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Pattie Boyd: 'Something,' and more, in photographs
[February 22, 2006]

Pattie Boyd: 'Something,' and more, in photographs

(Sacramento Bee, The (CA) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Feb. 22--Her name is Pattie Boyd, but to many, she will always be "Layla." Not that most people make the connection - Boyd has kept a relatively low profile - but she was the woman Eric Clapton was so desperately in love with when he wrote that classic rock song.

Clapton's desperation came from the fact that the object of his affections was married to his best friend, Beatle George Harrison, who had himself only recently written "Something," supposedly also for Boyd.

After Boyd left Harrison and married Clapton in 1979, the latter wrote another hit, "Wonderful Tonight," for her. That's three classic rock songs - not bad for a young woman who grew up on a farm in Kenya, a woman who fell into modeling just as staid old London was about to become the Swinging London of the 1960s.

Meeting Pattie Boyd in person, even more than 30 years after she inspired those songs, one understands. Though no longer young - she turns 62 next month - Boyd has a grace and elegance that has survived the years.

She still wears her hair long and blond, and she is slender and elegantly casual in black slacks and a soft white blouse with gold cuffs. Her manner, as she sits on a banquette at the XYZ Bar in the fashionable W Hotel in San Francisco, is polite. And she warms in the course of conversation, once past a wariness about the press that she had plenty of time to cultivate as the wife of a Beatle at the height of their fame.

"George really hated the fame, being spotted and made a fuss of," she says. "And I felt the same."

But here she is, back in the spotlight, making her second visit to San Francisco in a year to promote a showing of her photographs from all those years ago. There are about 75 of them, featuring shots of Harrison and the other Beatles, Clapton and other famous friends of the time. They're being sold at the San Francisco Art Exchange, a gallery that specializes in art of and by rock stars. The prints, both color and black and white, sell for anywhere from $1,400 to $3,000 each.

Boyd, who divorced Clapton in 1988 and has not remarried, doesn't have much to say about the infamous romantic triangle, nor about the songs she supposedly inspired - "It's very flattering," she says simply - but she opens up more on the subject of her access to such rock royalty.

She drops names if asked, but what's striking about talking to Boyd is that the Beatles, Jeff Beck and Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones weren't big stars to her. They were her friends, people she grew up with. Her sister Jenny inspired Donovan's "Jennifer Juniper" and later married Mick Fleetwood.

Pattie Boyd lives near London, not far from Ringo Starr and his wife, Barbara Bach, with whom she still socializes. She and Bach co-founded a nonprofit organization called SHARP, the Self Help Addiction Recovery Programme.

Some of the photos were taken in India, where she traveled with the Beatles in spring of 1968, a trip largely inspired by her interest in transcendental meditation. Many photos are candid, some are out of focus or grainy, and others are blown up from original Polaroids. They come across as private snapshots of friends, and indeed, she says she had no intention of actually showing them.

"I thought I had 10 or so, but I started looking through suitcases and old boxes, and I came up with about 75," she says.

"It's like looking at photos of anyone when they're young," she adds. "It's very nice, we all look so happy. And it reminds you of good times."

She admits the photos are remarkable more for their historic value than for their photographic quality. But, since those days, she has worked as a photographer for British magazines such as Harpers & Queen, doing portraits and travel photography.

She has, in fact, just returned from a trip to the Indian desert of Rajasthan, marveling about the colors of the clothing, the shadows and light.

"You sleep under the stars in tents, and it's so quiet, it's extraordinary," she says. "And they have so little, they live a very simple life, but they seem to enjoy it so much. It's beautiful."

Boyd met Harrison while working as an extra on "A Hard Day's Night," appearing as one of the schoolgirls who listen to the band play "I Should Have Known Better" in the baggage car of a train. She speaks one word in the film. Told the band members are prisoners, she replies, "Prisoners?"

In real life, she was a part of the London scene before she met the Beatles, as a model who knew the hot photographers such as David Bailey, designers such as Mary Quant and artists such as David Hockney. She remembers the time fondly.

"You could sense the change from our parents' generation," she recalls. "We were very different; it felt like there was going to be a major change. We girls looked different - we looked like girls. The models from the '50s looked more sophisticated, they never smiled."

"I was just being myself," she says of her modeling career. But she says she much prefers being on the other side of the camera, taking the shots.

As for doing an autobiography, she says she's not keen on it, then reconsiders.

"A photographic biography might be quite interesting," she says. "My life in Kenya, and then with George and London, the whole historical story of what happened in those years."

But, she adds, "It's a bit difficult with my life, because of the people in it. It's a bit hard to decide what is personal and what is appropriate to share with others. It's a fine line."

Shared Memories: Photographs by Pattie Boyd

WHEN: Through March 31

WHERE: San Francisco Art Exchange LLC, 458 Geary St.

COST: Free

INFORMATION: (800) 344-9633 or

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