of Clapton’s many affairs, his mistress got pregnant. He jubilantly disclosed to Boyd—who had gone through many fertility treatments—that he was soon to be a father. Expecting Boyd to be happy for him, he seemed disappointed that she wasn’t. This is an astounding example of the narcissistic personality of a famous rock musician that wives have to come to terms with. Also, as illustrated in Wonderful Tonight,  a lot of these women depend on their rich paramours for financial assistance. From very young ages, they are supported and every whim is indulged. When newer models (literally!) arrive, they find themselves without the means to cover themselves. More than once after she split from Clapton, Boyd went to him for financial assistance when money was tight for her, knowing in the back of her mind, he could always refuse.

As with most rock memoirs written by 1960s or 1970s figures, Wonderful Tonight occasionally slips into annoying baby boomer nostalgia with predictable talk about being part of a group that changed history, a revolution, an extraordinary time. (Yawn, yawn.) But Boyd is likeable, and you root for her as she surveys the beautiful wreckage of her life, and discovers who she is—as well as her worth as a person, not just as “Layla.”


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