Wonderful Today: The Autobiography of Pattie Boyd by Pattie Boyd and Penny Junor

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Wonderful Today: The Autobiography of Pattie Boyd by Pattie Boyd and Penny Junor

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Van der Kiste
Reviewed by John Van der Kiste
Summary: The memoir of model Pattie Boyd, former wife of two of the rock era's most revered guitarists.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: June 2008
Publisher: Headline Review
ISBN: 978-0755316434

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Pattie Boyd will always be remembered for one unique, extraordinary claim to fame. She became the wife of arguably the two most famous and revered rock guitarists of the era, George Harrison and Eric Clapton, and thus inspired three of their compositions which became three of the age's seminal love songs, namely 'Something', 'Layla', and 'Wonderful Tonight'.

The first three chapters deal with her early life, spent partly in Britain and partly in Kenya. Modelling in the early 60s led to a part in a TV commercial for Smithy's crisps directed by Dick Lester, who was about to begin working on something far more important – the first Beatles' film, 'A Hard Day's Night'. After a blink-and-you'll-miss-it part in the movie, she started going out with George Harrison, whom she described as the best-looking man she had ever seen, and just over a year later they were married.

Being married to one of the Fab Four at the height of Beatlemania was at times a surreal experience, as this memoir shows. She conveys the downside of excessive fan worship, the rigours of touring which led them to stop live performances in the summer of 1966, the drug busts, and above all the strange domination of their manager, Brian Epstein, whom they had to ask for everything – even permission to get married. We get an inside view of their relations with their spiritual guru the Maharishi, and how they reacted to the shock of Epstein's sudden death.

The protracted end of the Beatles as a group, with its analysis of the roles of people accused of driving them apart – Allen Klein, the Eastman family, and Yoko Ono – has been described many times before, but anyone who is fascinated by them as personalities as well as creative artists will be interested to read this account from another person who was there and saw what was going on. I was unaware until now that one of George's reasons for walking out, albeit briefly, in 1969 was his depression during his mother's serious illness. Yet the group's dissolution merely marked the start of another chapter in their lives. Pattie tells us about the acquisition of their new house, Friar Park, about George's solo career, and the controversy surrounding his best-selling single 'My Sweet Lord'. After the 'subconscious plagiarism' judgment in court, George never allowed a radio on again in the house, in case he was similarly influenced again by anything he might have heard.

The personal and professional relationship between Pattie and both guitarists was a peculiar one. The impression she gives is that her husbands tended to live in an odd, self-indulgent world where they could have everything they wanted. Selfishness became a way of life, not least when it came to other people's wives. Eric Clapton's threat to take heroin if she did not leave George and come away with him is certainly bizarre. She has some interesting comments to make about Eric's personality, his insecurity and the fact that he only seemed to come alive in front of an audience onstage but was always uneasy and uncommunicative at home, to say nothing about the drink, drugs and the shallow life she eventually realized they were leading together. Five years after their wedding, she packed her bags and walked out on him. In the closing pages of the book, she muses on the near-certainty that had she not done so, he might have drunk himself to death.

I'm one of those people who can never read enough about my favourite rock musicians, even though the truth about them may not always show them in the most flattering light. There is plenty of detail about the creative processes behind the music, and life on the road – but also about the pressures of fame and fortune, the dark side of excessive fan worship and adulation. Some of the stories in this book are rather disturbing, but to have omitted them would have made for an extremely bland, incomplete memoir. She admits that she was not the only one to make mistakes, especially in having allowed herself to be a doormat and allow both husbands to be so flagrantly faithless. It is easy to be wise after the event. Yet she acknowledges that if given her life again she wouldn't have changed anything, having known some amazing people and had some amazing experiences. In short, this was one of those books which I found hard to put down.

If you enjoy this, you might also like The Autobiography by Johnnie Walker, or a travel title with certain common factors, Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India by Rory MacLean.

Buy Wonderful Today: The Autobiography of Pattie Boyd by Pattie Boyd and Penny Junor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wonderful Today: The Autobiography of Pattie Boyd by Pattie Boyd and Penny Junor at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Wonderful Today: The Autobiography of Pattie Boyd by Pattie Boyd and Penny Junor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wonderful Today: The Autobiography of Pattie Boyd by Pattie Boyd and Penny Junor at Amazon.com.

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