journey through the illusions and ravings of the 60s with two rock titans | The USA Print

journey through the illusions and ravings of the 60s with two rock titans

Faced with the overwhelming display of photographs of My life in pictures (My life in pictures) it’s easy to understand why two titans of rock like George Harrison and Eric Clapton fell under the charm of model Pattie Boyd. The first dedicated “Something” to her, and the second, “Layla”, two of the greatest love songs in rock. Thanks to her photos, we can guess what they saw in her, even if they don’t allow us to appreciate that ‘something in the way she moves’ that made the Beatle fall in love. We do see, instead, her elegance and spontaneity, and the seduction of her stylized figure and her legs. His is an attraction that captivates without being overwhelming or scorching. In a preface to her book, Rolling Stone (and personal friend of hers) Ronnie Wood describes her as “an original icon of natural beauty” and highlights her ability to appreciate both the sublime and the ridiculous.

The photos also show us the seduction of eyes on whose surface a joyous innocence explodes, while mystery and darkness are glimpsed in the background. If you look carefully, in some images you can sense the scars of a complicated childhood and adolescence, with two parents (natural and false) who did not know how to live up to it: they were unfaithful, drank too much and had a tendency to violence. A failed family structure that would be partly replicated in his own marriages to Harrison and Clapton. The love that they both had for her did not prevent them from being unfaithful with occasional lovers and sometimes openly. And the excesses with alcohol were replicated in her own homes.

A year and a half ago, Boyd visited Spain to support the premiere of the documentary Beatles and India at the Valladolid International Film Week. With 77 years behind him (now 79) he still retained some of his allure and mystery, albeit now macerated by maturity, aided by years of treatment with a psychotherapist. “It is an honor to have inspired those songs”she assured modestly, and for an instant she looked like the same shy girl of her youth. “What an intense experience. I had almost forgotten how fabulous all that was, ”she commented, referring to the Indian adventure of the Beatles, which she experienced firsthand and intensely, like many other events in the life of the ‘Fab four’.

Former model Pattie Boyd.

‘My life in pictures’

The photos you have collected in My life in pictures, published by Reel Art Press a few months ago, only in English, come from his personal archive and cover all facets of his dimension as a public figure. There are, of course, plenty of photos with George Harrison and the other Beatles, as well as guitarist Eric Clapton and other celebrities. But the contemporary reader will be surprised, above all, by those that show her work as a model, a facet in which she had already excelled before meeting the people of Liverpool. In fact, the editor Dave Brolan, who writes one of the short texts in the book, points out that Boyd can be considered one of the first ‘supermodels’, understanding as such those who overcame anonymity and appeared with their own names. Along with Jean Shrimpton, who preceded her, and Twiggy, who came after her, she was the face of societal change, uninhibited freedom and the frenetic dynamism of 1960s swinging London.

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“London belonged to the young. All the old class structures of our parents’ generation were crumbling. All the old social customs were being swept away.” would remember Pattie Boyd in her autobiography ‘A wonderful present’ (Circe). “All that mattered was what you knew how to do, what you could create. Bohemian baronets smoked weed openly, daughters of dukes went out with hairdressers, and everyone coaxed the conventions of their youth and the aspirations of their families. The capital was bustling with creativity, oozing energy. Everything was possible, and money was not the key that opened all doors.

journey through the illusions and ravings of the 60s with two rock titans | The USA Print
Former model Pattie Boyd with members of The Beatles.

These are the times that generated some very widespread convictions still today: the idea of ​​life understood as an accumulation of experiences, the rejection of anything that resembles routine or normality, the taste for intense experiences and exploration… Pattie Boyd’s own life will reveal the dark side of that dream: “We had no role models; we didn’t know that drugs were potentially dangerous, or that our friends could end up addicted or kill themselves with an overdose. We had not yet seen anyone spiral out of control, ”she explains in her autobiography. Boyd, of course, had a chance to find out all that.

The model met George Harrison on the set of What a night we had that day, in 1964. The Beatles’ career had taken off just the year before, with their first two full-length records, ‘Please, Please Me’ and ‘With the Beatles’, now 60 years old, and had sparked beatlemania, which the film reflects so well. As soon as he met her, the Beatle asked her to marry him, but she logically took it as a joke. Although it was the beginning of a relationship that allowed him to experience the entire future of the group in the first person. Also the way they were forcibly introduced to LSD by their dentist, Dr. John Riley, who put it in their coffee when they were about to leave to attend a concert with some friends. Everyone’s anger when they found out was monumental, and the trip turned into a nightmare. This is how Boyd remembers it in ‘A wonderful present’: “During the journey the car seemed smaller and smaller (…) People did not stop recognizing George and approaching him. As soon as we saw them in focus or out of focus, they acquired an animal aspect. We hold onto each other with a surreal feeling.” Despite this, the doctor, to whom Lennon would dedicate his song ‘Dr. Robert ‘achieved his goal and acid became part of the Beatles’ creative process. Until they began to see its less funny consequences.

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The revelation came to Harrison during a visit to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, a residential area that had been taken over by hippies. There George and Pattie were about to be attacked just because the Beatle refused a drug that was offered to him. “He opened our eyes,” Boyd recalls. “These people had nothing remotely artistic or creative about them; they were like alcoholics or any other kind of addicts, which made George lose interest in the drug culture.”

They had broken all the previous rules, but no one had invented new ones and each one acted as it occurred to them. In the case of Harrison, he combined intense seasons dedicated almost exclusively to meditation, with others in which he threw himself into the ‘material’ revelry with a frenzy. Both in one case and in another, his wife used to be left out, although even more so in ‘mystical’ periods. That wear and tear, and the certainty of the guitarist’s frequent infidelities, gradually brought down the wall that the model had built in front of a Clapton who, once he declared his love for her with his song ‘Layla’, did not stop chasing her and sending her letters for three years.

The growing feeling of being abandoned and empty led her to embark on an adventure with the author of ‘Wonderful tonight’, another of the songs she dedicated to the model. But hell was not less, but more. Because Clapton could be a lot of fun, but he had a serious problem with addiction to heroin, first, and alcohol, second, that surpassed anything Pattie Boyd had ever known. And if Harrison had been unfaithful, Eric was more so, and with more shamelessness, and even had a child with another woman, Lori del Santo. The son who, after dying prematurely, inspired ‘Tears in heaven’.

journey through the illusions and ravings of the 60s with two rock titans | The USA Print
Pattie Boyd and George Harrison

From the distance of time, in her autobiography (originally published in 2007, two decades after they ended both relationships), she regrets not having sufficiently defended her marriage to Harrison. “I’m sorry I allowed Eric to seduce me; I would have liked to be stronger. I think that marriage is for life and when things went wrong between George and I, I should have gritted my teeth and resolved that we could get out of that smiling, ”she reflects on her. a wonderful present. And yet, he believes that the intensity of the Clapton experience was worth it. “But if I had resisted Eric, I would never have known that incredible passion, and that kind of intensity is rare. I admit that I paid a very high price, but it was proportional to the intensity of the love that we knew, “says Boyd. And he adds: “I would also have liked to know that I did not have to be a doormat, nor allow my two husbands to cheat on me so blatantly.”

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Hand in hand with her ‘mythological’ husbands, Boyd entered the peculiar bubble of unreality of rock stars, whose lives were directed and controlled by managers who were in charge of resolving all aspects of their lives. Before proposing to Pattie, Harrison had to talk to Brian Epstein to find out if the wedding wouldn’t interfere with any tours. But the interference was even worse in the case of Clapton’s manager, Roger Forrester, who literally fabricated the wedding, on a bet, when Boyd had been separated from the guitarist for weeks. But she had bet £10,000 that she would get a picture of Clapton in the next day’s papers and she did it that way. That morning they had to rush to a bewildered Pattie Boyd who, despite everything, said that she was.

It was hard to go from being the wife of a rock star, with someone on hand to take care of everything, to an ex with nothing.

The bubble of stars freed them from all the little hassles of life, from paying taxes to booking vacation hotels and everything in between. When the model had to return to reality, after divorcing Clapton, she found that she no longer knew how to use public transport.

“It was hard to go from being a rock star’s wife with someone taking care of everything to an ex with nothing.” recalls in his autobiography ‘A wonderful present’. “He was completely unaware of the practical things of daily life that everyone else took for granted. He didn’t know how to pay the road tax on the car, or get the television license. He did not know about water bills, nor about rates, and he had never paid a light or telephone bill. Adapting to the new reality was not easy, but she finally found her way as a photographer, behind the cameras, and the book ‘My life in images’ also includes some samples of her work.

“I like seeing the light on people’s faces and being able to capture it. When he managed to capture the beauty of the moment, it causes me deep emotion, ”she declared at the 2021 Seminci. The one who was the target of the cameras, now seeks her place behind the lenses, freed from the heavy weight of legend, but spurred on by memories. Perhaps it is the logical evolution, after all.