cocaine and infidelity

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Scans - George Harrison and Pattie Boyd, 1969 (photo 1: Let It Be sessions, photographed by Leslie Bryce for The Beatles Book; photo 2: Chris Bott/Splashnews). Scanned from The Beatles Book and The Beatles BBC Archives.

“And she remembers the even more bizarre night a few years later when Harrison and Clapton held a guitar duel — overseen by actor John Hurt at Harrison’s stately home, Friar Park — to see which of the two deserved her favours. (‘I just hid in my shell, pretending it wasn’t happening,’ Boyd says today. ‘It’s the way musicians behave. On reflection, I think it was really beautiful.’)

[…] How different her life might have been if she hadn’t been offered that part. “I had no desire to act. I just wanted to be a model. It just goes to show that we all have a destiny. But what would have happened to me if I hadn’t met George that day? I don’t know.”

David Bailey had warned her she’d fall in love with Paul McCartney. But it was Harrison, the youngest Beatle, who chatted her up with the line: ‘Will you marry me? And if you won’t marry me, will you have dinner with me tonight?’ She turned him down, telling him she already had a boyfriend. But by the time they met next, for the film photocall, she’d dumped the boyfriend.

[…] The newlyweds lived in an unpretentious bungalow that they painted in psychedelic colours. The kitchen was ‘the heart of the house’, Boyd says, where Harrison would sit playing his guitars while she cooked their vegetarian food. One of those songs was My Sweet Lord, Harrison’s first solo hit. She remembers Harrison struggling with it, and shared his sense of injustice when he was found guilty of ‘subconscious plagiarism’ by a US judge after he was accused of stealing the tune of He’s So Fine, a minor hit for the Chiffons.

Thereafter no one was ever allowed to play a radio in the Harrison household. ‘George was very upset. Of course he didn’t deliberately plagiarise that song. All musicians, in one way or another, are inspired by other music.’

There was no such drama about Something, generally regarded as the best song Harrison ever wrote. In fact, for such a magnificent love song, it was all rather low-key. She’d heard him play the melody before, but one day Harrison came back from the Abbey Road studio with an early version of the song. ‘He’d put words on and said, “I’ve written this about you,”’ Boyd recalls.

Her reaction? ‘“Oh my God, that’s really exciting.” I felt totally flattered and thrilled when he said it was about me. But I didn’t realise it was going to be such a fabulous song. The Beatles went back into the studio and added more instruments. But the version I like best is the one George played me in my kitchen, in its raw state.’

[…] Though Boyd says she and Harrison were ‘very happy for most of our marriage’, their relationship became more tense once they moved to Friar Park, a former nunnery, in 1969. The Beatles were beginning to fall apart.

At home, there were two George Harrisons. One was austere, sober and devout, spending hours chanting in meditation. The other binged on cocaine and increasingly flaunted his infidelities.

[…] All these years later, who does she regard as the one love of her life? There’s a long pause on the phone line. ‘Probably George.’ Does she regret leaving the Beatle? ‘I don’t know. Eric and I went to a party once. And George, bless him, was there with Olivia (Arias, his second wife). I said to George, “Darling, do you think I made a big mistake in leaving you?”

‘And he said, “No, no. I was a bit of shit.” I thought that was terribly sweet and generous of him to admit he had been behaving badly, and that he didn’t hold it against me that I left him.’

The difference between the two, she says, was that ‘George was a soulmate, Eric was a playmate’. She remained friends — ‘absolutely!’ — with Harrison until his death in November 2001. ‘George and I kind of grew up spiritually together. Very important parts of our lives were shared. He was always fond of me. There was part of him that always loved me, and me him. That we weren’t married or together didn’t really matter.’” - The Age (Australia), article by Steve Meacham, 27 August 2007