Rock ‘n’ roll’s most celebrated muse would have to be Pattie Boyd — after all, this is the woman who legendarily inspired George Harrison (her first husband) to write “Something” and Eric Clapton (her second) to pen “Layla.” But what must those heady experiences have been like from Boyd’s perspective? We’ll find out when her tell-all memoir, Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me, hits shelves Aug. 28. Until then, the book’s text is being kept under wraps by her publishers, who have strictly prevented publications like EW from seeing copies in advance. Good thing the audiobook version of Wonderful Tonight happened to recently arrive on our doorstep! We listened to the whole (abridged) 2-hour, 2-CD thing — read by Boyd herself — and picked out a few highlights, presented, after the jump, for your perusal.
Notwithstanding the subtitle, Boyd spends the first quarter of theaudiobook talking about her life before either Harrison or Claptonentered it. Things pick up when she lands a non-speaking part in 1964’sA Hard Day’s Night film; despite her total lack of interest inthe Beatles’ music (ouch!), she’s instantly infatuated with Harrison after spying his “velvet brown eyes and dark chestnut hair.” Soonenough they’ve wed. Most of Boyd’s memories of the late ’60s — pot, LSD,transcendental meditation, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi — won’t surprise anyonewho’s read even the most cursory of Beatle bios. But her insightsinto her relationship with Harrison can be quite illuminating. It was shortlyafter the Fab Four’s famous ‘68 trip to India, she reports, that theirmarriage soured: “George retreated into himself” and “became obsessiveabout [meditation].” What’s worse, he tells her he considers himself amodern-day version of the god Krishna, “a spiritual being with lots ofconcubines.”
Before long, she’s spending more and more time with her hubby’sclose friend and fellow guitarist. “It was hard not to be flatteredwhen I caught [Clapton] staring at me,” she says. “Those were thethings that George no longer did.” Still, she resists when Clapton begsher to take up with him, even after he plays her the exquisitely piningstrains of “Layla”; meanwhile, Harrison descends further and furtherinto “an extreme relationship with cocaine.” Only after learning thatHarrison’s latest “concubine” is her pal Maureen Starr (wife ofRingo) — “the last person I would have expected to stab me in theback” — does Boyd finally leave him. “What I had felt for George was agreat, deep love. What Eric and I had was an intoxicating, overpoweringpassion.”
Also intoxicating: The massive quantities of alcohol that Claptondrinks after they get together. Boyd’s new boyfriend enters a long,downward spiral of addiction and adultery, adultery and addiction,leading her to exclaim, “I had given up George for this?!” But sheinexplicably marries Clapton anyway in 1979, leading to an interminablesuccession of sentences beginning with phrases like “Meanwhile, Ericembraced the brandy again…” Not until their inevitable divorce tenyears later does Boyd finally get some perspective on her life: “Whenthings had been bad between [me and George], I had taken the easyoption and let Eric seduce me. I knew I should have fought for mymarriage to George.”
As the audiobook comes to a close after a couple more generally uninteresting decades, Boyd’s attitude shifts again: “I was lucky. I survived…Given my life over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.” Seriously?! It’s a faintly absurd thought after so many pages (er, CD tracks) of suffering and melodrama. Then again, who would deny Boyd the right to choose her own ending after sharing all those stories at last?