Saturday, December 08, 2007

Pattie Boyd – Perhaps Not So Wonderful

As a fan of both the Beatles and of Eric Clapton, I found the idea of an auto- biography of Pattie Boyd, the woman who had married both Eric and George Harrison, to be one that I couldn't miss. She had a front row seat to the all of the post Hard Day's Night Beatles and to Clapton's years with Derek and the Dominoes and his early solo Career. Boyd is Layla! So I was anxious to read Pattie's story called Wonderful Tonight. I thought this would be interesting not only as a person who has read a lot of Beatles books but I had recently read Clapton's autobiography. The difference between them is striking. I thought that Eric's book is, curiously, the better written of the two. I say that this is curious because Boyd's is basically written by her collaborator, Penny Junor, while Clapton rewrote his ghost-written book himself. More striking, though, is that Eric rewrote his book because he said it was too easy to blame other people in the ghost-written version. Blaming themselves is something that recovering addicts seem to do well. They know that the things that they do when they're drunk are not someone else's fault. In contrast, Boyd is eager to lay her problems at the feet of lots of other people; her parents, Harrison, Clapton, etc. I'm sure that living with these people was no picnic but Boyd seems to take little responsibility for her seemingly constant drinking. (She was bad enough that Clapton wrote the song "Shape You're In" about and to her.) Near the end of the book she simultaneously writes about being short on money but yet traveling to exotic places, something those of us who are not high rollers have a hard time understanding.

To make matters worse there are a couple of errors that, while they're not a big deal, are irritating. Boyd talks about the wonderful Harrison song, "Something," that he wrote for her. Unfortunately, she says that it's on the White Album instead of on Abbey Road, where it really is. Then, near the end of the book she said that she had to sell a rare guitar because she needed the money – she sold a "1960 Les Paul Stratocaster." As any guitar player knows there are Gibson Les Pauls and there are Fender Stratocasters. What she wrote is the equivalent of saying that she has a Cadillac Mustang. She clearly doesn't really know what we had.

But quibbles aside Wonderful Tonight is just not a great book. Her story, especially as it gets near the end, just isn't interesting enough, which seems hard to believe. Beatles fans who have read other books about them will learn nothing new here. Clapton fans might find this new perspective interesting but, frankly, she doesn't add much to that story either. So, if you want to read it, do what I did – check it out of the library. I'm unlikely to ever want to refer back to it.

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