Pattie Boyd in the garden at Kinfauns, taken by George Harrison on Boyd's camera circa June 1964.

“Something”

It would seem as though writing about someone who just (March 17) turned 80 would be somewhat uncharacteristic in this space. But given that so many of those who are certainly distinctive and formative creators of the entire rock and roll sphere (Dylan. . .Jagger. . .Ono. . . Page. . .), it is, well, not out of the ordinary, but is becoming something that is rather regular. We should all hope we have similarly long runs.

In this case the person of interest is Pattie Boyd, one of the quintessential figures of the Swinging ‘60s in the U.K., a model first (she was on the cover of Vogue four times) and foremost (then) who made her way into photography (later).

What makes Boyd more famous than, say, Cynthia Powell, John Lennon’s first wife, is that she was married to George Harrison from 1966 to 1977 and then, two years later, married Eric Clapton. Their marriage lasted until 1989. (Looking at those dates it seems as though at about the 10-year mark things become unraveled.)

Harrison wrote “If I Needed Someone” (1965), presumably to woo Boyd. And he also wrote “Something” (1969), presumably with Boyd being the object of the pronoun.

And while those two Harrison compositions are considered to be his best, Boyd also was the object of what is arguably Clapton’s most famous, “Layla,” which was released (1970) while Boyd was still wed to his pal. (“I tried to give you consolation/When your old man had let you down/Like a fool, I fell in love with you/You turned my whole world upside down”) The two musicians co-wrote and performed on “Badge,” which appears on Cream’s Goodbye album (1969), with L’Angelo Misterioso being used in place of Harrison’s name, given that the Beatles and Cream were on different labels. If nothing else, given the two songs appearing within about a year of one another and the tripartite dynamics of the people involved, there is certainly something to be said for the emotional spur to creativity. (And when Clapton sings, “And I’m thinkin’ ‘bout the love that you laid on my table,” who might the person be?)

I’m happy to let go of these things which I have treasured and loved for so many years. These items represent special moments in my life but now I think it’s time to move on and share what I have with others.”

That’s Pattie Boyd. She’s talking about the sale at Christie’s auction house in London of the 116 lots that constitute “The Pattie Boyd Collection.” Included are drawings, photos, watches, clothing, jewelry. . .and love letters.

There are two love letters from Clapton that are described as being “significant,” one of which was written coincident with the creation of “Layla,” a letter that was “urgently mailed to the Harrison home.” Hell of a mate, that Eric. Each of the letters is expected to take the hammer at from £10,000-15,000, the same figure that a letter written by Harrison to his wife is expected to go for. One would think that the somewhat surreptitious nature of one of the Clapton letters (“somewhat” because of it being sent to Casa Harrison, as though George might not flip through the daily post) would garner more than Harrison’s missive. Think of it as the lasciviousness fee.

Also part of the collection is the original artwork—“La Fille au Bouquet” by Émile-Théodore Frandsen de Shomberg (which sounds somewhat like Harrison’s “Badge” nom de plume but is legitimate)—for the cover of Derek and the Dominos Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. When Clapton saw the painting at the artist’s son’s house in France, he saw a resemblance to Boyd. He acquired the painting in 1970 then, according to the Christie’s catalog:

“Gifted to George Harrison by Eric Clapton, late 1970s.
“Gifted to Pattie Boyd by George Harrison, circa 1990.”

Given that Harrison and Boyd divorced in the “late 1970s” and Clapton married Boyd in the “late(r) 1970s,” that is a somewhat bizarre gifting.

And it also raises some question about who the person being addressed in the Layla track co-written by Clapton and Bobby Whitlock “Tell the Truth”:

“Tell the truth.
“Tell me who’s been fooling you?
“Tell the truth.
“Who’s been fooling who?”

Seems like it could be any but one of the corners of the triangle, with the exception being Boyd’s. It isn’t likely that she was  ever or at all fooled.

She must have been, and undoubtedly continues to be, “Something.”

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Pattie Boyd by Rayment Kirby, 1962
Pattie Boyd by Rayment Kirby, 1962.

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Pattie Boyd by Michael Ward, 1964
Pattie Boyd by Michael Ward, 1964.

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