When model Pattie Boyd married Beatle George Harrison in 1966 she wore a silk dress and red fox-fur coat by designer-du-jour, Mary Quant. The same icon made her husband a sumptuous black Mongolian lamb coat. The pair honey-mooned at a villa in Barbados; the Queen and Prince Philip happened to be holidaying close by. It’s an extraordinary account of newlywed life – no wonder Boyd writes in her 2007 New York Times best-seller that she was ‘so happy she thought she might burst.’
But Wonderful Tonight; George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Me reveals that the marriage was over just 11 years later and, in 1979, Boyd became Mrs Clapton: ‘What I had felt for George was a great, deep love. What Eric and I had was an intoxicating, overpowering passion.’ There after she toured with Clapton, met Stevie Wonder, Elvis, and holidayed with Mick Jagger who apparently was incredibly fit, and a dab hand at doing the dishes.
On May 19 Boyd will reveal this and other rock-royalty home truths to New Zealanders. She will entertain an intimate audience at Auckland Museum with a cocktail hour followed by a talk, expertly hosted by long-time friend and creator of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Richard O’Brien. The evening’s conversation will be cleverly punctuated by the illuminating imagery and footage that Boyd has collected through the decades.
There has been, and will still probably be, considerable discussion about who was Boyd’s greater love – the man she met on the set of A Hard Day’s Night who later wrote Something, or the friend who tried for years to steal her from him. Penning Layla was one of Clapton’s tactics.
It wasn’t until after her book was published that Boyd took her life story to the stage, divulging what really happened to select audiences, captivating them with tales as glittering as they are sad: a lonely Kenyan childhood, modelling alongside Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy for Vogue, true love amidst the madness of Beatlemania, years of emotional intensity with Clapton, and a tearful journey toward self-discovery and empowerment.
Coming to New Zealand will be particularly poignant for the still-stunning 74-year-old blonde. An 80s NZ tour with Clapton was stymied by a 1965 drug conviction laid on the one-time Mrs Harrison. Even though the infamous Sergeant Pilcher who charged her was later found guilty of fraud, timing was not on Boyd’s side.
Thankfully, this time, the woman who was an integral part of one of the most memorable periods in musical and social history will be able to step off the plane in Aotearoa.