Thursday 27 March marks the opening of Rockheim’s first international exhibition. Pattie Boyd – George, Eric & Me – A Personal Collection sheds new light on perhaps the most important period in popular music history: “The Swinging Sixties”.
For many, Pattie Boyd is best known for her marriage to both George Harrison (1966-1974) and Eric Clapton (1979-1989). She is rock’s most celebrated muse having inspired songs like “Something” and “I Need You” (Beatles), “Layla” and “Wonderful Tonight” (Eric Clapton), and was one of the few to be part of the Beatles ‘inner-circle’ during the years the band existed.
In addition, she is an acclaimed photographer affiliated with National Geographic, and has travelled around the world with her photographic exhibition Through the Eyes of a Muse.
The exhibition George, Eric & Me – A Personal Collection presents 45 photographs taken by Pattie, 10 of which are on public display for the first time. Rockheim has been given access to Pattie Boyd’s personal collection, and we are proud to be the first to exhibit these unique images featuring several famous personalities in popular music history. In addition, we are exhibiting clothing and images from Pattie Boyd’s modelling career, private correspondence with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and a guitar previously used by Clapton. Altogether, the exhibition reveals the back-stage story, once the spotlight has been dimmed. As Pattie Boyd herself says: “I was lucky and fortunate enough to be in a position where I could take photographs of these well known people simply because they trusted me and we were friends”. This is Pattie Boyd’s first exhibition in Norway and her first visit here.
Pattie Boyd (born 1944) was, during the early 60s, one of England’s most famous models. Frequently on the cover of major international fashion magazines such as Vogue, she was photographed by the legendary fashion photographers of the era, including David Bailey and Terence Donovan. This was before her role in the first Beatles film “A Hard Days Night”, which premiered in 1964.
The filming of “A Hard Days Night” began in 1964 and Pattie Boyd had just one line – “Prisoners?” but her modest introduction into the Beatles universe set her course for the years to come. During filming George Harrison fell for her almost instantly, later leading to their marriage in January 1966. His first musical declaration of love for Pattie however, occurred somewhat earlier, with the song “I Need You” from the album Help (1965).
Pattie Boyd was caught up in the whirlwind of Beatlemania and experienced life in close proximity to the Beatles during the years the band existed. She accompanied them on trips, in the studio and on tour, and was responsible for introducing the band to Indian meditation and religion. When the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his Spiritual Regeneration Movement came to London in August 1967, it was Pattie who persuaded the Beatles to attend the lectures, in addition to Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, and Cilla Black.
This interest resulted in the Beatles visit to Rishikesh in India in February the following year along with, amongst others, Donovan, The Beach Boys’ Mike Love, Mia Farrow, her sister Prudence and brother John, flutist Paul Horn and film director Paul Saitzmany. At this time, Pattie Boyd made the decision to put her modelling career on hold.
In 1969 the Beatles released Abbey Road, featuring one of the Beatles finest musical moments, “Something”, written by George Harrison. Dedicated to Pattie Boyd, the song’s opening line borrowed from James Taylor’s song “Something in the Way She Moves” from the self-titled album James Taylor (2/1969). Both George Harrison and Paul McCartney made uncredited guest appearances on this album, released on Apple Records, the Beatles’ own label.
A classic love triangle played out around the end of 1969/70. Eric Clapton, who was George Harrison’s best friend, had fallen in love with Pattie Boyd, no doubt also noticing George and Pattie’s ailing marriage. It was at this time that Clapton released the double album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970) with Derek and the Dominoes. The album is filled with love songs, amongst them title track “Layla” and “Bell Bottom Blues” – both dedicated to Pattie Boyd.
It was around this time that rock history’s strangest duel occurred. George Harrison invited Eric Clapton to his house to duel for Pattie Boyd’s favour. In the entrance hall two guitars plus amplifiers were set up, so that the two musicians could duel with each other. Pattie Boyd was witness to this. Not one word was said. Reputedly Clapton was relaxed, Harrison appeared strained. Eric Clapton was finally victorious.
In 1974 Pattie Boyd left George Harrison, moving in with Eric Clapton some months later. The friendship between the two musicians seemed to be undamaged. That same year, Harrison released the album Dark Horse containing a cover version of the Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love”. Harrison altered some of the lyrics and wrote cryptically on its cover ‘Rhythm ace and Pattie + Eric Clapton’. This was George’s bittersweet, satirical farewell to Pattie and he sings, amongst other lines: “There goes our lady with you know who, I hope she’s happy and old Clapper too / We had good rhythm and a little slide. Then she stepped in, did me a favour. I threw them both out. ”
The drama continued and in 1977 Eric Clapton’s album Slowhand was released featuring the love song to Pattie Boyd, “Wonderful Tonight”. In June the same year George Harrison and Pattie Boyd’s marriage was formally ended. She married Eric Clapton in March 1979 and the years until they split in 1988 were filled with excessive use of alcohol and drugs. “Old Love” taken from Clapton’s album Journeyman (1989) is also dedicated Pattie Boyd.
The friendship between George Harrison and Eric Clapton was however, not damaged by any of the preceding events. The two often played together and remained friends until Harrison died in November 2001. In 1991 they stood together on stage in Japan and performed a number of songs together, including “Wonderful Tonight”. The past was then in many respects, behind them.
Terje Nilsen , project manager for George, Eric & Me – A Personal Collection