July 22, 2021 Subject:
It is not immediately clear why Pattie Boyd should have needed a co-author for her memoirs, except as a creative consultant, to point out that memoirs, as such, might be the wrong medium to celebrate her place in history. But royal biographers are not programmed to question assumptions, and Penny Junor would be the last person to think round corners in this way. An odd choice, to put it mildly.
These memoirs in their standard form - what I call sequential-diary format - could only be of interest to her inner circle. As with so many autobiographies, the opening section on ancestry, birth and early schooling adds nothing to our understanding of the subject, except that she grew up in a dysfunctional family. About half the book is girlie-gossip that Penny should have edited-out ruthlessly, leaving just two sections, one on each marriage, to George Harrison and Eric Clapton. Ideally these would belong in anthologies - the big album of their life and times, rather than her own memoir.
Pattie identifies George as the gentle but moody husband, and Eric as the whirlwind, turning easily to thunder. With hindsight, she says that if she had the time again, she would have stayed with George and made a go of it. And she regrets marrying Eric Clapton for all the intensity of the relationship.
Both husbands were into addiction, with its dark shadow over married life. This is symptomatic of the general rock scene of the 60’s, of which she was such a central part. We see a pattern repeating over and over. They visit Haight-Ashbury, hippie capital of California, beacon of the future, but find it just attracts no-hopers and dirty needles. Something similar happens when they launch Apple, supposedly to encourage young musicians, but again the office just fills up with dropouts. The Maharishi’s ashram on the Indus appears to promise a new start to humanity, until the leader’s cynical materialism is unmasked. And when George takes his turn at starting a Hare Krishna branch in his mansion, they are found to be worthless groupies and sinister hangers-on. Still we get a lot of insights into these two undoubtedly talented husbands, each of whom claimed that his greatest song-hit was inspired by Pattie (though I can’t help wondering if one or two other girls might have been told the same).
George certainly had Pattie at his side when he started on his ‘journey’ into Transcendental Meditation, though it is not true that she initiated it. Apparently he found it a good substitute for drugs. But it led him into long days of solitary contemplation that left Pattie feeling much ignored. He soon learned to hate going on tour, however good the money, and she was always in danger from jealous women fans.
Eric sounds a terrible loud-mouthed bully, and his drug intake was stupendous, though we can sympathise somewhat when we hear that he had grown up believing his mother to be his sister, no doubt distorting his attitude to women. He once declared that he saved all his emotion for the stage, which is why he was restless and uneasy at home. (When told that he mustn’t drink a whole bottle of brandy at once, he switched to whisky!)
Pattie could have ended up in the drug-tank too, but her education had not been entirely wasted. Three O-levels might not sound much (by seventeen, she had received the fatal offer “I could get you into modelling”) but a period at boarding-school had strengthened her character and furnished her mind - though we don’t know whether it was she or Penny who thought that her ancestor born in 1870 could have been an eye-witness of the Indian Mutiny.