Inside the George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Pattie Boyd love triangle
3 November 2023, 16:41
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"Something in the way she moves".
Evidently, there was something in the way she moved, as the model and photographer was the object of affection and longing admiration from not only one rock star, but two.
The two musicians in question were of course George Harrison, but also his best friend and frequent musical collaborator Eric Clapton.
In fact, Eric reached the point of desperate obsession with Pattie, that he was also inspired to write one of his most beloved and devastating songs about her, 'Layla', performed by Clapton's short-lived blues-rock group Derek and the Dominos.
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The thinly veiled plea to convince Boyd to leave George and fall in love with him instead wasn't so obvious in 1970 as George and Pattie seemed happily married from the outside looking in.
Though, by then the cracks were appearing in their marriage, and out of it grew a bizarre love triangle with Pattie Boyd becoming the muse for both artists simultaneously.
So when did George Harrison meet Pattie Boyd and when were they married? When did Eric Clapton fall in love with Pattie? Were George and Pattie divorced before she fell in love with and married Eric? Did it ruin George and Eric's friendship?
Let's look inside one of the strangest love stories in music history between two icons and a model in the middle:
When did George Harrison first meet Pattie Boyd?
Pattie Boyd first met George Harrison in 1964 when she was cast for a role in The Beatles' debut movie, A Hard Day’s Night.
George, enamoured with her beauty, asked her out on a date that day to which she politely declined as she was dating photographer Eric Swayne.
Not that she could contain her excitement, as her published diaries revealed in 2022, as she wrote on the day after shooting: "George Harrison asked me out!!!!!"
Of course, like most major films, there was a premiere for A Hard Day’s Night to which Pattie was invited to being a cast member.
Admitting to be excited to bump into George again, she ensured she was single on this occasion in the event that he asked her out on a date again. He did, and they began dating almost immediately.
The pair were married less than two years later, tying the knot on 21st January 1966, with Paul McCartney serving as George's best man.
When did Eric Clapton first fall in love with Pattie?
Eric Clapton and George Harrison struck up a friendship in December of 1964, when Eric was still playing in The Yardbirds and The Beatles had recently ignited the British Invasion earlier that year.
Their friendship would outlast each of their respective bands, with Clapton even collaborating with The Beatles, providing the guitar solo for his lament 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'.
They'd frequently spend time at each other's homes, and it was during these moments when Eric became increasingly fond of Pattie from afar.
To curb his growing infatuation with Boyd, he'd date her sister Paula briefly, though it didn't work and his desperation reached boiling point when he wrote 'Layla' as an attempt for her to leave George for him.
Clapton drew inspiration from The Story of Layla and Majnun, a seventh-century Bedouin story about a man driven to madness by unattainable love, in his case, his love for Pattie.
She rejected his advances because of her love and adoration for George, which resulted in Eric descending deeper into his heroin addiction, eventually exiling himself for several years.
Why did George and Pattie get divorced?
Despite George's reputation as the "mystic Beatle" who adopted Eastern philosophies and meditation practices (which Boyd also adopted herself), he had his own dark streak like the rest of us.
His excessive use of cocaine during the seventies after The Beatles called it day exacerbated his mood swings and erratic temperament, which made day-to-day life increasingly difficult for Pattie.
Though she admits she would've stayed with him, it was his frequent affairs - including one with Ringo Starr's wife Maureen - which was the final straw for her, though by that time she already had an affair with the Faces and future guitarist of The Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood.
She eventually left George in 1974, in what she described as a "ludicrous and hateful life" that year.
In a 2022 interview with The Telegraph, she recalled: "It was an extremely difficult decision of mine to make. I felt that I had to leave George because things were getting really out of hand."
"George was just being a different George. We had gone in different directions, basically. But we still loved each other…"
"It's just that I think he wanted to spread his wings and take advantage of being the handsome, famous, rich guy that he was, and see how the girls feel about him. A hot-blooded boy – why not, I suppose."
After three years of separation, George Harrison and Pattie Boyd were eventually divorced on 9th June 1977.
When did Eric and Pattie get married?
Within weeks of her divorce from George, Pattie began a relationship with Eric Clapton. After years of pursuit, he got his girl so to speak.
Their relationship was turbulent from the get-go, with Clapton's spiralling alcoholism creating issues for the couple throughout the duration of their relationship.
They were eventually married on 27th March 1979 in Tucson, Arizona. Eric would also write his classic 1977 love song 'Wonderful Tonight' about Pattie, writing it about her whilst she was getting ready to attend Paul and Linda McCartney's annual Buddy Holly party.
Clapton's worsening alcoholism led to abusive behaviour towards Boyd, which ushered Pattie into a period of alcohol dependency too.
The couple's failed attempts at conceiving with the help of IVF fractured their relationship, and after Clapton's repeated affairs - including one with Lory Del Santo, which resulted in the birth of his child Conor Loren - Pattie eventually left Eric.
After ending their relationship in 1987, having found out about Eric's infidelity, they divorced in 1989 after a decade of marriage.
She subsequently believed that Eric's pursuit of her "had more to do" with the competitive nature of their friendship and musicianship, saying that "Eric just wanted what George had."
Pattie's self-esteem plummeted after finalising her second divorce, later recalling: "Well, I was no longer 'Mrs Famous George', or 'Mrs Famous Eric', so who am I?" I am no-one. No-one knows me – I don’t even know me."
Did George and Eric remain friends throughout romantic entanglement?
Strangely enough, George Harrison and Eric Clapton's friendship stood the test of time, despite being torn between Pattie Boyd.
However, there were reportedly moments when the situation got heated between the two, notably a guitar "duel" staged by Clapton over the affections of Pattie at George's Friar Park home.
According to the late legendary actor John Hurt who witnessed it unfold, it was "extraordinary ... The air was electric. Nobody dare say a word," an account which Boyd verified by Clapton denied.
Despite Eric's continued pursuit of Pattie whilst she was married to George, there was no genuine crossover between each relationship, which arguably was the reason why Eric and George maintained a friendship.
In fact, George even attended Eric and Pattie's wedding in 1979, and lovingly referred to himself as their "husband-in-law".
Pattie recalled the time she first told George she was in a relationship with Eric: "He said, 'Well, I'm glad you're going off with Eric instead of some idiot," he supposedly replied.
Both of Boyd's rock 'n' roll marriages didn't work out, but by then she was already considered to be one of the most mythic muses in rock music history, inspiring The Beatles' 'Something', George's 'So Sad', and classic Clapton tracks like 'Layla', 'Wonderful Tonight' and 'Bell Bottom Blues'.
Pattie and George would remain close friends for the remainder of his life, and in her book My Life In Pictures, Boyd shared the final photo of them together taken in Friar Park in the early 1990s, the home they once shared.
"Just because things didn't work out as we planned, it didn't diminish our love for each other," Boyd said.