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Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric…

Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me (2007)

by Pattie Boyd

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I must quote a prewritten word here...it says it all
"An iconic figure of the 1960s and ’70s, Pattie Boyd breaks a forty-year silence in Wonderful Tonight , and tells the story of how she found herself bound to two of the most addictive, promiscuous musical geniuses of the twentieth century and became the most famous muse in the history of rock"
>I was pleased to see her emerge from one unfortunate situation after another. ( )
  pennsylady | Jan 22, 2016 |
At its best this book is charming. Specifically, it's a sort of feminine Victorian charm, like a Victoria Holt novel. [~ Although unfortunately the pleasant parts get a little vague; the stain comes into sharp focus, the dress mentioned mostly as the canvas for the stain. Although this is a common fault, and sometimes is softens somewhat.] You can almost hear a Victorian lilt, and I think there's clearly something there of the style-- complete with little biographical sketches of some of her ancestors, before she really gets into her own. ("He was a dashing, conservative character, my grandfather, very much the retired army colonel home from India, who seemed to spend all this time playing golf.") I suppose she's rather British, Pattie Boyd, which is something you tend to forget, I guess, about the Beatles and alot of their friends. I suppose it's rather more obvious with her, since she didn't really spend her childhood growing up in working-class Liverpool listening to Little Richard and all that. Hers was a little bit more colonial, with the backround draped with the colors of India and Empire-- and not so much India and the Maharishi, if you know what I mean. [~ She also mentions going to private school, at least during certain periods, which I think put her at least along the edges of the well-off.] I suppose that's why I, at least, associate her most strongly with that Ed Sullivan Show/A Hard Day's Night era, the charming, optimistic early 60s, which hadn't so much smashed the past, as *redecorated* it-- to me, a good thing, I think-- made it more charming and personable, and exchanged Empire for love story. [Love's "reform".]

I suppose that might bother some people, but I don't think it's so terrible to have a girl come from a background of privilege, since in a sense they need it more-- they can't really run off and join the army or at least go running around in the mud (like the boys did in the "Can't Buy Me Love" video-- Pattie would fit in, I suppose, as the social flower daughter of the misanthropic capitalist who tells the boys that the field is "private property"). [Tea parties are more feminine than football-- and also more expensive.] I suppose several different groups of people would hate me for expressing myself in this way, but, that's life. At any rate I suppose you can see how odd it can be, the Beatles and the Boyd-type girls: old-fashioned romance and the new age of idealism-- love instead of Empire.... and possibly instead of soirees. Deeply attracted, yet polar opposites. John Lennon and Jane Austen, you know.

At any rate, what I suppose is more bothersome for *me*, is how our muse does not always hold her faith in love; her point of view doesn't sound much like a Paul McCartney tune (nor the John Lennon of "In My Life" or something like that). (I mean, I obviously know she was married to George, but obviously "Within You Without You" or "Piggies", or anything like that, wasn't written as a Pattie song. Nor, indeed, was "I Shot the Sheriff"-- I mean, we can only hope that the Boyd man was the deputy, if you know what I mean.... yeah, really, the girls like Pattie are the Paul girls, to speak in terms of archetypes). Anyway, I suppose what I mean is, in a way it's like "Open", the Andre Agassi book; it's written intelligently, and describes the various things that happen to the person in a way that can be understood.... albeit in a way that I find to not always be very considerate of the reader. I mean, you like Andre; you like tennis; you get his book-- you're not asking Andre to tell you that he's hated tennis since the very day when he began to breathe, and to carp on the fact that he hates tennis at regular intervals. I suppose some intellectuals are rather contrary, and enjoy this sort of negativity in a slightly neurotic way, but not me, to be frank. And in a way Pattie is similar. She's not really *content* to be the muse, and doesn't really care who doesn't want to hear it. (Which I guess would tell you something about contentment: you can be born with the silver spoon in your mouth, and throw it away in disgust.... totally not content. And, of course, some homeless guy will find this dirty spoon you threw out, and it will make his day.) She clearly hasn't learnt-- and doesn't want to learn-- the Jane Austen social instinct: elide over troublesome things when you can, suppress the purposelessly disagreeable, try to dwell on what will make you happy, and if you must register a complaint, do so softly, and more because it's true, than because you want to tell someone else that they're wrong and don't care how it will make them feel, or anything like that. No-one is perfect at that sort of thing, but it's instantly recognizable to me who is trying, and who thinks they're above all that sort of thing-- or below it, or to the left or to the right or whatever.

And I suppose it would take something a little extraordinary not to become a little cynical when all the cool kids were doing it-- and, say, married to George Harrison, who I'm sure, on, say a bad day in the early 70s or something, ("for about ten years, we didn't know Paul"), could be plenty cynical. But we all make our choices, easy or hard. "Some roads are easy, while others are cruel" (Gene Clark), and it's not like some of Pattie's roads weren't easy. She wasn't married to a starving artist, Gene Clark-style, she.... well, she was Pattie Boyd. ("Aren't you Pattie Boyd?" "Yes, I'm Pattie Boyd!") Everybody makes fun of the hippies for doing drugs-- ?-- nobody makes fun of them for being born the grandchild of the Right Honourable Whatever of the British Colonies, and deciding that the world was out to get them, the minor detail of their being the richest generation since Augustan Rome or whatever, conveniently overlooked. I mean, to buy into Pattie's needs being overlooked by the world, you'd have to be.... well, I suppose you'd have to be John Lennon, in one of his fevered John Lennon Moments. (Yoko Ono is the most neglected artist in the world! In protest, I'm going to walk around with a bag on my head until someone gives a big bag of money to the most famous Japanese person in the post-war-criminal era!)

Anyway, I suppose what I really can't stand is: people saying that they've got the short end of the stick, when they know damn well that they've got the long end. Write that down in your little book of life lessons. No? Well, I knew you weren't listening, but that's okay. It's still in mine. (And that *is* in my book-- the history of the country that produces names like McCartney and Lennon is a past about as relevant to their place in America today as, I don't know, as French classical music does to Scottish elections: no matter how many times you listen to "Pavane"-- c'est Lindor! c'est Tircis!-- it'll never help you decide whether or not to disturb Winston Spencer's sleep, unless it was the sheer disturbed state of your mind which made you contemplate it. Seriously, though, I'm sure that every once in awhile you'll meet some stupid fucker who wouldn't like Pattie because she wasn't from "Liverpool", and didn't have a Limerick name, even if she was "born on the Fourth of July", which is actually quite funny. But to be serious, to hold a bad opinion of a Boyd because of a picture of Longshanks in a dusty old book is almost to ask Pattie to decide that she's a poor boy and her story's seldom told, and all that Simon and Dickens nonsense, despite that fact that you can hardly tell them apart: "Boyd" is so British it's Scottish, and if Lady Boyd does not sleep soundly beneath the branches of her family tree, it must be because of some oppression in a past life, which she must have coped with marvelously, to have earned so generous a reincarnation.)

[What I mean is, that although Pattie would like us to think that she's just 'somebody's daughter', I don't think she's like the 'fabulous' adoptee at all really-- I think she doesn't even push very hard, really, as though she senses that the worn-out old complaints of an old generation are all she has, and so she proceeds rather indifferently along the lines that the common caricatures of bully and coward, like the equally flat hero and villain tropes of other stories, are all the foolish old fops could be, probably well beyond the ability of we poor young folks to imagine.... [~although I think it's a fine thing for a 60s girl to tell a millennial that divorce is a tough thing] and all pretty much as empty of vitriol as it is of gratitude, (since I suppose she is the sort of bending branch we call a 'person of their time', more likely to greet change with the careless hypocrisy of studied indifference, than with the fire of fanaticism or the water of moderation), I mean, she is a little vague as to what is meant by hard times-- after one of the colonies was lost, they had to move and find a smaller house, and of course one where the manners were rather unforgivingly British.... she might have saved her breath and seemed more cheerful. (Although I suppose a cheerful model, like a cheerful entertainer, is too much to hope for, in a truly advanced society.) And so that's what I was thinking when I described her as one sleeping soundly beneath the branches of her family tree, comparing her in my mind to the alien child, stolen in the night perhaps, and called 'Thorson' instead of 'Li' perhaps, 'the fabulous Sarah Thorson', adoptee extraordinaire.... Maybe the comparison is cruel, but it is hard to be a European socialite and a girl plucked from the streets or something, all in an hour, and I really don't know if real "hardship" could ever have defined her life, or if there's anything less endearing than implying that it could when it couldn't. I know that I would rather walk around a mountain than blow it up, but I think that idea is clear enough: by playing at pauperism, she's as silly as those who would shake a stick at her for being rich and, well, west of Suez, north of the Alps.]

And I know that probably no one is listening, unless it's my own true love, but that's enough for me; let us, then, continue. Pattie doesn't want to be a muse; she wants to be a "photographer". (Does it need to be said that the reason behind the success of her "career" is that the whole world and the stars above aligned to see to it for her? I suppose George called the guy from "The Bridges of Madison County" and Eric the guy from "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty".) This is quite the reversal: the muse stands in front of the camera, and not behind it, as to end up in the picture, and not just a tiny name printed in size two print in the margins. I suppose, somewhat along the lines of 'Can God make a rock so big he can't move it', is the question, 'Can a goddess be so beautiful that she can't make anything more beautiful than she is?' And I suppose that, from me, is expected a more wordy way of saying 'yes'. But that's the point, isn't it. Winston Spencer can play cards and lay bricks and paint paintings and even write books, but if he were to claim that he wasn't basically a soldier-- perhaps in some other life he'd try to impress some hippie chick by saying he was *really* basically a painter-- I mean, he was a solider who could make clever witticisms, not a maker of clever witticisms, who, oh by the way, fought in forty wars or so, from I think around the time that Tchaikovsky wrote his third symphony, until the time that the film "Help!" came out. You are what you are.... there's no hippie law that's going to make Pattie Boyd essentially an "acclaimed photographer"-- the biographical stub on the back cover prefers this to 'Beatle wife' or 'model' or 'muse' or something accurate....

So that's the angle of the book which is basically stupid. I don't want to make it sound like, however, that it's, I don't know, all bad, or essentially bad, or bad in a very blatant or aggressive way. Passive aggressive, perhaps. Who knows. I mean, if it had been very obviously bad, *obviously* the Simon and Dickens 'I am just a poor boy and my story's seldom told' kind of a girl, then I wouldn't have touched it with a ten foot pole. So partly in light of that, my ratings are, eh, not the lowest they could be. And like I said, it can be charming, with a bit of a middle-class lilt, or, I don't know. Something like that. And anyway it's in quality sorta equivalent to "Open", like I said, so I put her on the level with Andre: above average, but not a favorite of mine.

And it's actually the best (prose) book on music I've read in awhile, although that's not setting the bar all that high. People write about music, they think their job is to tell you, I don't know, whether they made money, whether they were famous (hint: if there's books out about them, probably yes), and whether they voted for the communists or ate a jelly sandwich while they were checked in at the Hotel California, or had orange juice instead of coffee. Which is all fascinating, except that it's completely useless. Aside from an intuitive understanding of personality, none of that is even indirectly related to music. It's all the non-music stuff. We talk about it because it's the easy stuff-- far easier to understand than music, and far easier to turn into a political essay for or against the communist party of the leprechauns and their struggle against their landlord,Sir Elton John, who is an absentee landlord in the most extreme sense, since he is currently orbiting the moon. See, that stuff makes you sound smart. But music, it has no inherent meaning ("it doesn't matter what chords I play"), so there's nothing to stand on a box top about, only the vague yet vital stuff of life itself. ("Why do fools fall in love?") So Pattie Boyd knows as much about music as most of the music critics; most of the writing is totally non-musical anyway, I mean, it's just-- does this make me sound scary like Beethoven looks, or merely pleasant, like those (intense harmony singing) stupid Beach Boys. Does it stand up to the withering stare of the chauvinists? (What? Love?!..... Why?)

That's what made me want to get the book.

And it could have been great, but there was just something in the way she wavered, that made her seem uncertain as hell tonight. So maybe she'll see me with some other metaphysical lover, since I want my people to know for sure what love is, and not just maybe.

So, you know. It was average-to-above-average. A 92, with a small frowny face.

(9/10) ( )
  fearless2012 | Nov 4, 2014 |
This book is so boring! How is that possible? You would think that the woman that inspired songs like the Beatles' "Something" and Derrick and the Dominos' "Layla" would be dynamic. Truth is she is dull as dishwater and conceited in the manner of the 8th grade queen bee. Also, every time she starts to discuss something interesting she quickly moves to a new topic without finishing the story. Less egregious is her silly exploration of her spiritual enlightenment when it turns out she is about as introspective as a marmot. No one who ever thinks about anything could consistently make the worst life decisions of anyone to ever walk the earth. She must be really good in bed. ( )
  Narshkite | Nov 19, 2013 |
Actually, after 100 pages of photo shoots, food items and the like, I gave up. There may be somethings worth reading in here, but I lost patience--if I could give this no stars, I would. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
Well done, honest, gives a glimpse of life in the 60's when Beatlemania started. ( )
  latorreliliana | Oct 20, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307407837, Paperback)

A Q&A with Pattie Boyd, Author of Wonderful Tonight

Why are you writing the book now?

I have been asked for the last 15 years to write a book, and it is only now that I feel the time is right. My confidence in myself was restored after two successful exhibitions of my photography, and it occurred to me that I was finally ready to take a look at the unique experiences of my life and to share them--including all the ups and downs.

Tell us about the first time you met George Harrison.

Working as a model, I occasionally went for castings, mainly for television commercials. I went for an interview with one of the directors I had worked with in the past, and he cast me in his first movie, A Hard Day’s Night, to play the part of a schoolgirl. When I first saw George on the set, I thought he was the best-looking man I’d ever seen. I was so surprised when he asked me out on a date at the end of my first day of filming.

Tell us about the first time you heard George Harrison's song, "Something."

George said he had written a song for me, and he played it on the guitar at home without the words. Then when I heard the song after it had been recorded I couldn’t believe how utterly beautiful it was. It was released on a single in October 1969, and I felt so thrilled and flattered.

Tell us about the first time you heard Eric Clapton's "Layla."

Eric invited me to his band's flat one day and played a rough recording of "Layla" on a cassette recorder. I was sitting on a sofa and he on the floor as it played, and he kept looking up at me for a reaction. I was stunned; the intensity, passion and tenderness came across so strongly--I knew, as he said, it was written for me.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:42 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

An iconic figure of the 1960s and '70s, Pattie Boyd breaks a 40-year silence, telling how she found herself bound to two of the most addictive, promiscuous musical geniuses of the twentieth century. She met the Beatles in 1964 in the cast of A Hard Day's Night. Ten days later George Harrison proposed. For 20-year-old Boyd, it was the beginning of a rich and complex life as she was welcomed into the Beatles' inner circle. She describes the dynamics of the group, and the memories she has of Paul and Linda, Cynthia and John, Ringo and Maureen, and especially the years with her husband, George. Then her turbulent life took another unexpected turn with a passionate letter from Eric Clapton. Now the high-profile model whose face epitomized the swinging London scene of the 1960s, a woman who inspired Harrison's song "Something" and Clapton's anthem "Layla," has wrriten her book.--From publisher description.… (more)

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