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Monday, June 02, 2014

Patti Boyd's misery memoir from Planet Henley

Read Wonderful Today: The Autobiography of Pattie Boyd yesterday.

She grows up in Kenya in one of those upper middle class families who find they don't quite have the means to sustain their status. Grandparents who smell of pink gin, parents rarely there, educated at a series of boarding schools.

She leaves school in 1961 at seventeen, gets a job as a trainee beautician in Bond Street and is immediately living in a flat in Knightsbridge. Somebody comes into the salon and tells her she should model, she gets some test shots done, she's featured in Honey which leads to advertising work and then a small part as a schoolgirl in "A Hard Day's Night".

George Harrison asks her out. Their first date is at the Garrick Club where their chaperone is Brian Epstein. After that she is lost to any kind of normal life.

Instead she has a thirty year career as the plus one of a rock superstar, first Harrison and then Clapton, thirty years spent in the numbing twilight world of country houses where the gravel drive is littered with the relics of the occupants' last craze, where the old school friend lives in the gatehouse and there's a recording studio in the basement in which barely a worthwhile note will be played.

The downside of being a Beatle girlfriend, she discovers, is that fans will try to do her physical harm. The drawback of being Clapton's wife, she learns, is that the only way he can keep a lid on his anger is by medicating with heroin or a pint mug of brandy and lemonade.

I find there are two ways to read rock memoirs. One is to take them in the chipper "well, that's what it was like with creative types back in the 70s" spirit in which so many of them seem to be written. The other is to set them down at regular intervals, shake your head and thank the almighty that none of it ever happened to you. Looked at in a certain light they're broad comedy. Looked at in another they're misery memoirs.

When I read stories like this I'm again surprised that nobody's got round to making a proper documentary about the lives of the dolly birds of the sixties. That's something I'd love to see.